Jon | Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana
Jon runs a press at Pyrotek in Columbia City as production coordinator A.J. Tope watches in the background.
Jon examines filters coming off a press at Pyrotek in Columbia City. The filters are destined for a Bodine Aluminum plant.
Jon measures a filter produced on the press he runs that day at Pyrotek. Carefully checking the dimensions of filters is part of quality control on the job.
Jon answers a question from production coordinator A.J. Tope at Pyrotek.
Jon sifts through filters coming out of a press at Pyrotek in Columbia City.

Jon is quick to describe himself as the “go-to guy” wherever he works, a man who masters many tasks so a supervisor can rely on him to fill a gap or learn a new job.

That’s the way his part-time job at Pyrotek in Columbia City is turning out, too. Jon, 30, is an Easterseals Passages participant who began working at Pyrotek in August 2021.

In the three months since, he’s learned to operate about half a dozen machines. One November afternoon, he was running a press that stamped out small filters destined for an aluminum foundry. Keeping the press running wasn’t his only duty. He also had to pack filters for shipping and periodically pull a filter to measure it, ensuring that it met necessary tolerances.

“I love my job!” Jon said.

“Jon’s fitting in great. Everybody likes him,” said A.J. Tope, the production coordinator at Pyrotek. “He’s great. He’s always in a good mood. I like that.”

Tope would back up Jon’s description of himself as “the go-to guy” wherever he works.

“He’s so flexible. That’s the key word here: flexible,” Tope said.

That day in November, when Jon was turning out filters for the aluminum foundry, was a good example. Tope said the woman who usually runs that machine had called in sick, and Jon was assigned to run her press with no warning.

That press is probably Jon’s least-favorite machine to operate at Pyrotek, Tope said. But Jon jumped in and devoted his full concentration and attention to detail to the job. He helped the company maintain its flow of filters to a major customer.

Tope would like to have 10 or 12 workers in the department where Jon works. Instead, the company strives to fill their orders with eight full-time workers; John, who works four to five hours on afternoon shifts four days a week, is the ninth.

Jon has wanted to work all his adult life, and he succeeded early. His first paid employment was a job he worked at Chain O’ Lakes State Park when he was 18. Jon later worked part-time at Stumps, the party supply company in South Whitley, for years. But when the COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to most parties in 2020, it also brought an end to Jon’s job.

Easterseals Passages then provided more than help in finding another job—it hired him to help out at The Creative Learning Center. He shredded documents, cleaned doors and windows and helped staff members do other jobs as needs arose.

Tanalee Scott, who supervises the CLC, said the CLC did the same for anyone who participated there and lost a job during the pandemic. She particularly appreciated Jon’s appetite for work.

“Once he’s focused, he’s in the zone, and he’s good to go,” she said. “He’s a fantastic worker, and he likes to stay busy.”

As more employment opened up ─ and businesses couldn’t find nearly enough workers to fill their needs ─ Easterseals Passages helped again. Employment specialist Tiffany Robinson helped Jon with his application, attended his interview and orientation, and accompanied him through his first few shifts.

Jon enjoys having more money available when he works. He likes being able to go on more outings, including visiting more expensive restaurants, and he’s looking forward to adding to his model train set. “I’m a big train fan,” he said.

But there’s more to working than just the experiences and things money can bring to his life. He enjoys working itself and the company of his co-workers. That shows in the way he talks about Pyrotek.

“People are friendly. They’re nice. They don’t downgrade anybody. It’s pretty cool,” he said.