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A Collaboration for the Books

Published by Sean Greene on

Granite City Electric & Triangle, Inc.

I first worked with Ben in 2011, initially finding a temporary job as a cashier but within the next year Ben had set his sights higher with the goal of finding permanent employment. With every placement comes its own challenges and Ben’s first hurdle was finding a job accessible from his home in a fairly rural area. Despite his determination and willingness to bike long distances it seemed we had our work cut out for us. He finally got his break when the MRC office of Lawrence connected us with Granite City Electric Supply (GCE). They had an opening in their custodial department, and MRC would provide transportation to and from the job.

It became clear that GCE was committed to fostering an inclusive workplace and wanted to fill the position with someone who had previously been disadvantaged or overlooked as a prospective hire. So when Ben accepted the position he found himself welcomed with open arms and eagerly took this next step in his professional career.

Lou Katsos, the manager at GCE, shared with me the company’s philosophy: the customers are the most important people. And at GCE, the employees are considered internal customers, ensuring that every member of the team is valued and supported. And Ben was no different and made his training and transition into his first permanent position seamless. Before long he did not need my assistance and was working independently.

As he proved himself to be a capable and motivated employee, Ben was encouraged by his boss to take on more responsibilities. I returned on multiple occasions, whether it was to train Ben for his additional role in their Shipping & Receiving department or provide support when there was an opportunity to improve his soft skills. Lou wanted Ben to be successful wherever he went, at GCE and after. The encouragement never went unnoticed by Ben and it was not uncommon for him to end every phone call with Lou by saying, “…and thanks for being an awesome boss!” before hanging up the phone.

Ben had become an invaluable part of the team, so when GCE found themselves relocating to another city Lou reached out to me in order to ensure Ben would still be able to get to work, even if MRC could not provide transportation. Which led Ben to another big step in gaining greater independence, a driver’s license. Ben and I began studying for his learner’s permit, finding that many of the questions lent themselves to Ben’s natural skill with numbers. After passing his first test easily he started driving lessons through the Adaptive Driving program and soon found himself driving to and from work every day!

As time went on Ben gained confidence, picked up a second job and before long began making plans for the next step of his career. GCE gave Ben his first permanent job as well as invaluable support and experience, but it was time for his next big thing! On his last day at GCE Ben planned to show his appreciation by surprising his colleagues with lunch, but instead found himself surprised when he walked into the going away party his friends at GCE had thrown for him! It was a great celebration of Ben’s adventure with the company, as well as the company’s adventure with Ben being part of the team. Afterwards, Lou wrote an email to many of his co-workers to share Ben’s story. He closed by saying:

“If given the opportunity to take on a community outreach employee…don’t think…just say yes…The impact on all of your lives will be tremendously rewarding, armed with the knowledge that you’ve helped someone less fortunate exceed their own expectations…and develop into a productive member of society. Thanks for listening.”

Lou and Granite City Electric gained more than just a memorable employee and friend when they hired Ben – they gained a greater understanding of someone’s potential, and how it grows exponentially when we lift each other up.

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