Employment offers the same benefits to people regardless of ability: income, independence, and the opportunity to gain varied and valuable experience. This is no different for Briana Larsen.
Briana recently worked with an employment specialist and job coach from ODC to transition into a position at the Dairy Queen in International Falls.
As an ODC client, Briana was a program success “because she has learned the skills and then some,” said MaryBeth Gibson, program specialist for Int’l Falls ODC. “She just needed the right opportunity to apply her skills in the workplace.”
Roneisha Saari, Dairy Queen manager, describes working with ODC as very positive: “It’s been such an easy process, and sometimes I feel like, as employers, you might be kind of hesitant just because you don’t know how it’s going to work.
“They pretty much grabbed things by the horns and were just like, ‘this is what Briana can do.’ Communication has just been amazing. Basically… ODC does ninety percent of the work,” Saari continued. Dairy Queen just provides the uniform, the position, and the paycheck.
Saari, who has been managing the Dairy Queen since the fall of 2018, was originally going to start working with ODC in March 2020—right when the first shutdown of the pandemic occurred. “She held the position for Briana until it was safe for her to start her job,” shared Gibson.
Briana’s duties include washing dishes, prep cooking, and cleaning public spaces following COVID guidelines to keep her customers and coworkers safe. She will soon be trained on working the till. “I don’t want to be treated differently from everybody else,” Briana said. “I want to do everything that everyone else can do.”
“I love Briana’s willingness to work and come in with a smile,” Saari said. Any employee can get stuck in a rut. It’s not every day that everybody wants to come to work—but Briana isn’t like that. “One thing I love about Briana: she always says ‘hi!’ She really is a ray of sunshine and it’s really heartwarming,” Saari shared.
“ODC got me this far. Getting this job and working here at Dairy Queen benefits me because I get to see a lot more people than I did before,” Briana shared, adding that her favorite part of the day is being with her coworkers.
A fan of her experience working with ODC, Saari said she would have no hesitation helping another employer if they wanted to reach out and ask questions about the process. “Everybody needs a job, and everybody needs that sense of being able to work and be independent,” Saari added.
ODC offers work readiness and placement services for people with diverse abilities and customized employment needs. Working in partnership with community businesses, ODC provides options for inclusive and sustainable employment that results in greater independence.