“I could maybe take over her job,” Tom, a Participant at Lambs Farm, says with a smile. He is referring to Elaine Bock, the manager of Magnolia Café & Bakery, as he goes through his list of tasks he has mastered while working at the restaurant.

Lambs Farm offers an abundance of meaningful work experiences on the Farm and in the community for Participants to obtain productive life skills. Tom’s interests made Magnolia Café & Bakery the perfect fit.

And for the last 22 years, Tom has been a proud employee. From cleaning tables and answering phones, to hosting and setting up banquets, Lambs Farm has given Tom the opportunity to grow, learn and persevere. With Tom’s experience in various areas of the restaurant, managers were running out of new jobs to teach him.

But there was one job. A job no Participant has had throughout the 56 years of Lambs Farm. On September 12, Tom became the first Participant in history to cook on the line.

Tom’s dedication, passion and confidence at Magnolia Café and Bakery made him the perfect candidate. As he prepared his first hamburger from start to finish, Tom beamed with excitement and became committed to the learning process. He has already whipped up Reuben sandwiches, made fries and familiarized himself with checking temperatures.

“There is a lot to learn but I am ready to take on the challenge,” Tom said. “You need to really focus on your job, food safety, safety while cooking and not having any distractions.”

Staff have reacted to Tom’s new role in typical Lambs Farm fashion. Encouragement and enthusiasm spread through the restaurant when Tom stood in front of the grill for first time. Tom is being trained by various cooks, and they are thrilled to guide Tom through the process and help him achieve his goals. He knows that he has support from all staff.

In all of Tom’s roles and changes at the restaurant in the last two decades, one aspect of his job remains the same. “My favorite part about my job is the people I work with,” he said. “This is my home.”

Throughout the years, Elaine has seen Tom grow. He has developed valuable skills and is an essential team member at Magnolia Café and Bakery. She couldn’t be more proud. “Tom gives 100% in everything he does,” Elaine said. “He is a successful person and a great role model to everyone.”

Tom’s determination can potentially open doors for others. Participants have already shown interest in following in his footsteps as a cook. “People need to be inspired and Tom does that very well,” Elaine said.