By XUEYING CHEN ’16
Wellesley Fresh Culinary Services teamed up this fall with Charles River Center (CRC) Employment Services to employ workers with cognitive and developmental disabilities in the dining halls. The pilot employment collaborative began in the Bae Pao Lu Chow dining hall this October. The collaborative will expand to the Tower Court and Stone Davis dining halls in the next few weeks and will eventually expand to Pomeroy dining hall as well.
The Charles River employees keep the cafeteria running smoothly by cleaning spills and restocking clean dishware, napkins and utensils. A trained job coach accompanies the workers every weekday to supervise and assist them.
“The response from the College has been very successful,” said John Bartkow, human resources manager for Dining Services. “The union is [also] aware of it and they’ve kind of opened their arms to the program.”
CRC is a private nonprofit agency located in Needham, Mass. that provides advocacy and direct, lifelong services to individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities.
The agency currently sends five workers to the Bae Pao Lu Chow dining hall and will send five or six more to Tower Court during busy lunchtime hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays.
In order to expand to three more dining halls, the employment collaborative will team up with LifeWorks, the sister agency of the CRC, to provide more individuals with work experience in the food services industry.
“All our staff have just been really receptive to the point where they’re actually like ‘Oh, when can we roll this program out a little more?’” Bartkow said.
Tim Tippett, a job developer at CRC, originally proposed the collaborative to Bartkow late last spring. Planning occurred throughout the summer and fall as Tippett selected qualified individuals and Human Resources interviewed them.
According to Bartkow, the Charles River employees also contribute a positive atmosphere to the dining hall.
“They walk in here, and I think there’s a sense of pride that they have working here,” Bartkow said. “I think in such a close-knit community like we have at Wellesley College between dining and students, they really just add to that.”
Founded in 1956, CRC supports individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities starting at the age of 22, when the Massachusetts public school system is no longer required to support students with disabilities. CRC provides support services to individuals with a variety of disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, Prader Willi syndrome, cerebral palsy, Rett syndrome, pervasive development disorder, spina bifida, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and mental health issues.
“They just want to have a job outside of the home,” Tippett said. “If they weren’t doing this, oftentimes they’d be home watching TV. [This opportunity] provides more meaning to their life.”
CRC has also connected employees with businesses and institutions such as Roche Bros., Holiday Inn, Babson College and Colgate University.
Recently, CRC began to plan a similar employment dining services program at Harvard University. Tippett attributes this expansion to the success at Wellesley.
“No one thought this could be done,” Tippett said. “People doubt these guys all the time because they don’t think they have the ability.”
The pilot collaborative coincides with the disability employment awareness theme for the month of October. The final event of the month will be a panel entitled “Disability in the Workplace: What do students with disabilities and their allies need to know?” The panel is today at 4:30 p.m. in the Clapp Library Lecture Room.
Xueying is a sophomore studying English and Economics. She is a China-born Seattleite. Follow her on Twitter at @XueyingC.