National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Building Connections

Building connections is an important part of employment and can be uncomfortable for many of us. How do you make a connection? What do you say? Who do you build a connection with? A good connection can open many doors, whether it be a new job, a volunteer opportunity, or the chance to learn something new. Early on, Steamers and Jack’s employee, Luke, recognized the value of connections. Luke’s goal is to be a line cook. He has the potential: Luke is hard working, a team player, and focused.  About eight months ago, Luke independently approached Peter, the restaurant’s Prep Cook, and asked if he would teach him a few food prep tasks. That simple step of asking for guidance opened a variety of doors for Luke at work. Peter is now mentoring Luke and teaching him the skills he will need to get a line cook position in the future. These skills range from how to use the meat slicer to what to do if you are having a bad day and the hard work has paid off. Luke can complete a variety of tasks independently. Currently, Luke is responsible for cooking the chicken for chicken salad and making some of our more complex recipes. Have you tried the citrus vinaigrette? It’s likely Luke made it! Luke learned a lot of new tasks in a short amount of time, but still saw room for himself to grow. A few months ago, Luke requested some help. He was concerned that his reading level might prevent him from community integrated employment as a line cook. Specifically, Luke said “my dyslexia is holding me back from fully succeeding at work and accomplishing my dreams.” Luke recognized that he needed to build a new connection to help him with reading. He worked with a tutor in the past and saw significant gains in his ability to read and pronounce words. Luke knew what he needed but he did not know how to find the connection. Luke approached the Steamers Program Director and asked if she would help him find a reading tutor. After searching, Luke met with a few potential tutors. He identified strengths and weaknesses to working with all of the people he met. Ultimately, Luke chose to work with a Steamers and Jack’s regular customer, a retired school teacher. Now, the two meet weekly. Luke’s tutor finds articles in the newspaper…

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Jill’s Raspberry Jam

Have you tried our Old Fashioned Raspberry or Raspberry Jalapeno jam? We purchase most of our raspberries from outside produce companies, but a small portion of the fruit we use is grown by one of our employees, Jill, and her family. Jill, along with her parents, Mary and Marlin, grow and pick raspberries in their back yard for A Different Kind of Jam every year. But once the fruit is picked, Jill’s job is not done. When Jill brings the raspberries to Steamers, she helps process (wash, dry, and cut) and cook the fruit and jar and label the jam. Next time you enjoy a jar of raspberry jam, look for Jill’s name on the lid! All of our jar lids are labeled with the name of the person who helped make that batch of jam. So, even if you don’t see Jill’s name, you still know whose hard work to celebrate! At Steamers and Jack’s, we believe celebrating milestones, however big or small, is an important aspect of employment. Taking the time to acknowledge a job well done or a new skill learned serves as a great reminder that all of the hard work and patience is worth it. What I love most about Jill is that she is always celebrating others. Whether it’s a hi-five after serving food to the customers or a soda for the cooks when the restaurant is busy, Jill makes sure everyone feels appreciated. She greets everyone with a smile and a fist bump, for good measure. All of the support Jill gives to others is returned to her. When Jill arrives to work, our back of house staff suddenly becomes a chorus. You can hear cheers and chants ringing out from the kitchen, welcoming Jill to work. That’s the beauty of our restaurant. We all work together, celebrate successes, and support each other, even on the hardest days. Because of our customers, we are able to employ about 60 adults with disabilities. Each time you grab a quick cup of coffee on the way to work, join us for half-priced slider nights on Wednesdays, or buy a jar of jam, you are making a real difference in the lives of our employees with and without disabilities. By supporting us, our customers give employees like Jill the opportunity to learn new work skills, try new things, and thrive. Saying thank you does not seem…

National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Internships at Steamers

In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we will be sharing stories about Steamers’ employees through the month of October. Preparation for employment begins long before filling out an application and interviewing for a job. For people of all abilities, skill building starts in the classroom. Special Education programs are emphasizing the importance of preparing for employment more and more by using classroom time to teach transferable skills, from how to effectively communicate with others to what information will be needed on job applications. Transition programs for people with disabilities are also helpful in identifying options for students after high school. Each year, students with disabilities from local high schools complete internships at Steamers. They come to us for the year and learn valuable job skills that will help them transition out of high school and into competitive employment. Throughout their time at Steamers, these students learn knife and kitchen safety skills, the importance of keeping a clean working space, and how to portion meat and roll sliders. They help make jam and prepare guacamole and salsa. We also teach soft skills, which are the most necessary for employment and transferable across settings. Students work on effective communication: how to notify a supervisor they will be absent, how to communicate with peers, and work on a team. We teach ways to ask for help, if assigned an unfamiliar work task and tools for managing frustrations. Most importantly, we celebrate successes big and small along the way. This year, one of Steamers’ high school interns, Ethan, is the brother of another familiar face around the restaurant, Josh. Josh has been a line cook at Steamers since March 2015. Ethan had been to Steamers and Jack’s before, but only as a customer or to visit his brother. When asked why he wanted to do an internship at Steamers and Jack’s, Ethan said “to see what new things I can do, while I’m still in school.” He continued to say that he hoped his time working in the Prep Kitchen would help him get his dream job in the future: racing cars. Josh echoed Ethan, saying that he hoped his brother will “learn some new life skills and work hard, like our dad did.” The two brothers went back and forth about what they like to cook together (pasta, pizza, and steaks) to how they like to have fun, when they are…