Melissa Carroll at work
Melissa Carroll, 42, knew what kind of job she wanted.
"I told them, 'I want to work in a restaurant. I like talking to people and making tips," Melissa said.
Melissa was in a sheltered workshop setting. She worked with her service coordinator and with Cortney Gibson, an Intellectual and Developmental Disability (I/DD) specialist with the Bend Vocational Rehabilitation office, on finding a good community job match. She started working at Café Yumm in May 2015.
"She volunteered at Café Yumm to see if it was a good fit," said Erica Drake, a regional employment specialist with the Office of Developmental Disability Services (ODDS). Erica helped Melissa in her previous role as a service coordinator at the Deschutes County Developmental Disability Office.
"She made it clear she wanted to work in a restaurant, be around people, and make tips."
Kloe Olkowski is manager of the east Bend location of Café Yumm. She said Melissa's hard work and loyalty has been invaluable at the café.
"We had only been open four months and had a lot of turnover during that time," Kloe said. "I need an employee who wants to work and wants to be here and works super hard. Melissa's enthusiasm and work ethic has influenced the other employees to bring their best to work."
Melissa's job involves clearing and cleaning tables and bringing trays and dishes back to the kitchen. She also does food prep, including rinsing and sorting the organic black beans that Café Yumm includes with so many of its dishes.
"I'm so popular with the customers and the other employees," Melissa said, laughing. "I've got so many friends here. One of the girls, she calls me 'chica.' It's my nickname."
In addition to working at Café Yumm, Melissa also is in Special Olympics' bowling league.
"I got a $20 tip the other day," Melissa said, proudly nodding. "I put it in the bank. I'm saving to get a special bowling ball that's easier for my hands."
Melissa, who celebrates her birthday on Christmas, is having a birthday party at the bowling alley. She said she wants her Café Yumm coworkers to join her.
"I want you to come and meet my other friends," Melissa said to Kloe.
Melissa said she has some advice for people who experience I/DD and may be fearful about working in the community.
"Be brave," she said. "Be yourself. Say what you like to do. Like me, I said, 'I want to work in a restaurant.' And boom, I got it."
You can view a slideshow of Melissa at work.