Christopher Taverna
Inclusion Works
On the surface, Christopher Taverna’s experience working at Dash’s Market in Clarence, NY, doesn’t look like anything out of the ordinary. Each day he’s responsible for cleaning and stocking the dairy coolers and frozen food freezers. He also works alongside his supervisors to learn the roles of other departments so he can continue to grow through the company. Off the clock, Christopher and his co-workers enjoy going to Bills games, local co-ops and even to Detroit for a car show.
It’s only when you look a little closer you see Christopher brings a unique set of abilities to the local grocery store. As a person with a mild intellectual disability, he trained for many years with a People Inc. job coach to prepare for and secure meaningful employment, which he now has so proudly found.
It’s important we recognize businesses like Dash’s that make a true effort to be inclusive. October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, and on October 22 Dash’s will join nine other local businesses at a luncheon to be honored for their commitment to hiring people with disabilities. It is People Inc.’s hope that their stories of success will inspire other organizations to become more inclusive as well.
The call for action goes beyond being more open minded. There’s a solid business case for hiring people with disabilities.
To continue reading, click here.
Crystal Chapman
Target Hits the Mark on Inclusion
Target proudly identifies itself as champions of diversity and inclusion, believing that these factors create both a stronger workforce and a better company. But they’re not just words on a piece of paper. To Target, these are guidelines to cultivating a strong team. And to see this belief put into action, look no further than the Target in Orchard Park. Here, you’ll find Crystal Chapman, 33, who has a mild intellectual disability and loves both her job and employer.
Crystal is responsible for returning clothes from the fitting room to the sales floor, tidying up and assisting customers as needed. Prior to joining the company, the Buffalo resident worked closely with People Inc. jobs coaches to train and prepare for the workforce. She now works independently to complete her daily tasks.
Steve Guglielmi, Target in Orchard Park’s Human Resources Manager who hired Crystal 10 years ago, talks proudly about what a wonderful addition Crystal has been to the team. “Crystal has never missed a day of work,” he said. “She is always willing to take over shifts for others and is so positive and polite.”
When asked what inspired him to hire Crystal, Steve talked about how perfectly she fit into the “Fast, Fun and Friendly,” mold of Target employees. Her great personality really won him over. Steve also mentioned how thoughtful Crystal is, giving him a Christmas ornament each year.
“Target is all about Christmas,” Crystal said. “So each year, I give my bosses an ornament.” It’s her way of thanking them for all the hard work they do.
To Steve, the feeling is mutual. “Crystal is always willing to help out,” he said. “She does an amazing job.”
Crystal couldn’t be happier to have found meaningful employment with a great company, and we are so proud to have inclusive companies like Target in our community. To learn more about hiring people with disabilities, contact our Vocational Services Department at 716.817.5750.
Tracy Hegeman and Tavis Fire
His Work Fits Him to a T
Staff members who work for hospitality company, Sodexo, in the cafeteria of the Tonawanda Middle School know they can count on two things when they come to work – that Tavis Fire is going to be there working hard and that his amazing smile is going to make their day better. For the past 10 years, Tavis, a North Tonawanda resident who lives with a mild intellectual disability, has been working in the school’s cafeteria as a dishwasher and was recently recognized by the company for 10 years of perfect attendance!
“Tavis is awesome,” said his supervisor and Tonawanda resident, Tracy Hegeman, who calls him “T” for short. “He is devoted and dedicated and he readily accepts feedback. He is a wonderful team member.”
Tavis works away in his large workspace that’s in perfect order. Pictures and drawings of smiley faces and inside jokes adorn the walls. A giant poster with the words THANK YOU is nearby. Students created it as a reminder that he is appreciated. Each day, a coworker brings him a delicious plate of food that she carefully assembles. Her smile is huge as she puts the finishing touches on her masterpiece.
“I feel very comfortable here,” said Tavis. “This group of girls makes me smile every day,” he said, his arms stretching wide.
Tavis obtained the position through People Inc.’s Supported Employment Program which provides job screening, assessment, development and placement, on-site instruction and more. He first mastered the job with the support of a job coach, but has been working independently for years. In the last three years in particular, Tracy says he’s become more confident, which has spilled over into his personal life.
“I got my driver’s license, a car and an apartment,” said Tavis. He also got engaged this past Christmas. “I work for a great company, for a great boss and I am just happy.”
To learn more about employing people with disabilities, contact our Vocational Services Department at 716.817.5750.
If We Can’t Find it, We Build it: Carpet Cleaning Done Right
One of People Inc.’s major areas of focus is helping people with disabilities who want to work, train for and find jobs. And, while there are many businesses in our community who are willing to partner with us on this effort, we still need many more. So, instead of waiting around for that, we sometimes create opportunities for the people we serve through programs like Carpet Cleaning Done Right.
A new pilot program that we launched one year ago, Carpet Cleaning Done Right offers carpet cleaning services for commercial, business, government and residential locations while providing needed jobs for people with developmental disabilities who want to work.
Carpet Cleaning Done Right has made great progress establishing a strong customer base and currently provides cleaning services to We Care Transportation Services, Charter Oaks, Parkview Health Services and several other businesses. The program also provides services to People Inc. Senior Living apartments and a number of private residential households.
The initiative is staffed almost exclusively with people with disabilities. Each crew member trained for five to six months to learn the cleaning equipment, which they can now comfortably handle on their own. Both the supervisor and Bob Noe, business services manager at People Inc., are thrilled at the crew’s success.
"The Carpet Cleaning Done Right employees are thorough, dedicated and always focused on doing a great job,” said Bob. “Our crew tells us how much they love their job, and it shows through the excellent work they do.”
In addition, sales for Carpet Cleaning Done Right have exceeded expectations, and the business continues to grow.
“In the future, we hope to secure the equipment needed to obtain large corporate accounts,” Bob said, “which will take our business to the next level and employ even more people in our community with developmental disabilities who want to work.”
Carpet Cleaning Done Right is fully ensured and provides free estimates. On-site supervision is provided to ensure the job is done to the customer’s satisfaction. To learn more, click here or call 716.817.5724.
October 2016
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Grace Guest House Founder Inspired by Rhonda Frederick’s TEDxBuffalo Talk
Slated to open in December, Grace Guest House, Inc., is a nonprofit healthcare hospitality house that provides a haven and respite to families of patients admitted to Mercy Hospital of Buffalo. Grace will also serve out-patients in need of lodging while they undergo lengthy treatments at the Mercy Ambulatory Care Center’s Advanced Wound Healing Center. Plans for Grace Guest House have been underway since 2014.
In October 2015, Grace’s President and Founding Director Cynthia Battista was in the audience at TEDxBuffalo at Babeville when she heard People Inc. CEO Rhonda Frederick’s talk about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.
“As I sat there watching and listening, I felt certain that Grace could answer Rhonda’s call to action,” said Cynthia. “The accompanying video was an eye-opener and I felt a surge of excitement about possibly being able to do what Rhonda was asking: hire people with developmental disabilities.” To view the video, click here.
Cynthia Battista
Q & A with Cynthia Battista
Upon your opening later this year, your plan is to hire participants from People Inc.’s Supported Employment Program. What will some of their duties be? I envision up to five full-time positions once Grace is running at full speed. Of those, there will be a couple paid positions to work with volunteers, who will, among other things, answer phones, check in guests, do light housework, assist with guided tours, turn over rooms after guests check-out and prepare mailings.
Prior to getting involved with People Inc., did you have any connection to people with developmental disabilities? I did not have a connection to people with developmental disabilities prior to the TEDx presentation, but I’ve always felt compelled to root for and help those who face difficulties. Since childhood, I’ve understood the simple truth that sharing something wonderful exponentially increases the enjoyment and joy taken from it.
Why would you recommend other businesses hire someone with a developmental disability? I believe businesses have a social and moral responsibility to eliminate as many barriers to access as possible, and not just physical barriers. A barrier-free environment with a diverse employee group will enrich the lives of all the employees and enable the business to be more understanding of the population in which it operates and those it serves.
Are there certain ways you plan to give back to the community? Grace’s values are integrity, charity, respect, selfless service and diversity. In addition to exceling at the delivery of our mission, I really want to be sure Grace reflects that goodwill back to the community in a way that replicates our values. Working with People Inc. is one way I believe we can do that.
Your generosity ensures that individuals with developmental disabilities, special needs and senior adults receive the services and care they need. Donate now.
Become an Employer
People Inc. is always looking for new businesses in Western New York and Rochester to employ individuals with disabilities. We also help companies create jobs around an individual’s talents and interests. To learn more about how you can partner with us to employ people with disabilities, contact our Vocational Services Department at 716.817.5750.
Join our Team
Want to help individuals with developmental disabilities become more independent? Lean more about career opportunities at one of our upcoming Open Interview Events. Can’t attend? Apply online.
Support an Event
Artisan’s Edge of Rivershore, a division of People Inc., will host Haunted Frontier House later this month at 460 Center Street, Lewiston. Artisan’s Edge designers have crafted unique Halloween scenes, including “Chambers of Horror” and “Creepy Clinic.” Ages 10 and up are welcome with a $10 donation at the door. Groups are also welcome and the location is accessible. Proceeds of the Haunted Frontier House benefit Artisan’s Edge, a group of supremely talented people living with disabilities, including musicians, vocalists, actors, painters, sculptors, potters and mixed media artists. For a complete list of event dates, click here. For more information, call 716.524.2266, ext. 230.