The Neil Squire Society recently finished putting together the following success story and we feel that, given it's scope, it would be of great interest to the people of Penticton and would be a nice addition to the Penticton Herald. If you are interested in more information or would like to interview any of the people mentioned in this article, please feel free to contact me. If you would like more information about our organization, please visit www.neilsquire.ca.
Suzanne Wiens - Development and Communications Associate
T 604.473.9363 F 604.473.9364 C 778.952.0640
220 - 2250 Boundary Road, Burnaby, BC, V5M 3Z3
Here's the story which will be published on our website on December 3rd which is also International Day of Person's with Disabilities:
Burger 55, a custom gourmet burger restaurant located in Penticton, BC, has seen much success since opening in 2009. They have been featured on Food Network Canada’s "You Gotta Eat Here", and recently moved into a larger location where they employ approximately 15 staff. “I always wanted to incorporate people with disabilities into my business and give them a chance”, says Chris Boehm, the owner of Burger 55. With the help of the Neil Squire Society and their Working Together Program, a wage subsidy employment program for persons with disabilities, Chris has done just that by hiring Penny, Brian, and Kevin.
“The hiring process was super easy”, shares, Chris. “I was approached by Penny and Brian, and jumped on the opportunity to give them a chance to work with us. Kevin came by through a different program and it failed so we decided to sign them up through the Neil Squire Society.”
“My body is sore a lot, sometimes it slows me down a bit”, says Penny, who has fibromyalgia. Despite her disability, she has been a long-time volunteer in her community as a canvasser for the Canadian Cancer Society and the Paraplegic Society, and as a sewing teacher for the Brain Injury Society. Penny was seeking a paying job that would allow her to work 2 to 3 hours a day, and give her the flexibility she required with her disability. Burger 55 was a good fit. Penny was a bottle recycler for years at Burger 55, before being hired to take on janitorial duties, “I worked my way into the job,” says Penny, “Chris hired me because I would go that extra mile!” Chris describes Penny as a “hard worker who has been in the Burger 55 family for over 2 years now.” Chris adds, “She has always helped out, even before being officially hired.”
Brian has a brain injury sustained in a car accident in 2000, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and celiac disease. “For eight years, I had to pick bottles and cans to make ends meet, to survive, until I found the Neil Squire Society,” he tells us. Brian took part in the Society’s Employ-Ability Program before joining the Working Together Program. Brian was seeking a job that suited him and his skill set. He found it at Burger 55. “I share janitorial duties with Penny,” says Brian. “My work consists of mopping and sweeping floors, bathrooms, the office and outdoor patio. Making sure the front of the restaurant is clean for customers,” says, Brian “I enjoy my work. I look forward every day to doing my part of making Burger 55 a great experience for the customers and for myself.” Brian is a “hard worker. He doesn't put up with any nonsense and I can trust him with the business,” Chris tells us.
Kevin lives with developmental disabilities. Communicating his wants and needs, and dealing with the perception of others are daily struggles for him, and he can get frustrated when he’s not understood. Prior to landing his current job at Burger 55, Kevin worked at the Penticton Paper Shuffle where he recycled and shredded paper. He also volunteered at the Salvation Army filling food hampers, and at the Community Centre where he cleaned tables and chairs. Kevin does a variety of tasks at Burger 55, including portioning food, washing dishes, and breaking down boxes for recycling. All of Kevin’s work is done side by side with his job coach, Tracy, who works for Okanagan Inclusion. “Tracy is there to help me. She communicates my needs and wants. She sets up tasks so I can complete them successfully. She assists and guides me through challenges,” Kevin tells us. “Tracy is my advocate; she ensures my safety on the job, and she explains and listens while I communicate with others.”
Chris provides Penny, Brian, and Kevin with the flexibility they need due to their disabilities. “Chris has been great. He gives us a choice of what time of day we can work,” says, Brian. “If I take longer to do what I need, it’s ok,” agrees Penny. “I feel safe and comfortable in my work environment,” adds Kevin. “If a day off is needed, it’s accommodated. There’s no discrimination, only a welcoming team environment. I feel that I can be myself and humor is welcomed.” he says. “Both Penny and Brian always represent the business in a positive manner,” says Chris. “Kevin sure likes to talk and tell stories but he’s a hard worker as well and gets the job done”, he says.
Penny, Brian, and Kevin have benefitted greatly from their jobs at Burger 55. “I am able to buy better foods to eat healthier,” says Penny, when asked how employment has impacted her life. “Also, I’m able to treat my grandchild to outings and gifts”. Brian shares a similar sentiment, “this job has helped with my mental health and financial status. I don’t have to starve now, because gluten-free food costs a lot, and my bills are now paid on time.” Kevin agrees, “I have money to buy things I couldn’t afford before. I am very proud; I feel better and have improved self-worth. Chris, the owner is awesome. I feel that I am a valuable employee,” shares Kevin.
The Working Together Program helped to create a win-win situation for everyone involved. “It has allowed me to incorporate the extra help and provide a job for these people without really hurting my labor cost and bottom line,” says, Chris, “I look forward to a continuous relationship with the Neil Squire Society and I’m excited to see what else comes from it.”
So next time you’re in Penticton, stop by Burger 55 for a meal and support this business. Not only are they changing the lives of people with disabilities,but according to Kevin, “they have the best burgers in town!”