Franky DiStefano a Vocation Success Story
This story of vocational success is inspiring and we at PSN wanted to bring it to you. Frank “Franky” DiStefano is 31 years old. His story of achievement began in high school and continues today. Frankie works at The Olive Garden in Warwick, Rhode Island and is considered part of the team. Together with his Mother, Joyce, and his 3 siblings, he is able to enjoy life and have a successful work experience.
I was recently told of Franky DiStefano’s success from his Aunt and Uncle, Jack and Cindy Turbitt. Jack and Cindy happen to be friends and neighbors in Florida, and as I was doing one of my normal pleas for more help, more training, better jobs for people with different abilities, Cindy mentioned that they did things differently in Rhode Island. She went on to say that at her nephew’s high school they had an on-site school program that trained students to work in a kitchen. As a result, her nephew Franky was employed at Olive Garden. This peaked my curiosity. What were they doing in Rhode Island that others needed to hear about? I started my investigation by contacting Franky’s Mother, Joyce DiStefano. I wanted to find out how she was able to help her son achieve his goals and help him obtain a successful, on going, work experience? I began with the following questions:
PSN: I understand your Son works at Olive Garden? What is his position?
JD: Yes, he does. He is considered kitchen help, he helps out where they need him and he rolls the silver ware.
PSN: How long has he worked at Olive Garden?
JD: For the past eight years, Frankie has been working at The Olive Garden in Warwick, Rhode Island.
PSN: WOW! He obviously likes it and is great inspiration for others.
Did he receive special training to do his Job?
JD: When he first started they showed him what his responsibilities were. He took to it right away and has progressively gotten better. No supports were necessary. He is very capable of doing his job.
PSN: Who is his manager?
JD: He has several managers, Norman, Ed, Luca, and Kathy. Every Manager there is wonderful. Very patient and understanding.
PSN: How supportive is the staff at Olive Garden?
JD: They are like an extended family to Franky. They are very supportive.
PSN: Are there any issues with co-workers?
PSN spoke with Kathy Dee, Sales-Culinary Manager at Olive Garden. She explained that all of the employees love him. Sometimes, because Franky is very much a “go getter”, they have to “tone him down a bit” because he will do more than what is needed. He is very well thought of and very much a part of their restaurant “family”.
PSN: Did any supports or any changes need to be made in the beginning, or now, in order to make sure your son was successful?
JD: No. They are wonderful, wonderful to work for. Very, very, good organization. A wonderful company. I have to commend Olive Garden, they do a really nice job. They have a few outings… at least 2 a year. They have Holiday Dinners for the staff. Over the summer, they have boat rides for everyone…..they even took them to Six Flags Amusement Park.
PSN: How many hours a week does he work? Does it affect his benefits in any way?
JD: Franky works 8am-11am, 5 days a week. 15 hours a week, It does not interfere with benefits at all.
PSN: How does he get back and forth to work?
JD: I take him…..well, I just feel safer. I’m that kind of mother. I am not ready to let him go by himself. . I am not ready or willing to let him ride on the bus, there are a lot of people out there that I can not know. I am an over protective mother, it may not be a good thing for Franky, but, I have to live with myself.
PSN: Did his High School help him find his vocation? Did they help him build or obtain the skills needed to do this type of job?
JD: No, actually his brother was working as a cook at Olive Garden. They were looking for someone, so John, his brother, recommended Frankie and he has been there ever since. I would say his high school did help build work skills by having a program called Panda’s Pantry.
PSN: What kind of program did they have? I was told something about a school Café? Can you tell us about it?
JD: Yes, Franky worked in his high school (Cranston High School East) they had a café called Panda’s Pantry. Kids worked making coffee and muffins, setting the table or waiting tables. As far as I know the café is still going on. I saw it the last time I was at the City Hall. They had it set up in the lobby. Once Franky learns something he is really dedicated …really determined to get it right.
(See our Follow up article on Panda’s Pantry)
PSN: What is Olive Garden’s position on hiring persons with different abilities?
JD: They are a wonderful company that is committed to having a diverse employee group. Everyone gets along great.
PSN: Any advice, motivation or wisdom from experience you would like to pass on to our readers?
JD: We had the same pediatrician for 17 years, but, when Franky was born, the Doctor told me that Franky would probably go into an institution. I was so mad at him I left the office. When Franky was about 5, I was in such a mood, I was near the doctor’s office so I went in to ask to speak with him. The Doctor just stared at Frankie and myself. Then he asked the nurse to take Franky out of the room. He then said to me: “I have never apologized before and I probably never will again, but, I am glad you didn’t listen to me. You did what you had to do as a mother. But I am the type of doctor that if I cannot heal something then I can’t deal with it”. I asked the doctor why didn’t you tell me that when he was first born, rather than leave me “out to dry”? He didn’t have a good answer. So, the advise and wisdom I would give is: never give up. Push harder. When Franky was younger, I tried to do everything for him. That was a mistake. I should have made him do more for himself.
PSN: Thank you Joyce for sharing with us.
JD: Sometimes, it is the lessons learned in hindsight that provide us with the most amount of clarity. Often times, it is the gift that time provides us by not revealing answers immediately, but rather through the clarity of a mature, polished and patient lens. Joyce DiStefano has been able to understand much from her son Franky.
Thank you to Luca Regoli, Manger at Olive Garden in Warwick, Rhode Island, for supplying us with the image of Franky.
Olive Garden is a Darden Restaurants Company that recognizes the value of a business environment that embraces individual differences. They are committed to creating and maintaining an environment where Diversity is a priority, a strategy, and a way of life.
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