Charley’s Subs is a great place to start for Kevin Durden

Kevin Durden photo

Ocala, FL – Kevin Durden has followed the path of many young people. He finished high school, attended vocational training, found his first job, moved into his own apartment, and got his driver’s license – all great milestones. He is thrilled with how things are going.

However, this wasn’t always the plan. Kevin has an intellectual disability and originally lived in a group home without much opportunity to reach many of these milestones. But he wanted to work, so he came to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), an agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job, and met VR Counselor Nicole Steltenkamp.

Kevin told Nicole that he had always dreamed of working as a chef in a fancy hotel, so she signed him up for the Hands On Education culinary program through the Hyatt Orlando. Hands On Education is a two-week training program in the hospitality business, and Kevin went through the culinary program to learn the basics of becoming a chef at a large hotel. “He loved it,” says Nicole. “He wanted to work for the Hyatt, because he loved how he was treated there.” Unfortunately, they didn’t have an opening at that time, so Kevin came back home to Ocala, and they decided to expand his job search.

Nicole then paired him with Job Coach Naomi Smith of Service Source. With Naomi by his side, helping him apply for jobs and practice interviewing, Kevin began looking for other jobs in the food business. He was very excited when he landed a job at Charley’s Grilled Subs. “Charley’s is a wonderful place to work. We are a team; we work together,” says Kevin. “When I started here, I was really happy with my first job, because I get to give out samples and serve food to people.”

Having Naomi help him learn his job duties was a great benefit not only to Kevin, but also to his manager, Steve Roy. It helped show Steve where Kevin’s skills would best fit at Charlie’s. He explains, “We understand that he [Kevin] has limits in what he learns, but we found out he’s really good with people, so we made him a full-time sampler. He hands out samples to people.”

Kevin still hopes to go to culinary school to earn his degree and become a chef at a fancy hotel, but for now, he’s happy to be working at a job he loves, living on his own, and saving up to buy a car. Kevin says, “Every time I think about my job, I say to myself, ‘look what I accomplished in life.’ It was a great opportunity for me to do that. And if anyone else wants to do that, VR is a great place to start.”

For any business manager who is a little leery about hiring a person with a disability for the first time, Steve has some words of advice. “Some people have problems with people with disabilities and think they can’t do the job because they’re limited, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t do it. You just have to find out what they can do and what they want to do, and then it’s fine. The only thing I think that limits people is themselves.”

About Vocational Rehabilitation
Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website,, 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 89 offices across Florida, and last year helped 7,214 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit