2017-04-06 / Front Page

SIMPATICO OWNER HAS RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

Developmentally disabled workers have thrived on Amy Barclay’s team
BY RYAN GIBBS


ABOVE: Tony Chece, a dishwasher at Simpatico Jamestown, talks about changes in his life since being hired by Amy Barclay four years ago. ABOVE: Tony Chece, a dishwasher at Simpatico Jamestown, talks about changes in his life since being hired by Amy Barclay four years ago. Thirty years ago, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March as National Developmental Disability Awareness Month. It was a progression to the de-institutionalization movement of the 1970s to encourage all Americans, regardless of handicap, to reach their full potential.

Although the calendar has sprung into April, one Jamestown restaurateur will continue that crusade into the summer. “Every month and every day is disability awareness,” said Amy Barclay, owner of Simpatico Jamestown at 13 Narragansett Ave. “I live it 24/7.”

Barclay, whose 21-yearold son, Cay, has autism, was invited last week to speak at the State House to celebrate awareness month. During her March 28 address, she spoke about Cay, who is transitioning from child services to adult programs, and her restaurant, which will include about a dozen developmentally disabled workers this season.


TOP LEFT: Barclay speaks about her son during the March 28 celebration at the State House. TOP LEFT: Barclay speaks about her son during the March 28 celebration at the State House. According to Barclay, those employees, who represent roughly one-fifth of her staff, signifies an amazing — and often overlooked — workforce for businesses to tap.

“There’s a lot more positives,” she said.

While Barclay is helping secure jobs in town, her son, is facing difficulties. Because he turned 21 in February, he is too old for children’s services. According to Barclay, this transition has not gone smoothly.

“I can honestly say that the state has failed my son,” she said. “He is currently without adult services.”

Although she credited support on the municipal level, Barclay believes the failed transition by the state stems from budget cuts.

BOTTOM LEFT: Barclay fist bumps Chece following her speech. PHOTOS COURTESY OF LAYMAN COMMUNICATIONS BOTTOM LEFT: Barclay fist bumps Chece following her speech. PHOTOS COURTESY OF LAYMAN COMMUNICATIONS “As a global vision, it was disaster,” she said. “But we’re working on it.”

While the support from state agencies varied by department, Barclay said there are social workers “incredibly committed” to their jobs, especially at the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

Barclay continues to raise awareness so people can better understand her son, and others like him. Hiring workers with developmental disabilities is another way she is promoting the effort.

Last summer, Simpatico hired nine employees, including six Jamestowners, with developmental disabilities. Although she hopes to have more than a dozen such workers this season, details have yet to be finalized. That’s because not all of them apply independently; some workers are placed by agencies.

“It depends who they are and their level of need,” she said. “Some of them I found through their parents and never met their agency. Some of them, their disabilities are challenging enough so they need a job coach.”

According to Barclay, several workers have thrived in the restaurant industry, from folding to-go boxes to helping the wait-staff arrange tables. One developmentally disabled employee, who worked in the kitchen last season, will return as a line cook.

“He is a culinary wizard,” Barclay said. “I think he will be adept enough to go into day prep, where there’re skills of spicing, brazing and cutting. I’m going to put him where he’s going to thrive.”

Although some workers may not be fitted to work in the busy atmosphere, she doesn’t necessarily turn them away. Instead, they can help maintain the restaurant’s gardens or sweep floors, she said.

“It gives them the opportunity to figure out where they do fit,” she said. “Some of them, the way their needs are, they can’t take the intensity during service. They need a more quiet environment to succeed in their job duties.”

Barclay said the jobs are important to developmentally disabled workers for more than one reason. Not every employee lives in a group home or with family. Some live independently.

“Having this additional income is really important,” she said. “It gives them pride and it gets them out of what can be a very stale environment.”

Most importantly, it helps them grow. “They love coming to work. It’s not always easy, but they love getting a paycheck. They love becoming their own person.”

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