Thyme for a Fresh Start

In January of 2021, Andrew started receiving Employment Development Services from Reach for Resources. Prior to 2021, Andrew worked nearly two years as a dishwasher at Hy-Vee but resigned in September of 2020. He no longer felt fulfilled in the dishwasher role and preferred a job that wasn’t so monotonous. Before Hy-Vee, Andrew worked in a group setting as a sorter for a local wholesale produce warehouse from 2014-2018. Due to the repetitive nature of that job, Andrew also feigned interest. It was clear Andrew sought a Andrew in a blue shirt standing in front of Fresh Thyme Store.fresh start and needed assistance finding more meaningful employment in a more competitive, integrated setting.

The first thing Andrew and staff worked on upon joining the Employment Development Services at Reach was creating a more attractive and comprehensive resume. Next, Andrew completed an employment development assessment, which gave staff a good idea of the types of industries, companies and positions that would be a good fit. After speaking with Andrew after the assessment, he expressed the most interest in retail, warehousing/supply chain, entertainment, and recreation for employment based opportunities.

Weekly, Andrew and staff began to meet virtually via Zoom to go over some of the potential employment opportunities in his areas of interest that had been identified via Internet job boards and employment websites. Andrew would provide feedback to staff on which open positions he’d like to apply to and which ones he wasn’t interested in. Staff then assisted with completing and submitting these job applications.

In February, Andrew had an opportunity to interview for a Fulfillment Associate position at Lowe’s. Staff spent time with Andrew doing mock interviews, reading through the job description, and discussing positive interviewing strategies to ensure he was prepared. The interview ended up going well, but Andrew was not offered the position. During that time, Andrew also interviewed with Goodwill for a Donation Attendant position, but that opportunity wasn’t the right fit for Andrew either. Throughout both interviews, staff was on hand to help clarify any difficult questions. Since staff attended the interviews, they were able to provide constructive criticism regarding areas that Andrew could improve. Both interviews were great learning experiences for Andrew.

In March, Andrew was contacted by a hiring manager at Fresh Thyme Market about interviewing for a Produce Clerk position. After receiving an interview invitation, Andrew called staff to ask for assistance with setting up the meeting. Andrew and staff then made a three-way call to the hiring manager and scheduled the interview for later that week.

At the interview, staff helped rephrase any questions that Andrew was having difficulty answering and prompted him to talk about his previous work experience and how that related to the Produce Clerk position at Fresh Thyme. During the interview, staff explained to the hiring manager they would be able to provide Employment Support Services if Andrew were to be hired, and could assist with completing any on-boarding paperwork. After the interview, staff was driving Andrew back to his residence when he received a call from the hiring manager who offered him the position.

Andrew in a blue shirt standing in front of Fresh Thyme Store.The following week, staff assisted Andrew with completing all of his on-boarding paperwork including direct deposit and training videos. Just like with any new job, Andrew was quite nervous at first and a little intimidated by all of the different job responsibilities that were required of him. For the first couple weeks, staff supported Andrew by staying with him his entire shift and helping him learn all the tasks associated with being a Produce Clerk at Fresh Thyme. Three of the biggest challenges for Andrew were: identifying which items needed to be stocked, locating specific produce in the cooler area, and responding to customers’ questions. Staff always let Andrew complete these tasks independently, and if it was apparent that he was having difficulty completing them, only then would staff intervene to assist him on how to accomplish the task more efficiently.

Once Andrew began demonstrating independence completing his work tasks, staff began to slowly fade out of some of the on-site support. Staff was able to help Andrew identify co-workers who would be able to assist him with any questions if Reach staff was not present. He has been employed at Fresh Thyme for a little more than two months and works entire shifts without Reach staff. At $14.00/hour, Andrew is earning the highest wage that he’s ever received in his working career. This is evidence that people Reach for Resources supports are capable of thriving in a competitive, integrated employment setting.

Article by: Marcus Skallman, Employment Specialist at Reach

Cooking Corner – James’s Healthy Beef Stroganoff

James cooking beef stroganoff.James has been working on portion sizes and trying new, healthier recipe versions of his favorite meals with Reach’s Community Living staff.

Recently, he made this healthy beef stroganoff. The recipe made four servings, so James divided it up between four containers so he could eat it throughout the week.

To make it an even healthier meal, James paired the stroganoff with a side of fruit. Great job James!

James’s Healthy Beef Stroganoff

IngredientsJames's beef stroganof in clear, plastic containers.

  • 1 cup wide egg noodles
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. beef thinly sliced (sirloin or tenderloin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ lb. mushrooms sliced
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijion mustard
  • ¼ cup plain 2% fat Greek yogurt


  • In a large pot filled with salted water, cook the egg noodles according to the package instructions.
  • As your pasta water is coming to a boil, sautee the beef with 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Let the meat cook for 3 minutes per side. When both sides are browned, remove the beef from the pan, and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
  • With the remaining oil, sautee the onion for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and stir. Continue sauteing for another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked and the onions are soft.
  • Add the white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits. You can also use a small amount of beef broth if you don’t want to use alcohol.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, Dijion mustard and flour.
  • Once the wine has cooked off, pour the mixture into the pan, stir and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the Greek yogurt and stir until combined. Return the beef back into the skillet, combine and season with additional salt and pepper (if needed).
  • Serve this beef stroganoff over the egg noodles and garnish with chopped parsley (optional).
  • Enjoy!


Cooking Corner – Calli’s Honey Mustard Pork Chops

Calli's pork chop meal with mash potatoes and veggies.Calli has been working towards expanding her cooking skills and following healthy food guidelines with the Community Living Reach staff. Recently, she made this healthy meal of honey mustard pork chops, mashed potatoes and veggies.

Independently, Calli made the mashed potatoes, only needing assistance to determine the amount of butter and milk to add. Through the process of preparing this meal, Calli learned a new cooking term: searing. She seared the pork chops to perfection!

Calli did a great job with portion sizes and incorporating all food groups into this meal. Great job Calli!


Calli’s Honey Mustard Pork Chops

Ingredients:Pork chops seared in pan.
– 4 top loin pork chops
– 1/3 cup orange juice
– 1 tablespoon soy sauce
– 2 tablespoons honey mustard

1. Put the pork chops in a large non-stick skillet.
2. Cook over medium-high heat to brown one side of the pork chops.
3. Use the spatula to turn the chops.
4. Add the orange juice, soy sauce and honey mustard to the pan.
5. Cover the pan and lower the heat.
6. Simmer for 6 to 8 minutes until the chops are done.
7. Enjoy!

Pork chops are done when they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. 2 tablespoons of honey mustard can be substituted with 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 tablespoon of mustard mixed together. To thicken sauce, if needed, remove cooked pork chops and cook sauce without a lid until desired consistency is reached.

Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks bin in pink.Ashtyn was looking for a way to track her soda consumption. She did not like the idea of using a calendar, so we found a more creative, fun solution. Ashtyn likes to collect rocks, so we used her collected rocks to track how many sodas she is drinking throughout the week. For every soda Ashtyn drinks, she adds a rock to the bin. Ashtyn came up with the clever idea to call the bin “Pop Rocks” and decorated her container with fun stickers.

Pop rocks with rocks in bin and soda around it.

We plan to track how many sodas Ashtyn is drinking for about a month and then eventually track the soda the opposite direction. For example, at the beginning of a week, Ashtyn will start with five rocks in her bin and for every soda she drinks, she will need to remove one. Once the rocks are all gone, Ashtyn would not be able to have any additional sodas for the week.


Healthy Cooking

Kristen peeling an appleKristen has been working towards expanding her cooking skills and following healthy food guidelines with the Community Living Reach staff. In an effort to utilize foods already purchased, Kristen and her staff Hailey, prepared homemade cinnamon applesauce. The applesauce brought together cooking and clean eating practices for Kristen. As a result of preparing the homemade applesauce, Kristen was in control of what went into her food and she could limit the added sugar.

Kristen has always put forth effort when it comes to cooking and her hard work was exhibited here. Hailey demonstrated how to peel the apples in long smooth strokes and gliding motions with Kristen’s vegetable peeler. Kristen told Hailey peeling the apples felt sort of like “you’re skating.” It is helpful when supporting people to find an example of what skill you are trying to teach. This idea was put forward in the next recipe step; chopping the peeled apples. To show Kristen how to work with the knife, Hailey used the examples of brushing your teeth and sawing down a tree; a steady back-and-forth motion.

After chopping the apples, Kristen independently measured out the other ingredients in the recipe (water, sugar and cinnamon) and added them to the bowl. After stirring in the ingredients to make sure all the apples slices were coated, Kristen covered the microwave safe bowl and cooked the mixture until the apples were soft. Without Hailey’s instructions, Kristen did a great job remembering to use a hot pad when removing the bowl from the microwave. Lastly, Kristen mashed the mixture to her desired consistency and then enjoyed her homemade applesauce!


Kristen’s Healthy Applesauce Recipe

Cubed apples in a bowl with cinnamon

1) Peel apples (recommend at least 3 apples)

2) Slice apples and add them to a large mixing bowl

3) To the bowl, add 3 tbsp water, 2 tbsp cinnamon and 3 tbsp – 1/4 C sugar (to taste)

4) Mix until all apple slices are evenly coated

5) Microwave covered for 15-20 minutes or until soft

6) Mash with a potato masher or use a hand mixer to desired consistency

7) Enjoy!


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