I’m fairly new to Napa Valley and find that I learn something new every day – mostly about growing grapes or how to pair a spectacular farm-to-table feast with the perfect local wines. What I didn’t realize until I was here in the community, however, is that Napa County has such a vibrant philanthropic culture as well. Non-profit organizations that focus their energy and resources on assisting people in our community are thriving, and many locals volunteer their time to help make these organizations an integral, successful part of the community. In addition, a number of businesses partner with these non-profits to give back as well.
I recently spoke with Scott Gleason, General Manager of Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market in Napa, about his partnership with Napa Valley Support Services. Scott works with NVSS to bring in adults with developmental disabilities for multi-week assessment programs. Assessments can run from two to eight weeks and give participants an opportunity to gain skills and experience in a real-world work environment. During the assessment, a job coach is assigned by NVSS to assist the “newbie”, so the impact to the store staff is minimal. There is no cost to the business during this assessment period. “Because I still schedule my regular labor, there is no decrease in productivity. In fact, having the assessment participants in the store gives us extra help, so it is win-win for everyone”, says Scott.
At the end of the assessment period, participants who have shown aptitude in performing the job can be offered a job at Fresh and Easy if there are any openings. If there are no openings at that time, participants have learned a new skill and can be placed at other local businesses that are hiring.
The Napa Fresh and Easy store hired two employees in 2013 through this program. Ana and Rachel went through the assessment, did very well, and were hired as regular employees. They currently do customer service, work the register, and participate in the store-wide GUEST program – Greet, Understand, Engage, Sell and Thank. So, when you are wandering around the store looking for a particular item, you might just be greeted by Ana or Rachel, offering their assistance.
Scott sees a number of benefits to participating in this program. The program gives his staff opportunities to become better trainers and grow in their positions. It’s a building block for them in their careers. In addition, during the NVSS assessments, he has extra labor to make the customer experience even better. And, he says, “It is the right thing to do. Working with Napa Valley Support Services is a win-win scenario. We want to support the community that supports our business.”
JuLee Messerich is a volunteer writer for NVSS.