Disabled Employees Find Family Atmosphere at Local Linen Company

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A new South Philly branch of a major commercial laundry company is partnering with JEVS to hire disabled employees looking for opportunity.

Arthur Church rotates through a playlist of classic rock songs in his head while he sorts through sheets, robes, pillowcases and towels at the Atlantic City Linen Supply, LLC, plant in South Philadelphia.
 
As a young adult on the autism spectrum, 20-year-old Church had a difficult time finding a job after serving a short stint in the U.S. Army. 
 
“When it comes to the autistic population, they negatively get judged like a book by its cover,” said Chris Belias, the coordinating manager for Project Success, a JEVS Human Services-run organization that helps veterans with disabilities — whether physical or cognitive — like Church find employment. “They don’t interview the best, and I think unfortunately a lot of people view that as job incompetency.”
 
After attending a job workshop through Project Success, which was followed by a monthlong internship coupled with assistance in resume building and classes on interviewing, Church landed his job with A.C. Linen, one of the 2,000 local businesses that partner with JEVS.
 
The Atlantic City-based company, which provides commercial laundry for the hospitality industry, is run by Jewish brothers Daniel and Eric Goldberg, of Linwood, N.J. They took over the business in the late 2000s from their uncle, David Goldberg, who founded the company in 1986.
 
When they opened the Philadelphia plant this past May as part of their expansion plans — they already have 14 factories up and down the East Coast — they were contacted by JEVS to see if they’d be interested in employing their clients.
 
David Goldberg “hired from Jewish family services, Catholic charities, the local courts, re-entry programs — regardless of the organization, if someone needed help and opportunity, he gave it,” said Dan Goldberg, 43, the elder of the two brothers. “That type of opportunistic environment has spread down to Eric and me.”
 
Added his brother, Eric, 37, “Our motto was if they can’t get a job in a casino and they can’t get a job at the hospital, then they can get a job with us. We didn’t believe in second or third chances, we believe in fourth, fifth and sixth chances, and it’s served us well from a business perspective.”
 
Both brothers attribute their hiring philosophy to their Jewish background — for example, they had their Bar Mitzvahs in Israel — and the Jewish values passed down to them by their parents.
 
Of the 140 or so employees at the Phila­delphia plant, who work roughly 12-hour day or night shifts every day of the week throughout the year, 15 found their position through JEVS.
 
In honor of A.C. Linen’s commitment to working with JEVS, the employment assistance organization honored the company with a Business Leadership Award on Oct. 31 at its annual Strictly Business luncheon, which was held in conjunction with October’s designation as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
 
The honor was given to recognize how A.C. Linen executives “partnered with us and have opened their doors to hiring our clients as employees, now in their workforce, and seeing the benefit sometimes in taking a little bit of a risk,” said Jay Spector, who has headed the organization for the last 20 years.
 
He acknowledged the challenges, given “we have a wide range of clients, from people with spotty work histories or no work histories, people who could have been former offenders, or individuals with disabilities.”
 
The A.C. Linen facility in Philadelphia can handle up to 100,000 pounds of linen a day, all of which must be sorted, washed, dried, folded and packaged, according to the plant’s general manager, Daniel Labov.  It currently serves 18 local hotels including the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, where the JEVS ceremony was hosted, and Le Meridien. There is little room for time-wasting mistakes, Labov said, adding that the JEVS hires have not only fit right in, they have excelled.
 
“It’s fantastic when you pick up the phone and you say, ‘I need some people for this type of work,’ and they send you some people who would be great for any type of work,” said Labov.
 
“As far as the work on the floor goes, it’s not the most difficult type of work, it just takes somebody to pay attention and care about what they’re doing in order for us to get a really good employee working.
 
“They show up on time,” he continued. “They’re always here, happy to work extra hours if you need them to, or come in on a day off — they really like coming here and I can’t say that for all of our employees.” 
 
Church, who works three shifts a week for minimum wage, certainly seemed to enjoy himself while confidently guiding a mini-tour through the facility, stopping every few minutes to say hello to fellow employees, often received with a big smile.
 
“You’re not just a number here, you’re family,” said Church, who worked his way up from sorting soiled linens to his current job in production, where he sorts and feeds clean linens into an ironing machine. He said he hopes to become the unit’s leader in the future. “I know almost everyone here.” 
 

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