Sharon Whitling knew she wanted a future in the food industry. She’d been baking for years – a skill taught to her by her aunt – and always enjoyed it. So when Whitling was ready to get a job in the community, she looked for some help from Hamilton County DD Services.
“I wanted to work somewhere I could be creative and focus on what I’m doing,” she said.
Whitling, 52, joined the HCDDS-led jobs program, which helps guide people with developmental disabilities through every step of the employment process. It was that program where Whitling met Tanya Godbold and serendipity stepped in to help.
One day, Godbold stopped at Cheesecake Please Café for lunch and started chatting with owner Steve Schultz. The conversation veered toward Schultz’s desire to hire people with disabilities, and Godbold happened to know of the perfect candidate.
“Sharon had said she wanted to work in food service but not at a fast food restaurant,” said Godbold, a former Service and Support Administrator (SSA) Assistant who now works as a Waiting List Specialist. “They treat her like family and brought her in right away.”
Whitling makes the restaurant’s popular cheesecake bites, dips them in chocolate and decorates the pieces with candy, nuts and other toppings. Her co-worker Jen Meinking said “it’s awesome” working with Whitling and they have a lot of fun in the kitchen together.
Schultz said he’s watched Whitling grow into a model employee during her first year. “Sharon can do in one hour what others can do in two, which helps our productivity,” he said. “She gets focused and her whole world is that task. And you don’t have to show her twice.”
She’s done so well in her new job, Whitling received a significant pay raise after her first year.
“I love my job,” Whitling said. “It gets me out of the house and keeps me occupied. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun.”
In the fall, Our Lady of America Communities took over operations at Cheesecake Please Café. The nonprofit organization helps run ministries and sustainable commercial enterprises in Southwest Ohio.
CEO Kim Lukens said the organization feels it is important to hire people with disabilities, veterans and people who have previously been in jail. “We want to hire people who others feel might not be successful at work,” she said. “We want to teach skills that do not need a degree. It’s all about matching the task to the person.”
Cheesecake Please Café is located at 3218 West Galbraith Road in Colerain Township.