At the end of 2016, The Arc@Work launched a nationwide partnership with Baymont Inn & Suites. Through this initiative, The Arc@Work is helping individual hotels fill the brand-new Hometown Host position. The Hometown Host ensures guests feel at home and that there is plenty of delicious food throughout the daily breakfast service. The role is a symbol of the brand’s emphasis on neighborly service and dedication to community. The collaboration is a win-win for both organizations: helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) secure a regular job in the community while assisting Baymont hotel owners in finding reliable, passionate employees who can connect with their guests and provide them with a great experience.
In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, The Arc@Work interviewed Billy Jake, the first individual placed through this new initiative at his local Baymont Inn & Suites hotel in Celebration, Florida. Because of his interest in food, this young man initially applied to a local grocery store. Unfortunately, this endeavor did not turn out as he had hoped. Then one day Billy Jake’s job coach, Tre Johnson, informed him of The Arc@Work’s partnership with Baymont Inn & Suites. Thus, began a year of hard work and patience that ultimately landed Billy Jake the Hometown Host position.
During his first few months with the company, Billy Jake admits he “was uncomfortable being around lots of people at my job.” But each time he engaged, he grew a bit more at ease. Also, thanks to these frequent interactions with guests, Billy Jake’s speaking and social skills have improved immensely. His “kind and patient” colleagues have also contributed to his success. He loves it that they “encourage [him] to do better every day.”
Billy Jake now looks forward to waking up every morning and getting ready for work. His days are quite busy, arranging the daily breakfast buffet, ensuring diners’ desires and needs are met promptly, interacting with the hotel guests and colleagues, and, once the breakfast service is over, preparing for the next morning’s service. Then comes his favorite part: munching on goodies made by his colleague Kathy in the hotel kitchen!
Serving guests at Baymont Inn and Suites has increased his self-esteem and has given his life new meaning. In his words, “I feel like this job came along at the perfect time. It is working out wonderfully for me, and I am so grateful to my job coach [for helping] me find it.” Clearly a determined young man, Billy Jake now encourages other job-seekers with disabilities “to pick something they want to do and give it a try. You never know what is possible for you unless you try. If it does not work out, try something else. Never give up!”
Over the last six months, Baymont Inn & Suites has taken steps to make sure the Baymont franchises and the larger community is aware of their interest in hiring people with I/DD. They, like The Arc@Work, understand the positive contributions individuals with I/DD like Billy Jake make, not just in the workforce, but in society as well.