The Door County Board of Supervisors meeting room was filled with people at the Oct. 22 monthly meeting as employers and employees from businesses throughout the peninsula were presented with awards in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
While nine county employers were recognized, it was noted that there are many other employers in Door County who are employing people with disabilities, working with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, various service providers and the Door County Department of Human Services.
Anna Eggebrecht, director of the northeast Wisconsin Workforce Development Area, spoke at the county board events and noted these highlights in a more inclusive work force:
• In the last 12 months, in just this immediate area of the state, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and its partners assisted 16 individuals to achieve their employment goals. That’s 16 people who are now working, participating in their communities and living more independently.
• The cost of providing DVR services to those 16 people was $154,000. Their estimated annual earnings are almost $309,000. That’s more than double the taxpayer investment in their services. The statewide return on investment for DVR customers is just as impressive.
• During that same period, DVR assisted 3,840 individuals with disabilities, statewide to achieve their employment goals.
• The cost of providing services to those 3,840 people was $32.2 million. Their estimated annual earnings are $66.3 million – more than double the taxpayer investment in their services.
Her presentation was followed by Scott Schlicher, a DVR business services consultant who works with businesses in Northeastern Wisconsin to help them recruit, hire and retain employees with disabilities. He said there is usually one award winner per county, but the nature of Door County required them to reach out to different communities.
Schlicher offered a running commentary on the individual businesses, business owners and employees who were recognized.
Zion Methodist Church, Fish Creek
Jane Sommer, Pastor
Employee, Joe Desotelle
Joe was interested in starting a micro-enterprise. With the help and support of several agencies and his family, he was able to start a janitorial services company, and he was hired by Zion Methodist Church to provide janitorial services at the church.
Blacksmith Inn, Baileys Harbor
Joan Holliday and Bryan Nelson, owners
Employee, Mary Olski
Joan and Bryan have been longtime supporters of community inclusion for people with disabilities, and while this commitment to inclusion is tied to what they see as their role as a community-conscious business, it was also a business decision. Joan said of Mary, “She’s a fantastic employee. She makes us smile everyday. We have lots of part-time housekeepers and Mary does exactly the same work that they do.”
Mary says of her job, “I love it!”
Shoreline Restaurant, Gills Rock
Mike and Mary Mead, Owners
Employee, Mechael Broznowski
Shoreline Restaurant has partnered with several agencies in Door County to recruit and hire employees with disabilities in their restaurant who perform a wide variety of tasks in the kitchen and the restaurant. Management and co-workers alike have provided assistance to employees with disabilities to insure that they are successful at their job.
Wienke’s Farm Market, Maplewood
Employee, Jim McCardle
Wienke’s Farm Market is a longtime and strong supporter of including people with disabilities in their work force. For example, in 2011, Wienke’s received recognition for their partnership in a project called Let’s Get to Work that helps students with disabilities gain work experience while they’re still in high school.
Jim has worked at Wienke’s for almost seven years. He was hired when a job placement specialist with We Are Hope saw an ad for a job at the market. He worked with the owners to set up an interview for Jim and he was hired.
Square Rigger Lodge, Jacksonport
Elizabeth LeClair, Owner
During the past several years, Square Rigger Lodge has hired several people with disabilities as part-time housekeeping staff. Job coaches work with the employees with disabilities at Square Rigger to help them learn new job duties.
Wanda Jean’s Family Restaurant, Sturgeon Bay
Wanda Hilsabeck, Owner
Employees Randy Wery, Amy Grunwald
Wanda Jean’s has a longstanding relationship with The N.E.W. Curative. Several people with disabilities have worked at the restaurant, including Amy and Randy, who are dishwashers.
Employee Cody Mraz
Cody works as a stocker at Marchant’s and is well liked by his managers and co-workers. He works with a job coach from We Are HOPE to help him learn new tasks in his job as they are assigned.
Shopko, Sister Bay
Manager, Lori Brockman
Employees Kenny Gau, Andrew Stewart
Local store managers at the Sister Bay Shopko worked very hard to be able to create opportunities for job seekers with disabilities.
The stores corporate rules didn’t lend themselves to carving out positions that could take advantage of the skills and talents that some job applicants with disabilities offered, but through their efforts, they were eventually granted the flexibility to hire job applicants with disabilities that met their business needs.
Log Den Restaurant, Egg Harbor
Wayne and Diane Lautenbach/Kim and Steve Bell, Owners
Employee, Wayne Rathe
Wayne works as a dishwasher and also helps with farm work, including baling hay.