Icing on the Cake!
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Kevin Graham smiles as he whips together the ingredients to make the frosting for red velvet cupcakes, one of the specialty items sold at Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery in Tallahassee. Kevin smiles because he truly enjoys being a Baker’s Assistant, a job that he found through Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Kevin, who has an intellectual disability, doesn’t shy away from the major responsibilities that come with being Lucy & Leo’s Frosting Specialist. “It feels great,” says Kevin. “I love it! I enjoy doing the job and making cupcakes.”
Kevin was one of the first students to participate in the Lively Transition Program, a partnership between the Leon County School System, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, and VR. Students graduate from high school with a special diploma and then try different volunteer placement opportunities to see which job would work best for them. They receive job coaching to learn the skills needed and through trying different types of jobs, they find the right fit.
For Kevin, it really clicked when he starting working with food. “He just really enjoyed cooking,” says Lynn Picolo, Kevin’s VR counselor. Kevin had always enjoyed baking cakes with his mom. He also liked to measure ingredients and knew how to clean very well, so Lynn felt he would do well in a food workplace. Kevin started volunteering at Lucy & Leo’s and a year later, they officially hired him.
“He’s fantastic!” says Jean Bates, Kevin’s Supervisor and owner of Lucy & Leo’s. “He is dependable and very timely; he’s usually 15 minutes early for his shift. He’s extremely enthusiastic. We love him. We really enjoy Kevin.”
As a Baker’s Assistant, Kevin makes all of the frostings for the cupcakes. “We leave him in charge of our frosting, which is a big deal,” says Jean. Kevin also helps with set up and cleaning around the shop.
Kevin comes in to work each day with a smile on his face and gets right to work. It’s a characteristic that helps make him a stand-out employee. “His determination and consistency are really important to us,” says Jean.
Jennifer Wester, another VR counselor who worked with Kevin, said he was one of the most polite and delightful people she has ever worked with. “He’s always smiling,” she says. “He takes a lot of pride in his work and is wonderful at it.”
Kevin is glad that VR and ‘Ms. Lynn’ were able to help him find a job that he loves. “They (VR) were very helpful to me,” he says. Kevin loves working with his boss and his fellow employees because “It’s a great place to be.” He hopes to one day be the owner of his own bakery or restaurant.
Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,018 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org.