NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / October 13, 2022 / Aramark:
“People downgrade people with disabilities. They think I can do less than what I can actually do,” said Cashmere Constant, Aramark Food Service Worker at a university client account (pictured above). “I want to prove that I can do whatever I put my mind to.”
In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, Aramark is highlighting stories from Cashmere and other members of THRIVE, the company’s employee resource group (ERG) whose mission is to advance awareness and inclusion for people with disabilities.
“Providing opportunities for people with disabilities is a focus throughout the year. This is a community of dedicated employees and job applicants who bring to us a workforce that will support Aramark’s growth,” said Fenimore Fisher, Vice President, Aramark Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “I’m so proud of the great work we are doing with THRIVE. Our ERG members are engaged employees from across the company who are a critical part of helping us focus on workforce equity in our workplaces.”
Read on for personal stories about THRIVE ERG members and find out about activities planned for October 2022. The stories were gathered as part of the Aramark Chef Spotlight Series, which partners with the ERGs to celebrate Aramark’s diverse culinary talent.
Always Look Forward: Cashmere Constant
Cashmere Constant has worked at a university in Delaware for 13 years in several positions on campus, including scooping ice cream, making sandwiches, and serving food from the grill, pizza, and bakery stations. In 2022, Cashmere was promoted to a full-time position at the popular pizza station.
“When I first started, I was living in a group home,” said Cashmere. “I found happiness in my work and came to work to escape all of that and better myself. I promised myself that I would never look back but always look forward.”
This year Cashmere started living on her own with minimal outside support.
Her motivation at work comes from the love of being with people and providing exceptional customer service. She takes pride in having an organized workstation.
“When I was younger, I always wanted to go into culinary arts but didn’t have the funds to do so,” said Cashmere. “I always wanted to cook and make other people happy when I cook. I’m inspired to share my story. I love showing the world that I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Never Underestimate: Chef Tess Collins
Executive Chef for Aramark at a school district in Arizona, Tess Collins didn’t have much exposure to disability awareness and inclusion until she had her daughter Quinn, who was diagnosed with autism about seven years ago.
“The experience as a parent of a child with autism has opened my eyes,” said Chef Tess (pictured with Quinn). “It has helped me work with our staff in kitchens to help them better understand students with autism and other disabilities.”
After working in restaurants for many years, Chef Tess transitioned into the K-12 education environment primarily because it allowed her to remain a chef and spend the time she needed with Quinn.
“We have our day-to-day struggles with autism, but Quinn is such a bright, inquisitive, free spirit,” said Chef Tess. “Never underestimate people with disabilities. We always have something to learn from one another. Quinn has been the greatest teacher I have ever had in life.”
Joy in Serving: Leticia Ross
Leticia Ross is the Food Service Manager at Daymark, a residential community for individuals with disabilities. The organization helps people with autism, Down syndrome, hearing deficits, and other conditions learn life skills such as cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and job hunting. Leticia says serving the residents is like medicine each day.
“My experience at Daymark has taught me a lot about individuals with disabilities,” said Leticia. “Each day I go to work brings me joy in my heart. This place has given so many of us hope for our own family members or friends,” she said.
Equal Treatment: Chef Shelley Double
Chef Shelley Double is currently a Food Service Director with Aramark Workplace Hospitality. She became involved with THRIVE ERG, in part, because of her sister Erica who has Down syndrome.
“I love spending time with Erica. She helps me in the kitchen and watches me cook on Facetime when I’m not with her,” Chef Shelley said. “It’s important for me to find creative ways to cook healthier meals for her.”
One of Erica’s favorite dishes is Chef Shelley’s Tahini Roasted Veggie Bowl (pictured). Chef Shelley also volunteers at a working center for adults with disabilities. Part of the participants’ responsibilities are serving food and cleaning up.
“The teamwork in that place is untouchable,” said Chef Shelley. “Some of the most loving and hardest working people I’ve met have disabilities. They just want to be treated equally and do a good job.”
October Calendar of Events: THRIVE ERG
To commemorate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Aramark’s THRIVE ERG planned activities to help connect group members and further their mission. The theme this year is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.”
Activities include the following:
- Thursday, October 6 – Team conference call to highlight personal stories around self-identification and self-disclosure and the prevalence of disabilities in the workplace.
- Wednesday, October 12 – Workplace mentorship and career path opportunities workshop with students from Drexel University in Philadelphia. In addition to career discussions, attendees will take part in a culinary demo, building tour, and lunch onsite at the Aramark headquarters.
- Thursday, October 13 – Webcast hosted by Job Accommodation Network to explore ways to foster mentoring and allyship in the workplace and build a more disability-inclusive organization.
- Wednesday, October 19 – Webinar on disability mentoring in the workplace facilitated by Disability:IN.
- Thursday, October 20 – Panel discussion: Learning from Leaders About Disability Employment. Speakers will include experts from Aramark and external diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders focused on employees with disabilities.
- Thursday, October 27 – Thrive ERG Happy Hour to build engagement and connection, including prize giveaways and a Disability Etiquette Kahoot Quiz.
THRIVE is part of a growing network of Aramark ERGs that gives voice to the diverse communities that make up Aramark’s workforce and helps create a more inclusive workplace. ERGs are open to employee members, including advocates and allies all working together to further the groups’ missions.