Zachariah McCall absolutely loves his job. Three days a week he works at the Panera in Kenwood washing dishes and cleaning up the dining room, often at a pace that makes it hard to keep up and with his happy, contagious laugh echoing throughout the restaurant.
“It’s so excellent,” he said. “My dream was to work in a cafeteria and excel at whatever I do.”
McCall, 20, has always been a hard worker and dedicated to whatever task he did, his parents said. As he transitioned to adulthood, they tried to get him acclimated to a more robust working environment through Project Search and at Easter Seals. His family also got help from Kelle Crawford, a transition consultant for Hamilton County DD Services.
“We had some concerns because he has a speech impediment and wondered what kind of employment opportunities he would have,” said Gail McCall-Martin, Zachariah’s mom. “Kelle helped us work through those concerns and get insight into his capabilities.”
Before starting at Panera McCall had a job at Kings Island during the summer of 2015. But as the amusement park season came to an end, he wanted to keep working and build on the skills he learned in the kitchen.
At Panera he works with a job coach, John Cimarosti from Goodwill, who tries to find ways for him to feel comfortable doing his job. “We train him to work independently,” Cimarosti said. “It might take time, but he’ll get it and stick it out.”
And all that support has helped him become a valued part of the Panera team. Michael Dominick, assistant manager at the Kenwood location, had never worked with someone who had a disability before but said he likes working with McCall.
“He’s quick, always on time, comes in smiling and is always friendly, which is especially nice in an industry full of stress,” Dominick said.
“If you ask him to do something, he’ll do it. You have to be patient and work around his routines but like with any employee, you have to be nice and respectful.”
McCall said he’s enjoys doing a little bit of everything at his job and is proud of himself. “I learned to not quit, and that you have to put in the hard work,” he said.
He’s been working at Panera for one year and continues to learn new tasks.