Observed annually in October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities past and present and showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices. In recognition of the important role people with disabilities play in a diverse and inclusive American workforce, the theme for NDEAM 2022 is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.”
In the Rochester area, we are fortunate to have hundreds of businesses and organizations who prioritize cultivating inclusive workplaces. The Arc of Monroe’s Job Path team has worked first-hand with these businesses to help them find the right employees for their unique workforce. Chick-fil-A Henrietta has been one of those companies that truly exemplifies what it means to be an inclusive employer as they have worked with Job Path to hire and support Sparkle Crumpler in her role at the store.
Sparkle started working at Chick-fil-A in September 2021, and it has been not only her favorite, but also, the most supportive job she’s ever had. Both she and her job coach, Lia Pata, have seen what a difference having a supportive team can make.
“Sparkle and I have been working together on and off for about seven years, so I’ve seen her growth,” Lia said. “This has been the most supportive place for her. She’s been at about four or five other places. I supported her at about three of those, and this has been the best by far. The environment is great. The staff are great. The managers are amazing. I have nothing but good things to say about them.”
While Sparkle has worked hard to achieve her goals, she also credits some of her success to her supportive team of coworkers at Chick-fil-A.
“They take care of me. They’re like family,” Sparkle said. “I don’t know where I would be honestly. I’ve improved in my skills. I got faster at mobile drinks. I like the people more. They actually have really helped me a lot. This is the best job I’ve ever had.”
Sparkle isn’t the only one who is grateful for her coworkers. Her supervisor, Mackenzie Martinelli, Brand Growth Director for Chick-fil-A Henrietta, will be the first to sing Sparkle’s praises and back it up with customer feedback.
“We love Sparkle. She really is the best, and I’m not even lying,” Mackenzie said with a smile. “Our guest feedback is all about Sparkle. To the point where I had a gentleman come in last week and he said that his shoe was untied, so Sparkle stopped and literally tied his shoe for him. She’s just the definition of having that servant’s heart, and the guests just love her. Now we have people who ask the shifts she works so they can come in. I honestly can’t picture Chick-fil-A Henrietta without her.”
As a business that exists to serve hundreds of customers a day, it’s important to Chick-fil-A to provide the best guest experience and continue to improve how they operate and how they create a more inclusive environment. Sparkle was a big catalyst in working through that initially because she was the first person with a disability who worked at that location and needed the support of an Employment Specialist through Job Path.
“I think it’s just very eye-opening because there were things that I wasn’t aware of. We teamed up with Golisano’s Autism Center for the past year and half, so I thought I was pretty aware of what we could be doing to be accommodating, and every single day it’s a new thing that’s eye-opening,” Mackenzie said. “It’s definitely a learning curve for everybody. A lot of people don’t know that people need accommodations, not just in the workplace, but in life in general. We’re all learning, and we are very fortunate that we have a team who is all open to learning. As a whole, the store has been able to be a lot more accommodating in the way that we serve the community.”
Whether it’s working one-on-one with Sparkle in a way that supports her best as an employee, or taking time to understand what a particular customer needs, Chick-fil-A Henrietta is always striving to provide people with disabilities a place where they feel included and supported in personalized ways. National Disability Employment Awareness Month is just one month out of the year that highlights valuable partnerships like this, but we are grateful for all of the businesses that live this out every day of the year.
Job Path is a recognized leader in providing innovative employment services and is Monroe County’s largest supported employment agency. Job Path has worked with hundreds of businesses throughout Rochester and the surrounding area to create employment connections. Learn more at https://arcmonroe.org/jobpathrochester/.