Best Event’s kitchen experience empowers client workers with job opportunities
JANESVILLE The aroma of freshly steamed broccoli filled the kitchen Thursday morning at Best Events catering at KANDU Industries on Adel Street.
Workers hauled cartons of milk and bags of cookies from the walk-in cooler. Others washed dishes, filled cups with fruit, packed lunches and shoved prepared food into commercial ovens.
From 5 a.m. through the early afternoon, a half dozen workers fell into a routine under the direction of Kim Whitford, head of the kitchen.
New KANDU contracts with Beloit Meals on Wheels and Walworth County Council on Aging are providing new job skills learning opportunities for KANDU clients.
KANDU three years ago started preparing meals for the Rock County Council on Aging but added a contract with Beloit Meals on Wheels in August and Walworth County Council on Aging on Nov. 1.
On average, the kitchen now prepares 500 meals a day for seniors.
Pam Schappe, 31, was among the seven KANDU kitchen workers on duty Thursday morning. She was busy sealing meals with plastic wrap.
“It’s my favorite job,” she said.
Schappe said she makes more money wrapping meals than washing dishes or packing lunches.
“I like learning how to prepare food and would like to work at McDonald’s someday,” she said.
That’s certainly a possibility, said Rodney Oksuita, catering director.
"The food service industry has been a cornerstone industry to provide work opportunities for people with disabilities," he said.
The skills learned in the Best Event's kitchen by KANDU and state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation clients are intended to give them job opportunities beyond KANDU, Oksuita said.
"Everyone wants choices of where they can work and what they can do," he said.
Workers are rotated through the kitchen program, Oksuita said.
"With the tough job economy, there are so many people looking for work, people with disabilities have even a harder time finding jobs," he said.
KANDU’s goal is to teach basic job skills, such as counting, measuring, portioning, packaging, loading, distributing and delivering, he said.
"When an employer reads on a resume you have experience in the food industry, that bodes well. Real work with high volume gives them skills needed to work in a restaurant or hotel," Oksuita said.
KANDU clients understand the importance of good work, which is important in Best Event's production of senior meals, he said.
"With multiple counties, cities and sites all coming from one kitchen daily, we need to make sure our performance is accurate, meets all customer requirements, is correctly packaged, shipped and delivered on time without fail," he said.
“Our clients gain all kinds of skills that are required to make that happen consistently," Oksuita said.