In the two years since Puzzle Pieces launched Employment Opportunities, our team has placed 17 clients in successful employment with 12 more in job development ready to be placed. Two of those recent placements have been at the south Frederica fast food chain Zaxby’s.
Lindsey, 25, has been on the job for nearly a month, enjoying her role as a cashier. Her tasks involve taking customer’s orders both for drive thru and dine-in customers. Lindsey also makes customers’ drinks and gives them their food. Employment Opportunities’ Specialist Bradlen Cobb said Lindsey is doing really well in her position and gets along well with her coworkers.
“I like working here because it keeps me busy,” LIndsey said. “I like interacting with customers and I like the friends I made here.”
Steven, 20, is a cook for Zaxby's, where his tasks involve preparing appetizers and chicken to be cooked as well as the items to be used in their salads and sandwiches.
“I like how everyone is easy going and very helpful,” Steven said of his new job.
Bradlen said Steven is doing really well in his position and is becoming more comfortable with his tasks and is getting along with his team really well.
“It’s been really awesome watching Lindsey and Steven have so much success at Zaxby’s,” Bradlen said. “Being a new Employment Specialist, it gives me great fulfillment in knowing that I played a pivotal part in helping them succeed there. Zaxby’s has been a good fit for them because of the team that they have there they are so understanding and patient when it comes to their needs they are always willing to help both of them out and they really made it a point to include them in their team.”
Zaxby’s General Manager Greg Lewis agrees that Lindsey and Steven have been a good fit for his restaurant.
“At first it’s different, but then they just blend in like everyone else,” Lewis said of hiring two employees with intellectual disabilities. “The main thing is they just want an opportunity to work and they take full advantage of it.”
Lewis has advice for other employers considering hiring someone with an intellectual disability.
“It’s all about intent,” he said. “If they want to work and they fit the needs of your restaurant or business, give them the opportunity. They are just excited to work.”
Lewis also said the help that Bradlen and Employment Opportunities Director Kitty Jones have provided has been crucial in Lindsey and Steven’s success. Because Zaxby’s doesn’t have the resources to train someone with an intellectual disability, Lewis said, Employment Opportunities understanding of their clients has helped in onboarding.
Available for help at any point, Employment Opportunities acts as a liaison between the employer and employee when needed, with the goal of the employee becoming acclimated to his or her new position and eventually self-sufficient.
Other Employment Opportunities partnerships include UniFirst, Hampton Inn, The Miller House, Enterprise, TTMA and Old National Bank.
“Employment Opportunities is not the only resource, but a great resource for our community to help individuals find meaningful employment and provide our clients with a sense of purpose in life,” said Director Kitty jones. “Employers who have hired our clients have reported a boost in overall morale of their business, a greater sense of teamwork and found unforeseen value in hiring someone with an intellectual disability. The more businesses that connect and work with supported employment companies the more opportunities we can provide for so many individuals in our community with different abilities.”