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General Manager of Mrs E's

“They take the job seriously and do a good job,” Mr. Maranell said of his employees with developmental disabilities.

 


General Manager of Mrs E's

When he started the job tryout in school, a paraprofessional helped Tyler learn the grocery store job. Now 23, he’s become a trusted full-time employee.

 


 

General Manager of Mrs E'sNow Mr. Riddle, who has Autism, mild Intellectual Disability and Schizophrenia, is working a 40-hour week, has health insurance through the company, a 401(k) savings plan, and profit sharing.

 


General Manager of Mrs E's

 

“I’m right in there with everybody else” could be said to be Colin Olenick’s life theme. “With a little bit of what I’d call ‘unorthodox help,’ I’ve been able to achieve much.”

 


General Manager of Mrs E's

 

Now 21, David works full-time as a medication aide in a senior center, has his own apartment, car, and computer, and plans to gain additional education to continue a career in health care.

 


LaDena Hempken

 

LaDena Hempken works daily with severely disabled adults, many of whom have multiple disabilities and for the most part are non-verbal.. She said the job -- the first paying job she has held in 12 years -- gives a purpose to her life.

 


Tammy Carrell

 

“I always want to learn more,“ said Employment Specialist Tammy Carrell, who works for KETCH in Wichita.. “But a lot of stuff you learn along the way. Each client is a different person.”

 


Katherine Carpenter

 

It wasn’t until she went to Valeo Behavioral Health Care in Topeka that Katherine Carpenter’s life made a major change for the better. The culmination of the improvement: a job at Brighton Place, brought on by help provided by Ms. Carpenter’s Employment Support Specialists at Valeo.

 


Patty Waters

 

As a Job Coach, or Employment Consultant, she finds employment for persons with developmental disabilities -- some with severe physical and mental limitations -- and then trains the newly-hired employees until they master the job.

 


Maureen Harvey

 

The first step in the process of finding employment for people with disabilities assigned to the agency is getting to know the client and the client’s preferences for employment, said Tish Gutierrez, and Employment Specialist for Johnson County Developmental Supports.

 


Kristen Farley

 

Kristen Farley, Employment Specialist Supervisor at Valeo in Topeka, said one of the joys of the job is to watch clients who find work change for the better. "They become more outgoing," she said.


General Manager of Mrs E's

It was during many discussions about Angela’s future employment possibilities that they came up with the idea of raising calves.


 

 

 

 

Employment1st.org is funded by the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities (KCDD). Design by Lawson Phillips Associates. Stories by Tim Hoyt. Photography by Lawson Phillips. Publication design by Arthur McCash and Lawson Phillips.

Anthony at WorkIt was a video about bees shown to his third grade class more than a decade ago that started things. Now Anthony Schwager is a spring and summer fixture at the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Lawrence, where he sells honey and other products of the bee business he and his family have built.

At the Lawrence market, customers come in waves, purchasing honey, lip balm, honey straws, or other wax or honey products from Anthony‘s Beehive. Some stop to study the observation hive on a table, watching the bees do their magic, as Anthony works to keep honey jars clean and stocked and Anthony’s assistant, Aaron Kim-Luellen, waits on customers at a table set up in front of the truck used for hauling the goods.

“I told my parents I wanted bees,” said Anthony, who has mild Intellectual Disability and Epilepsy. “They said no; they didn’t know anything about bees.”

Anthony persisted, said his father, Tony Schwager.

“It became obvious pretty quickly it wasn‘t just a whim,” he said. “Now he’s been doing this a long time. That’s what’s cool about it; he’s got the skill set to do all of this.”

Anthony, now 23, even has an observation bee hive in his bedroom. .

“Just to look at,” he said. “They are fun to watch. They work their whole lives.”

Setting up at the Farmer’s Market in Lawrence is just one of several sales avenues for Anthony’s Beehive. They also stock honey and other products in several area grocery stores and have an active web site. And they set up shop at Farmer’s Markets in Overland Park and Kansas City.

Tony Schwager, who teaches shop at Baldwin High School, said the long-term goal of Anthony’s Beehive is financial independence for his son.

“But the biggest thing is, he has his dignity and self-worth,” Mr. Schwager said. “He’s not getting a check from the government each month.”

Anthony’s assistant at the Farmer’s Market, Mr. Kim-Luellen, has been with the business from the start. Tony Schwager said Mr. Kim-Luellen, who previously provided respite care for Tony Schwager and his wife Terri, is part of the team that helps make Anthony’s Beehive a success.

“Aaron is part of Anthony’s circle of support,” Mr. Schwager said. Anthony also said his brother and sister help the business with marketing and filling orders but do not work directly with the bees.

Mr. Kim-Luellen, a mathematics teacher at Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, remembers the beginning of Anthony’s Bee Hive.

“I met Anthony in 1997 at Anthony’s 12th birthday party,” he said. “At the farmer’s market, we set up the honey on a one-foot square end table, and brought everything to the market in a two-door Honda Civic.”

“I like Anthony a lot; he’s real easy to be around,” Mr. Kim-Luellen said. Another factor in the development of Anthony’s Beehive is what he learned in both an entrepreneurship class at Lawrence High School and in the school district’s post high school Community Transition Program, known as C-Tran.

Both Anthony and his father mentioned these school programs as important to both Anthony’s development and the development of the business. Anthony’s Beehive also won a grant from the Kansas Council on Developmental Disabilities that helped the business buy needed supplies when they were starting out.

In the entrepreneurship class, Anthony put together a business plan to add the sale of lip balm made with honey to his business. In a contest following completion of the class, Anthony won an award for Kansas High School Entrepreneur of the Year.

In the Community Transition Program, which helps students with disabilities ages 18-21 who have completed high school credits transition to adulthood, teacher Jenny Rovel Jones said Anthony “blossomed” in the program. She said C-Tran helps students with everything from cooking for themselves to making doctor appointments or grocery shopping.

“Anthony was pretty shy when he first came,” she said. “It helped his work skills and improved his telephone skills. He was able to make a sales pitch over the phone.”
“Anthony was a prize student,” Ms. Rovel Jones said.

Anthony’s Beehive also provides employment opportunities for other people with disabilities by contracting with Cottonwood Inc., the Community Developmental Disabilities Organization in Lawrence, to make honey straws. People with disabilities working at the agency do this work on a pay -for-pieces-completed basis.

“It’s really nice to have Cottonwood on board,” Mr. Schwager said.

During the spring and summer months, Anthony and his father visit their hives, which are located in agriculture areas in Douglas, Leavenworth and Franklin Counties. At the end of the summer, they visit each hive to gather honey for the next year’s sales. Mr. Schwager said they have had up to 200 working hives, but a very difficult winter caused some hives to fail and this spring they are down to about 60 hives.

“Usually we lose a third over the winter and anything over half is a disaster,” he said. “This last winter was a disaster.”

On a recent visit to a hive location along the edge of a field in North Lawrence, Anthony and his father discovered that some of their hives had died off over the winter. But a nice surprise was that wild bees had taken over one of the bee boxes. Mr. Schwager said the new hive was not large, but it was strong.

Anthony said the queen in the new hive appeared healthy, which is key to a hive‘s success. He estimated there are up to 50,000 bees in a hive.

“She’s a good queen,” Anthony said of the North Lawrence hive. “She controls the hive by her scent. If there’s no queen, there are no bees. And no bees means no honey.”