VersAbility Resources offers a Supported Employment Program by partnering with regional businesses who thrive to provide long-term jobs in community settings for people with disabilities. In a new series, employers share the impact VersAbility employees make as part of their staffs.

It takes a team effort at TASTE headquarters to produce the ingredients for café favorites that range from sandwiches named Boardwalk, Hilltop and Freemason to a house dressing with a kick.

Chef Thomas Yager heads that village in Virginia Beach, and for the last three years, he’s relied on support from VersAbility Resources employees, some whom work up to 30 hours weekly performing multiple duties.

Many chop and dice — everything from the shapely slivers of carrots that color the coleslaw to the chunky chicken for the gourmet salad. Others package the goodies into containers, affixing stickers for retail sale.

It’s a win-win partnership. Employers benefit from eager, enthusiastic, and dedicated workers. Employees gain an income, a purpose and for many, newfound self-confidence.

“We have not had one person from VersAbility come in and not be able to do what we’ve asked,” Yager says. “The program has been great fitting people into jobs they can do successfully.”

VersAbility’s Mike Palmer is the matchmaker behind the scenes. He and his staff work closely with counselors at the state’s Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services to vet all employees prior to placement with community business partners.

“The general assessment tells you a lot,” he says. “We talk about their likes and dislikes. Most just want to be out in the community engaging with others. Having a job adds to their self-worth, and they like showing what they can do. They might have certain disabilities, but once they become acclimated, they’re perfectly comfortable.”

Yager can’t overestimate the impact VersAbility employees make on staff. They perform what’s often repetitious tasks with an exemplary work ethic. Many are shy initially, however it doesn’t take long for them to feel connected to the TASTE family.

“They shine,” Yager says.

For many from VersAbility, working at TASTE represents their very first job.

“It’s wonderful to give them a chance they might not otherwise be given,” Yager says. “Sometimes people think a person labeled with a disability is bedridden or stuck in a chair or can’t perform. That’s not the case at all. You can’t discredit people because they are labeled with a disability.”

The VersAbility team is constantly exploring options for new Supported Employment business partners and would love your recommendations of any businesses that may be a good fit. For more information about this program, contact Mike Palmer at (757) 896-8446 or mpalmer@versability.org.