Community program helps residents find ‘silver’ lining of life

Montrose Daily Press

By Erica Lewis Kennedy
Daily Press Writer
Published/Last Modified on Sunday, August 26, 2007 11:40 PM MDT

MONTROSE:  For anyone who has put in a hard day’s work, the joy of the first paycheck is virtually unparalleled. Just ask any of the participants in the Silver Mountain Enterprises day program. They will give you an enthusiastic description of their job duties, along with the joys of a little economic freedom.

Silver Mountain Enterprises is a program of Community Options that works with local residents to find jobs in the community. Community Options consumers work with employment specialists and each other to overcome disabilities in the workplace. Some consumers hold jobs at private businesses, some work in the private workshop and others do volunteer community projects.

“Our job is to teach people to find employment in the community. Some might not have been able to find a suitable workplace,” Bill Hensley, vocational manager said. “We want people to live as normal lives as possible.”

 

Hensley said many local businesses are supporters of the program and go far above to make the workplace as comfortable as possible for employees. For example, 3M built a concrete pad adjacent to its parking lot so its employees in wheelchairs would be more easily able to access the building without traversing gravel.

Hensley said several local businesses have adapted their workplaces and job duties to be suitable for all employees. Community Options consumers currently work for Applebees, Magic Circle Theatre, Ameridoor, the Montrose County Re-1J School District, Wells Fargo Bank, Western Skyways and a bevy of other local businesses.

In this day and age, staying at one job for great lengths of time has become more and more rare. However, Rudy Martinez loves his job and wouldn’t leave it for the world. Martinez works 20 plus hours each week at Burger King and has done so for the last 17 years  which makes him the longest employed individual at the local restaurant.

“I really like it at Burger King,” Martinez said. “I love to work in the dining room and be around all the people.” He said he’s not a huge fan of the broiler but his fellow co-workers make every day a great day. Martinez said the best part of his job is having the money to travel. He has been to New Mexico, Las Vegas and Utah. In his spare time, Martinez serves as the disc jockey for Community Options’ dances.

With a giant smile on his face, Martinez worked the Burger King dining room Thursday. Regular customers stopped to talk while he helped others find what they needed. Soozie Lasley, a manager for Burger King, said Martinez is more than a friendly mainstay for their business.

“Rudy is such a joy to work with,” she said. “He does anything you ask him to do but more importantly, he does it with a smile. The customers absolutely love him. We like to have him work in the dining room. He greets customers, helps them with any questions and then without hesitation he jumps right back and helps us with anything in the kitchen.”

Lasley said when things get slow, Martinez sings old rock songs, which some of the younger employees may not recognize, but enjoy all the same.

“Rudy always walks to work whether it’s summer or winter and there is nobody more dependable,” she added. “He is just so incredibly responsible.”

Julie Hilmes took a job this summer with Park Avenue True Value. She works restocking and cleaning shelves, does janitorial work and sometimes helps in the office.

“My job coach talked to me about working in the store,” Hilmes said. “It’s so friendly there. My favorite part of my job is just that I am able to do it.”

In the past, she also worked at Wal-Mart and Dunlaps. In her spare time she does volunteer work with her church, St. Paul’s Episcopal.

At first, Hilmes is a little shy, but once she starts talking about her job, she becomes much more animated. She talks all about her co-workers and the customers that come into the store, all the time beaming about what she has learned.

Employment specialist Tammy Bower said her job helping consumers at the workshop could not be more rewarding. She said several local businesses are wonderful to work with and really make a difference in the consumers’ lives.

“You know there is nothing more special when you have worked with someone and then they get a job and it’s successful. Then they get their first paycheck, and you know that they are so excited and they kiss it. How great is that?”

About 55 consumers utilize the vocational workshop, which is just one of the many support programs offered by Community Options.

Martinez and Hilmes’ success stories in the workplace makes them want to give back to the community. In addition to paid positions, many consumers at Silver Mountain Enterprises do community volunteer work.

Kristi Kendall’s calendar is booked. Between her job at Canyon Cleaners, volunteering at Christ’s Kitchen and various other volunteer projects, she is one busy woman.

“I have really nice bosses,” Kendall said. “I also like what I do at Christ’s Kitchen. I get to serve lots of good food.” Kendall works at the volunteer food kitchen once a week. She dishes out everything from beef stroganoff to vegetables and homemade bread.

“It is very nice there,” she said. “We all get along very well there.” She said her involvement with Community Options has been very helpful. She has learned to cook well for herself and handle other personal tasks like shopping and banking. For these reasons, she said, it is very important to give back to the community with volunteer work.

“We want to show others we care,” she said.

Fayvonna Brunner agreed. Brunner regularly picks up garbage outside Wells Fargo Bank and the library. She also volunteers at Christ’s Kitchen and cleans the historical markers around town.

“People have helped us and we want to help other people,” she said. “I want people to be happy and I want places to be clean. So I go and make it clean when I can. I care about other people.” She has been with Silver Mountain Enterprises about 12 years and said she truly enjoys all her jobs.

Silver Mountain Enterprises has its own workshop and manages local and national job contracts. Some consumers are employed with the workshop completing these jobs such as sorting feathers for fly tying, collating and folding materials for Scott’s Printing and assembling card games for a manufacturer.

The group often volunteers in the community doing all sorts of tasks ranging from cleaning garbage from the library grounds to hanging posters for upcoming cultural events throughout the town. Glen Crow said he uses his paycheck to help his family. He used to be an inserter for the Montrose Daily Press, and he has worked on several tasks in the Silver Mountain workshop. However, his favorite jobs are the volunteer duties he takes up.

“I liked hanging up posters, they were for all kinds of different events,” he said. “But I like to clean up at the library too. I want to make it look beautiful for everyone else.”