A career ‘alternative’ for former union organizer

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In 2003, Kensington resident Ronald Jablonski retired after 42 years as a sheet-metal worker and union organizer.

But it hardly has been a traditional retirement.

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Instead, he made a move to an entirely different career. Now he’s certified in wellness techniques that include Reiki, massage, acupressure and other methods that reduce stress and help clients achieve a sense of well-being.

“I was always interested in the body-mind-spirit connection,” says Jablonski.

At 6-feet-5 and with a medium build, the 70-year-old Jablonski is a role model for health and fitness. He seems a natural for this second career.

For most of his years as a sheet-metal worker, this certainly was never part of the plan. Instead, starting in 1961, he was a production worker who fabricated and installed plastic and metal signs.

From the start, he’d been a union member with Local 194. In 1980 he became an organizer for the union and later was elected business manager.

In all, he worked for 42 years.

But in 1993, while still a full-time union organizer, he took tai-chi lessons. When he retired 10 years later, he pursued his interest in earnest, taking courses at the Center for Human Integration at 8400 Pine Road in Fox Chase.

For five years, he took one course after another, learning techniques in energy therapy, meditation, hypnosis and more.

“Then I made a conscious decision that I wanted to help other people with the skills I had acquired,” Jablonski said.

That’s what he’s been doing ever since.

He started by giving treatments in his Kensington home. Then, in 2009, he started his own practice, New Beginnings Holistic Therapies, and rented a Fishtown studio at 2424 E. York St.

His studio is equipped with massage chairs and tables, yoga mats and meditation music.

Jablonski uses a variety of techniques depending on his clients’ needs, including Reiki.

“It’s an energy therapy that creates relaxation through light touch,” he explained.

His clients vary in age; he has treated an 18-year-old and he has treated people in their 60s. Women outnumber men.

“They’re more receptive to healing modalities,” he says. “Men are more macho. They don’t want to reveal their problems and don’t want to seek comfort treatments.”

But the former sheet-metal worker said that men and women both see results once they try a dose of his alternative-healing techniques.

For instance, one man in his 30s came to the studio because of a very stressful job. Jablonski gave him two months of Reiki treatment.

“A lot of his stress was eliminated,” he claimed.

Another recent client was a middle-aged woman who had fibromyalgia, a painful condition involving inflamed nerves and joints.

Jablonski treated her with acupressure.

“After several treatments, her pain had lessened considerably,” he said. “She was very grateful for the relief. There’s no cure for the condition, but her symptoms were greatly reduced.”

He not only sees clients privately in his studio, but this dedicated healer also does volunteer work. Every week on Tuesdays and Fridays, he goes to the Catholic Workers Free Clinic, which is at 1826 E. Lehigh Ave. in Kensington and serves disadvantaged people, such as the homeless and those with mental illness. Jablonski gives a free chair massage to anyone who wants it.

He has been a volunteer there for five years; he has regulars who come faithfully each week for a relaxing massage.

“I’m busy from the moment I walk in until I walk out,” he said.

The hectic schedule is well worth it when he sees the gratitude of those he has helped. “People just can’t thank me enough,” he said.

He has yet another volunteer activity. This one is at a Tacony church where he and other practitioners offer Reiki sessions to the community three times each month.

This, too, he has done for five years.

Although he has been retired for nine years, he still maintains his union membership. And on Saturday, March 24, he will be honored for his 50 years of union membership. A special ceremony at union headquarters on Columbus Boulevard will honor the longtime members.

But he’s also probably the only retired union member with a new career in holistic therapies.

And 70, he’s enjoying it fully.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to provide hands-on comfort to people who are in need,” he said. “They are always so grateful.” ••

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