Gilbert deli joins Bell Bank Park in autism project

Chef W makes a Muffuleta sandwich at Not Your Typical Food and Beverage, Friday, August 26, 2022, in Gilbert, Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

GILBERT NEWS STAFF

A Gilbert restaurant has teamed up with Legacy Cares Inc., the nonprofit that owns Bell Bank Park in Mesa, and two other entities to create a program called Not Your Typical Workforce, a workplace development program aimed to address the employment gap for young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

“The program, which will launch this winter, provides a safe, friendly, exciting, and challenging environment for these individuals to succeed in a typical workforce environment,” Legacy said of its partnership with Not Your Typical Deli in downtown Gilbert, the Autism Academy and Lexington Services.

Young adults involved in the program will be scheduled over the course of 10 weeks to serve in various capacities at Bell Bank Park.

They will learn basic communication and life skills with staff, procedures and responsibilities for positions in the ticketing, operations, guest services, and food and beverage departments, as well as participate in team building activities hosted by the Legacy Cares team.

When Not Your Typical Deli owners Chef W and Chuck Depalma learned how much people with developmental disabilities struggled in the workforce, they felt something should be done.

So, they focused much of their hiring on developmentally disabled teens graduating from high school and struggling to enter the workforce.

In 2016, they opened Not Your Typical Deli in Gilbert Town Square and now that they’ve moved to downtown Gilbert, they still serve up the same family-friendly fare and have kept their mission alive in a scaled-down version of their old digs.

“Douglas Moss, president of Legacy Cares said, “We plan to shatter the stigma of Americans with autism through leading by example and showing companies what Americans with autism and developmental disabilities are capable of achieving in the workforce and beyond.”

“I’ve worked with Not Your Typical Deli for over 3 years. As a young adult with autism, I was hesitant about working with the public. I am very grateful to Chuck, Pam, Chef W, Vanessa and the entire team at NYTD for giving me the opportunity to work with them,” said Scott Bertoldo, trainer for Not Your Typical Workforce.

“Over the course of working there, they have taught me many job skills which help me in the workforce and carry over to my everyday life. Having recently been promoted to trainer at NYTD, I am looking forward to helping others with developmental disabilities learn valuable work and life skills.”

Autism Academy for Education and Development is a K-12+ program for students on the autism spectrum.

It provides individualized education for students and have been increasing its work-based learning program over the past several years.

Autism Academy Founder Laura Newcomb said, “Roughly 60-80 percent of adults with Autism in Arizona are unemployed, and it has long been Autism Academy’s mission to change that number. Our partnership with Legacy Cares is a very exciting step towards decreasing the unemployment rate in adults with Autism and building a more inclusive work environment for everyone.

“In the past, our school has attempted to partner with different companies to offer our students internships at different stores and restaurants and this is an incredible opportunity to expand on a mission that we share with Legacy Cares,” she added. “We are thrilled to be partners on this project that gives our students exposure to different jobs and give them an opportunity to leave high school with confidence, feeling ready to enter the workforce.”

Lexington provides academic programs and therapies for all students with autism spectrum disorders, offering in-center and in-home services for children and adults.

“By offering employment opportunities at Bell Bank Park, the NYTW program will become the national example for how strategic community collaboration, innovative thinking, and understanding of individuals with ASD can lead to successful employees in any industry,” Lexington said in a release.