Jesse | Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana
Jesse picks up a box he’ll break down and add to the growing stack of cardboard in the compactor he runs.
Jesse threads steel bands through the compacted stack of cardboard he’s broken down. When the cardboard is compressed a final time, the compactor will draw the steel bands tight around the bundle.
Jesse pauses to wipe sweat from his face after the strenuous work of loading the compactor with cardboard for recycling.
After Jesse runs the compactor to pack and strap the cardboard bundle tightly, the compactor tips the bundle onto a pallet so it can be moved by a forklift.

If Jesse were afraid to break a sweat, he wouldn’t be up to the demands of his job at Master Spas. It’s often strenuous work.

At its manufacturing site on the west side of Fort Wayne, Master Spas builds and distributes hot tubs and swim and exercise pools. The components of these tubs and pools arrive packed in heavy-duty cardboard boxes and crates. It often falls to Jesse to break down these boxes for recycling during the five-hour shifts he works three days a week. Empty boxes stack up near a loading dock, in front of a massive machine made to compress and bundle cardboard.

“I break it down. I put it in the compactor and smash it down,” Jesse said.

Besides lifting loads of boxes into the compactor, Jesse also needs to bend or tear or cut the boxes apart. His boss has noticed.

“He’ll sweat quite a bit. He’s a pretty hard worker,” said Scott Meyer, production manager for the acrylic spa line at Master Spas.

Jesse, 32, had worked at a gym for several years before he began at Master Spas two years ago. He enjoyed his previous job, too, but he came to Master Spas to earn a higher wage.

Kelsie Jones, the Easterseals Arc employment specialist who checks in with Jesse periodically, said that his mastering several different jobs makes him a versatile employee. For his part, Jesse downplays praise for his flexibility.

“I go wherever they tell me,” Jesse said. “I go here, I go there, I do this, I do that.”

Lately he’s been spending more time in another department, drilling holes in structural supports for spas and tubs. Moving around in the manufacturing plant is something he sees as an advantage in the job.

“I learn new skills and meet new people,” he said.

Another position he often steps into at Master Spas is working in the “kit cage.” Thousands of pieces of hardware and fittings for tubs and spas are stored there in trays, boxes, and shelves. Employees in the kit room read “pick lists” for each spa shipped, collect the pieces and include them all in a hardware bag – the kit – included with each pool or tub.

“We have moved him around to other roles as well,” Meyer said. “He has used a drill press to process some of our wood that we have come in.”

Sometimes Jesse processes pallets, Meyer said. Usually that means inspecting and stacking them for reuse, but sometimes means breaking them down, too. A pallet vendor then picks them up to reuse or to repair and reuse.

Meyer said the employment specialists from Easterseals Arc helped Jesse learn each of his jobs there. They “saw that he caught on pretty quick, and they were quite comfortable with the jobs he was able to do and stepped back.”

Jesse said Easterseals Arc helped him become a successful worker long before he went to work for Master Spas. The Transitions program helped lay a good foundation for work skills.

“It had to. You gotta start somewhere,” he said. “I had to deal with other people all day. At the end of the day, you’ve got to be a people person. If you can’t work with them, you can’t work with anybody, and you won’t have a job.”

Employment specialists helped much more directly with the Master Spas job, Jesse said.

“Without a job coach, I wouldn’t have gotten in,” he said, and his coach helped him find the job, too.

Now after two years on the job, he appreciates what it brings to his life.

“The money is good, and people are nice,” he said. He doesn’t dwell on the money he earns, but he says he may save up money for a new Xbox.

However, there’s no putting a price on some advantages of working at Master Spas.

“It’s across from the potato-chip factory. On a good day, it smells amaaaaazing,” he said.