Once again, an employee of Port Washington’s Spectrum Designs has received an Outstanding Performance Award from the New York State Industries for the Disabled.
Joseph Penzel, who has been with Spectrum since it started in 2012, won this year’s award. Penzel works as a production assistant where he folds, cleans screens, counts shirts and works heavily within the embroidery department.
“I like my paycheck,” Penzel said of his work in a statement. “I bring it home and I sign it on the back by myself.”
Spectrum provides adults with autism employment making shirts, baking food and washing laundry. Spectrum Vice President Stella Spanakos, who helped start the company, said several employees are among the 770 individuals who have been honored by NYSID since 2004.
“It just validates our mission statement, it validates the abilities of those who are passed over or overlooked,” Spanakos said.
Penzel’s somewhat shy nature hides the fact that he is an accomplished individual at Spectrum and in his free time. In addition to producing shirts for Spectrum — the company’s main business — he has worked in other areas, such as making granola for Spectrum Bakes.
Outside of work, he is an accomplished horseback rider and figure skater, having performed both at the Special Olympics.
“When he performs, it’s like he’s a different person,” his father, Fred Penzel of Huntington, said. Joe Penzel has skated in front of crowds at Bryant Park in New York City and met Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir. He performed at Skate for Autism, which raised $11,000.
After receiving a check from NYSID, Penzel said he would spend it on a new pair of skates.
Penzel’s mother, Wendy, said that he joined Spectrum when the company only had a handful of employees — maybe five or six people.
“This place is a gift,” she said. “We really weren’t sure what an alternative would be. We knew he was smart and that he could learn to do just about anything … this was the perfect setup for him.”
In addition to two members of NYSID, Penzel was congratulated by state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill), who issued a proclamation commemorating his award. She said she loved seeing how busy things are whenever she stops by the Spectrum building, located at 366 Main St. in Port Washington.
“I walked in and said, ‘It’s always popping in here,'” she said. “Things are happening and I love it.”
She invited him to visit her at the New York Capitol in Albany.
Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.