COMMUNITY MEMBER CELEBRATES 30 YEARS AT BROKERAGE
NEW HAVEN - When Laura Mintz landed a job at a major brokerage firm 30 years ago, she never expected to have such a lasting career or to rise from Gal Friday to running the mailroom.
But that was the Laura of 1980 who arrived at Chapel Haven in 1979, enrolled in the two-year REACH transitional program focused on independent living skills.
The Laura of today – a poised, confident woman – lives independently with just a little help from Chapel Haven in an apartment with her boyfriend and is a crucial piece of the corporate puzzle at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney on Long Wharf.
“I can’t picture this branch without her – she keeps everyone in line,” said branch manager Patrick Tiani who describes Laura as “diligent and determined.”
Laura, who hails from Indiana, said she has a learning disability related to visual perception and was at a disadvantage academically because there was no special education during her early years as a student. In the mid 1960s she was placed in a special education class, but said she didn’t fit in because most of the other students had behavior problems.
Part of her disability manifested in her speech and Laura later discovered she has hearing loss that makes unable to hear soft voices.
She attended the REACH program at Chapel Haven from 1979-1981 and through Chapel Haven’s vocational efforts, was placed in the job at what is now known as Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. The company, then called Shearson Lehman Brothers, has undergone many name changes and personnel shifts, but she’s endured.
Laura graduated the REACH program and today is part of Chapel Haven’s supported living program, where she lives independently but receives some help from a support coordinator.
Recently co-workers celebrated Laura’s 30-year anniversary at her work with cake and she has the distinction of having the longest job run of any Chapel Haven client.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Laura said. “I’m my own worst critic.”
Laura was hired as a gal Friday and today she runs the mailroom, although colleagues say that title doesn’t begin to describe the breadth of her duties. She’s a stickler for details and catches many mistakes. Among her duties are filing correspondence and making sure the brokers have followed privacy and other rules in their mailings.
“I call myself police woman of the mailroom,” she said.
Susan Pelletier, complex service manager at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, said, “Nothing goes by her.”
Laura, also an assett on special projects, concentrates in places where other workers might tend to be careless and that’s part of her success, Pelletier said. Laura figures out details others may miss and during her employee review recently brought to everyone’s attention that an envelope addressed in black ink gets to a destination through the U.S. Post Office two days earlier than one addressed in blue.
“She’s taken the job to heart,” Pelletier said.
Debbie Ohlsen, the company’s complex risk manager, said aside from being a diligent worker, Laura has a great sense of humor and engages well with clients.
“Laura’s at the point where she knows the rules as well as w do,” Ohlsen said.
Recently when Laura was out sick for an extended period, her “corporate family” sent her off with a box of special items – tea, snacks, crossword puzzles
“The people are great to me,” she said.
Laura has through the years relished the help she gets from her counselors at Chapel Haven. She still gets minimal assistance, including in organization and shopping for and matching her outfits.
“I have to look nice for work.” Laura said. “In some ways I’ve outgrown Chapel Haven and in some ways I need it,” she said.
The skills and basic living tools Chapel Haven has given her, such as taking buses and shopping for food, have been priceless to Laura.
“It helped me a lot to get where I am now,” Laura said.
Most of all she relishes a life of independence.
“You can do things you want when you want…You’re your own boss,” she said.
Laura has gained wisdom through the decades as well.
“I’ve learned you can be paid all you want and not be happy,” Laura said.