The Power And Dignity Of Having A Job

Marriott employees in the laundry room where Nancy works, from left: Grace Calano, Lilian Curammeng, Neil MacDonald, Zeny Sacro, Nancy Dacosin, Chuck Brady, Alicia Sams and Dave Jordan

The Kaua‘i Marriott is leading the way in offering transitional employment to those with an array of mental illnesses

People achieve dignity through employment. That’s according to Kaua‘i Marriott Resort’s director of human resources Chuck Brady, who notes that it is because of this belief that the resort has had an 18-year-long alliance with Friendship House — a clubhouse rehabilitation program for adults who are diagnosed with serious mental afflictions. By offering employment to the organization’s members, the Marriott is providing an opportunity that helps build motivation and confidence in those struck with a range of mental illnesses and conditions.

“It’s an incredible relationship geared at a very worthwhile cause, which is getting members of our community back on track; back in the working environment,” says Brady. “I can’t think of a more worthwhile cause.”

By working part time at places such as the Marriott through a transitional employment program, Friendship House members gain a higher likelihood of entering the workforce full time.

“Meaningful work gives us all a reason to crawl out of our cozy beds each morning and do something that gives us a sense of purpose in our lives,” says Friendship House vocational director Dave Jordan.

Those with mental illness are just like you and me, says Jordan, adding that Mental Illness Awareness Week begins Oct. 7.

“They need a sense of purpose; they have the same dreams and the desire to work and to have money in their pocket and feel good about what they’re doing,” he says, noting the organization is lucky the Marriott is so understanding of this and receptive to hiring those in a transitional time of their lives.

Nancy Dacosin is one of nearly 20 Friendship House members who have participated in the transitional employment program at the Marriott throughout the years.

“I like my job because there’s always something to do,” says Dacosin, who works in the laundry department. “You don’t get bored, it’s consistent — there is always work to be done.”

The job has given her the self-esteem she might not have otherwise received had it not been for the Marriott’s longstanding relationship with Friendship House.

“It teaches me responsibility and teaches me that I can do the job,” she says, smiling, as she works. “I’ve just got to focus.”

Dacosin, who has been working at the resort nearly four years, hopes that the job will one day become her full-time career.

“I really like what I’m doing,” she says. “I want to retire from the Marriott.”

Laundry manager Neil MacDonald is impressed with Dacosin’s work.

“There’s always a lot of work in laundry and I can fit anybody in there as long as they are productive and work well,” he says.

Prior to her current position, Dacosin worked in the grounds department and was responsible for 53 flower beds.

“She did a great job,” says Brady.

Nancy enjoys her job at the Marriott and hopes to retire from the hotel one day. Coco Zickos photos

It was upon her request that she moved into the laundry department nearly a year ago.

“They heard her and worked with her,” says Friendship House staff member Alicia Sams.

It is exactly this philosophy of taking care of the associates so that they can take care of the customers that allows clubhouse members to work so well at the Kalapaki resort.

“It’s a very professional, very supportive atmosphere. You couldn’t ask for a better place,” says Jordan.

In order to acquire their jobs, Friendship House members must first establish working skills at the clubhouse, such as clerical work and food preparation.

From there, the members are placed in transitional part-time entry-level positions at businesses around the island.

“It’s the first step out of the clubhouse for our members,” says Jordan.

Kaua‘i Marriott Resort has had such a successful connection with Friendship House it has helped other clubhouses across the nation and countries including China create transitional employment at other Marriott hotels.

“Because our relationship is so strong here, it permeates the world,” says Jordan. “It’s amazing how involved Marriott is in people’s lives and wanting them to do well and help them achieve their dreams. It’s very powerful.”