Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe staff opened their doors and helped two Conway Human Development Center residents gain a few new skills on Thursday.
Frankie Santiago and Zippy Doble happily took part in the job shadowing opportunity extended by restaurant staff in coordination with Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Employment Support Day.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this month proclaimed that March be Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. During his proclamation, he also announced Thursday, March 21, 2019, would be Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Employment Support Day to encourage including individuals with developmental disabilities in the workforce
"Everybody has something to contribute, and as a Sate government, we want to encourage the hiring of those who might have some type of disability because everybody has a role that they can play," Hutchinson previously said.
CHDC Superintendent Sarah Murphy said she was grateful for Hutchinson's support and also thankful for the awareness of individuals with intellectual disabilities and supported employment he and Arkansas Department of Human Services Director Cindy Gillespie and Division of Developmental Disabilities Services Director Melissa Stone have brought to the forefront.
"Individuals with disabilities want the same things those without do," she said. "They want to contribute and they want to be included."
Santiago said he most enjoyed being able to get out in the community and learn new skills. Santiago currently holds down three jobs at CHDC — he likes to stay busy.
Helping kitchen staff prepare and clean up before and after meals on campus is one of his three duties at CHDC. He also maintains employment in the workshop and the greenhouse.
CHDC offers on-campus work opportunities for residents who wish to take part. By putting in the hours, the residents also are paid.
Getting off campus and job shadowing at Taziki's was an exciting opportunity for Santiago he said he couldn't refuse.
"I like to keep my hands busy; I'm very good at lots of jobs," Santiago said with a smile.
Employee Heather Black guided Santiago and Doble through the tasks servers are responsible for each day.
She taught the two the restaurant's napkin-rolling technique, and then set the two off on their own to stock each table. Once this task was complete, the three went over to a table at the center of the dining room floor and began prepping to-go boxes. Rehabilitation instructor Sherry Finch and Taziki's server Elizabeth Iburg also helped.
Finch said this opportunity was a great confidence booster for Santiago and Doble, providing the two a new experience.
"This gives them the opportunity to help out and gets them out in the community," she said. "These guys really love being out in the community, and they love helping others."
For Doble, the experience was especially educational because she soon will transition out on her own and move off the CHDC grounds.
"I'm moving soon. I will come back and visit, I'm sure. My boyfriend lives [at CHDC]," she said.
Transitioning to living life on her own is an exciting process, she said.
Everyone at CHDC shares in this excitement for Doble as she moves forward, Murphy said.
"Zippy is scheduled to transition into the community soon," she said. "The skills she has gained at CHDC will help support her being successful."
Taziki's manager Micheal Niederhauser said opening the restaurant's doors to CHDC residents on Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Employment Support Day is something he plans to do again. He and other employees often support residents at the facility — a few weeks ago, they banded together to form a team to participate in CHDC's annual Bowl-A-Thon.
"The feeling of helping out means so much to them, just look at their faces, those smiles," he said.
The most rewarding part of taking part in Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Employment Support Day was helping Santiago and Doble feel included and bringing happiness to their day, Niederhauser said.
Opportunities such as this is something CHDC staff supports, Murphy said.
"Our mission is to provide services and support to assist individuals to gain independence and have the best quality of life as possible," she said. "Teaching life skills is one way we work towards that mission."
Murphy said she and other staff members are grateful for the community's support in bettering the lives of CHDC residents as well as others with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"We are so glad we have businesses in our area that hosted the experiences on March 21," she said. "We really have a great community."