SCUGOG: There was a special guest at Vos’ Independent last week, when Minister of Community and Social Services Dr. Helena Jaczek visited the local grocery store, to announce new funding by the provincial government to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
As part of the visit on Wedneday, May 20, Dr. Jaczek was given a tour of the Hwy. 7A store by employees Tyler Bjerknes and Gary McCollough.
“We hear over and over that a job is not just a great path to financial security, it is one of the best routes to social inclusion there is,” she said. “By investing in better employment outcomes for people with disabilities, we are investing in their independence, health and overall participation in our society.”
With those goals in mind, the provincial government recently announced a funding pledge of $800,000 by the province towards a new Centre of Excellence for Employment Services.
“We want to see Ontario become a leader in promoting employment for all people,” explained Dr. Jaczek. “We see this as an investment in the future, a stronger future for those with disabilities across Ontario.”
According to a press release, the Centre of Excellence, will be a web-based platform, and operated by the Ontario Disability Employment Network. The Centre’s primary focus will be on employment services for people with disabilities, as well as networking with potential employers and providing support to agencies, such as Community Living.
“This is a great statement for Port Perry, and an opportunity to share with potential employers that there is a great untapped resource out there to hire some really great and loyal people,” said Independent store owner Terry Vos.
Mr. McCullough has traveled from his home in Whitby to work in the store’s frozen food department for the past four years. He is also an amateur astronomer, with a passion for exploring the stars through the lens of his telescope.
“I enjoy working here very much,” he said of his experiences at the store. “That’s it.”
Mr. Bjerknes has worked at Independent for the past four years, after previously working at Canadian Tire, working his way up at Vos’ from service clerk to grocery/dairy and frozen food clerk, and in between, there was a brief stint in the store’s bakery department. When he’s not working at Independent, Mr. Bjerknes spends much of his time volunteering as staff member for the Port Perry MoJacks, a position he has held for more than a decade.
“I was a little nervous when I first started, but I really like all of my co-workers and the customers are good too. The part of the job I like most is working with people. There are always people I know in the store,” Mr. Bjerknes told The Standard.