HARRISONBURG — When Angela Taglianetti, 54, of Harrisonburg, was first asked where she wanted to work, she responded “McDonald’s.”
Now, two years later, she’s doing just that, working at the McDonald’s on South Carlton Street in Harrisonburg on Fridays and Saturdays.
Angela Taglianetti has an intellectual disability but still learns many things quickly. She even taught herself to play songs on the piano using her Magnus organ at the age of 4, according to her mother, Sharon Taglianetti.
“She would listen to the radio and pick up music ... and play with both of her hands,” she said.
Angela Taglianetti still plays the piano daily, often for up to four hours, she said.
McDonald’s is not the first job that Angela Taglianetti has held as she previously worked at K-Mart and was even a supervisor at Toys-R-Us.
And when Angela Taglianetti first said she wanted to move on to McDonald’s, her father, Anthony Taglianetti, had his concerns.
“We thought ‘that’s not possible,’ ” he said. “But there she is!”
Angela was able to get the job with help from Community Connections, a program of Pleasant View Inc., which is a Valley group supporting the disabled population. The group even provides a job coach who drives her to work, Angela Taglianetti said.
On Friday, her job coach was Taylor Branner, as usual, who watches over Angela Taglianetti as she works.
“She gets a lot of compliments — she’s a hard worker,” Branner said.
Angela Taglianetti washes tables, cleans the bathrooms, mops the floor and stocks some of the condiments while at work.
And her parents agree that her work at McDonald’s has been positive.
“The supervisors are great with the work and getting in the community — the combination really is helping her to grow,” Anthony Taglianetti said.
Sharon Taglianetti said her daughter even lays out her uniform the night before work.
“She seems to look forward to going,” she said. “She comes home very happy.”
Angela Taglianetti also volunteers her time assembling discharge books for Sentara RMH, setting up for events at Asbury United Methodist Church and cleaning at Bridgewater Retirement Community.
She said she also likes to connect with residents of Bridgewater Retirement Community, where she often plays the piano for them.
Angela Taglianetti also spends a large amount of time at the Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham center, a nonprofit providing inclusive programming for individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities, located in the Lucy F. Simms Continuing Education Center.
Arc teams also observe different jobs and identify aspects that could suit members of their population. Teams use the info to connect members to work opportunities where they can be successful.
“It’s about creating awareness that there are jobs that they can do in the community, so that’s part of our soft-skills process,” said Heather Denman, the executive director of the Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham.
Then the employee would be matched with a job coach, and ultimately they could decrease support for the person to be as independent as possible, said Denman.
A large employment project the Arc is working on is setting up a Census fingerprint and background check center in their facility, which would operate 64 hours a week over six days throughout the massive undertaking of the 2020 Census.
The positions would be paid and even include a health stipend, Denman said.
“That’s really incredible pay for people with developmental disabilities,” she said.
While Angela Taglianetti is at the Arc, she also plays the piano, frequenting her favorites like the theme song from Disney’s “The Lion King” and Christmas tunes.
And when she goes home, after working or volunteering, she can sit at her family’s Everett upright piano and continue to play away.