Cub Foods in Baxter was recently recognized for its commitment to employing people with disabilities.

The Minnesota Organization for Habitation and Rehabilitation Friday named Cub Foods in Baxter as an outstanding disability employer in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October. The organization represents more than 110 disability service providers across the state.

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The store was nominated by Productive Alternatives, a nonprofit disability service provider that provides a variety of services, including connecting people with disabilities with employers.

Employing people with disabilities shows the store cares about the community and wants to improve it, said store director Bryan Jelinski. Employees work in the deli department and in the courtesy department, he said, and as grocery baggers and cleaners.

"We try to accommodate them where we can," Jelinski said.

Repetition is the key to success for an employee with a disability, Jelinski said. As they keep completing the same task, they improve and become more comfortable doing it, he said.

"Repetition is really important for them," Jelinski said.

The first couple of weeks can be difficult for an employee with a disability, Jelinski said, as they get used to their new job. But they quickly become part of the crew and start socializing and joking with their fellow employees, he said.

Employees with disabilities are very reliable, Jelinski said, and Productive Alternatives employees provide hands-on training and coaching for the employees. Productive Alternatives also lines up transportation for the employees, so they can make it to work when they're scheduled to work.

"They become very dependable," Jelinski said. "When they come to work everyday, they just start being more and more a part of the success of the business."

Cub Foods in Baxter has been working with Productive Alternatives for years, Jelinski said. The award shows the store works with the community to make a difference, he said. Customers also appreciate seeing the store working with people with disabilities, he said.

Steve Skauge, president of Productive Alternatives, said the relationship between an employer and an employee with a disability is mutually beneficial. An employer fills a vacant position and the employee gets the sense of fulfillment that comes with having a job, he said.

Productive Alternatives works with employers to make sure there's a right fit between employer and employee, Skauge said. The organization also provides staff to support the employee, he said.

"It's all about finding that right person for the right job," Skauge said.


More info about the month

The U.S. Department of Labor is celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month throughout October. The Department's Office of Disability Employment Policy previously announced the monthlong theme is "Inclusion Drives Innovation."

In 1945, Congress declared the first week of October as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word "physically" was dropped to acknowledge individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month. In 2001, Office of Disability Employment Policy was established and formally began selecting the National Disability Employment Awareness Month theme.

This year's theme celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents.