Julianne’s Story – A dream and a chance

By on March 18, 2014
Julianne Warren (center) is joined at Union Street Eatery in Spencerport by server Kari Fennessy (left) and her job coach Lauren Seaver (right).

Julianne Warren (center) is joined at Union Street Eatery in Spencerport by server Kari Fennessy (left) and her job coach Lauren Seaver (right).

Julianne Warren turned 20 on February 1, 2014. She celebrated at Spencerport’s Union Street Eatery, where she was hired for her first job. This might not be big news for most girls her age, but to a young lady with Down Syndrome, it’s a dream come true.

“When I came to work my bosses said, ‘Julianne, clear that table.’ I went and there was a birthday cake and a card, and everyone said, “Happy Birthday, Julianne.’ ”

The youngest of six, Julianne has had no lack of support. From Christian school, to home school and BOCES, she was well prepared for Holy Childhood, the Community Classroom and Supported Employment Services. Joan P. Michaelree, Employment Services Manager at Holy Childhood says Supported Employment is provided to the students, age 18 to 21, who desire a part-time job outside of school hours, and competitive employment after graduation.

“Julianne wanted a food service job in her community,” Joan says. “Her employment specialist worked with her and her parents in developing a job to fit her interests and capabilities.”

After visiting Union Street Eatery, which opened January 2013 at 2139 N. Union Street in Spencerport, Julianne’s dad approached owners Pete Marra and Steve Hann about the program and the possibility of hiring Julianne. Pete, who had helped his dad organize the Firefighters Christmas program at Holy Childhood, and Steve, said “yes.”

“I started working on September 7, 2013,” Julianne says. “I was so scared, my heart was beating fast and I almost cried. But everyone was nice.”

“But Julianne doesn’t have favorites,” says Pete. “She loves everyone the same.”

“That’s right,” Julianne giggles.

Julianne learns a new job each week. “The first day, I peeled onions. I didn’t like that.” She makes a face. “When I come to work I sign in and then say hi to my bosses. I clear the tables after the customers leave and set out the silverware before the next customers come in.”

“And then I get my paycheck,” she says. “I keep track. Today was check 18. Last week when I went to the bank to cash my check, Pete was there, too. He said, ‘I have to make this deposit to pay Julianne.’ ”

Co-owner Steve Hann trains Julianne in the kitchen. “Julianne does more for us than we do for her,” he says. “She comes in with a smile for everyone right away. And whatever job we have for her she says, ‘okay.’ And we don’t just give her the easy jobs. Once when I asked about home work, she made the mistake of saying she doesn’t have any. I told her that’s about to change. I sent her home to learn the menu and the components. She came back with them on index cards, memorized. I also tell her she has to tell a joke every week.”

“I tell him knock-knock jokes,” she says.

“When Julianne comes in, she prepares lunch for the job coach and herself. They pick something different from the menu each week.”

She works Saturdays independently now. On the first day of her new Wednesday afternoon shift, job coach Lauren Seaver keeps a watchful eye from the lunch bar and smiles as Julianne learns to greet guests. She turns to Lauren with a hesitant look.

“I like working in the back,” she says. “I don’t like talking.”

“Julianne ended up greeting and seating customers independently and with a smile by the end,” says Lauren. “I have no doubt she will continue to succeed in every new role at Union Street Eatery due to her enthusiastic attitude, perseverance and the support of a fantastic team which she has become an integral part of.”

“I love my job and receiving my paychecks,” Julianne says. “My best day was Saturday, January 11. I couldn’t come to work the week before because I was sick. But when I  came the next week, everyone said, ‘Julianne is back.’ Everyone wanted hugs. And I got paycheck number sixteen.”

About the program 
Holy Childhood is a non-denominational, non-profit agency whose mission is to prepare children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities for maximum independence and integration in the  community through individualized programs and services. The Holy Childhood Community Classroom is located at 120 Mushroom Blvd. in the Genesee Regional Market in Henrietta. Students intern and work in a variety of businesses in the Market and the surrounding community. Some of the businesses include Lanovara Specialty Foods, Niblack Foods, Town of Henrietta, Legacy at Erie Station, Penfield YMCA, Lackman Culinary Services at St. John Fisher College, and CP Rochester.

For information about Holy Childhood, The Community Classroom, or to arrange a tour, visit www.holychildhood.org or visit Holy Childhood on Facebook.

Provided by Angela Zale

Provided photo