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Nonprofit to expand job training programs for people with disabilities

Posted May 4
Updated May 5

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— A local nonprofit that provides job training and placement for people with disabilities is raising money to implement a new food service program that many students are asking for.

Community Workforce Solutions provides students with a variety of other vocational training programs, but this one will be the first of its kind for the organization.

To students like Derrick Whitley, these programs are life-changing.

Whitley started working at P.G. Werth's, a restaurant in Raleigh, after completing his training at Community Workforce Solutions. Whitley's new coworkers know him as "Superman," and that's because he does a little bit of everything.

“I wash dishes, take the trash out and make sure I mop the floor," he said.

As an important part of the P.G. Werth's team, Whitley stays busy in his new job - but that hasn't always been the case. Living with a communication disorder made it difficult for him to land a job he'd enjoy until he started a vocational training program at Community Workforce Solutions.

Roger McGee, President and Executive Director of Development at the nonprofit, said the program gives people a chance at independence.

“A lot of these folks are living in group homes or they are living at home with their parents and are struggling to be independent. By having a regular job, just like everybody else, it provides them the opportunity to, sometimes for the first time in their lives, be independent," McGee said.

After a request from students, McGee and other planners want to develop a commercial training kitchen where they can train people with disabilities on how to work in restaurants, cafeterias and catering-type jobs. The training kitchen will cost about $50,000.

So far, they've raised about half of that.

Even without a permanent training space, the organization hopes that the success of students like Whitley will prove that a food service training program could work.

“Sometimes they are overlooked, but [these employees] have an even stronger work ethic because of their drive to do well and to learn," said Gregory Hamm, a chef at P.G. Werth’s. "Their disabilities are not a disability. They're an asset."

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