John Amspaugh, Senior Manager of Dietary Services, Sunshine Communities, Maumee, Ohio
One of the most amazing things about John is his dedication to creating meaningful connections with the individuals he serves. In his role with Sunshine Communities, a non-profit organization that supports people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, John oversees the daily nutrition of over 100 people, ranging from infants to octogenarians, across dozens of homes. However, he never lets time or distance distract him from doing all he can to make every person’s day a little brighter. “Part of what I most love about my job is meeting people and getting to know them on a personal level. Making the meal truly theirs is the whole point of what I do,” he explained.
This commitment to crafting meals to meet individuals’ needs, both from a nutritional and emotional standpoint, has been a major focus for John. One of the biggest changes he implemented when he started this role was to open up the kitchen and make real efforts to include as many people as possible in choosing their meals. One example was of Mary, a Hungarian woman, who wanted chicken paprikash for her birthday meal. He found all the ingredients and was able to make her special day even more special. “Going the extra mile is very much John’s way of doing things,” shared Lana Smucker, communications manager for Sunshine Communities.
Another change John implemented was moving away from set menus and offering variety tailored to each person. The individuals Sunshine Communities serves have a wide range of nutritional needs, so incorporating expanded options was certainly a challenge, but John and his team continue to do everything they can to ensure everyone has what they need. Even during special events with food trucks, he and his team are there with manipulation stations to adjust foods so people with digestive or swallowing issues can take part.
When it comes to making someone feel special, John goes beyond a one-size-fits-all approach. He sees each person as unique and deserving of feeling special. For birthdays, John is known for decorating cakes based on characters or themes they enjoy. “Not everyone here has their family with them at every moment. Often, we fill that role for them,” said Lana. “The extra effort John puts into caring for those individuals makes a real difference. It’s part of what makes him so exceptional.”
In addition to the hot meals John oversees and customizes, Sunshine Communities also serves continental-style meals on weekends. Individually wrapped items from General Mills such as Pillsbury™ Mini Cinnis and cereal bowlpaks have been a hit as well as the parfait cups that use Yoplait® yogurts.
While it’s clear John is skilled at preparing and coordinating meals that meet the needs of an incredibly diverse community, it’s his compassion and empathy that make him who he is and a true #Trayblazer. “I’ve always had a passionate heart for people with special needs. You have to look at the individual themselves and not the disability,” said John. “The smallest gesture can make a big difference in someone’s day. I don’t look at it as work; I look at it as being able to come in and do what I love.” Well said, John. Thank you for all you do, every day, to bring joy to so many people’s lives.
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