Commissioners honor three Dauphin County 'business champions' for supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities

HARRISBURG, PA (October 18, 2019) – Three Dauphin County companies were named “business champions” for helping individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism enter the world of work.

Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works in Middletown, The Nutrition Group’s foodservice operation at Central Dauphin East High School, and Southwest Food Excellence’s Harrisburg School District food operation were honored at the 5th Annual Business Champions lunch today at the Capital Area Intermediate Unit.

“We salute these businesses and the many others who are committed to lifting up all our residents,’’ said Commissioner Jeff Haste. “As these employers will tell you, these workers are committed to their jobs and are real assets.’’

“Frankly, Stefan does a better job than a lot of people without disabilities because he loves the job,’’ said Tony DeLellis, one of Tattered Flag’s owners, referring to employee Stefan Thomas. “Stefan knows what to do and we treat him as any other member of the staff.’’

DeLellis, who at one time taught autistic support, said Thomas’ autism allows him to focus on the task at hand. Thomas also has an on-site job coach provided by Vista Autism Services.

“Studies have repeatedly shown that hiring people with disabilities is a win for the employee and the company,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries. “Hiring people with disabilities typically to lower turnover and increased productivity.’’

Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III said he hopes other companies will take note of the positive experience this year’s business champions have had and consider hiring individuals with disabilities.

“It is important that people with disabilities have the same opportunities available to everyone,’’ said Hartwick, who oversees the county’s Human Services. “Companies that commit to workforce diversity find they are getting loyal and hard-working employees.’’

Sharon Kidd, senior director of foodservice for The Nutrition Group at the Central Dauphin School District, said she is glad Julius Kinser chose her company to work for after graduating from the district three years ago. She said Kinser, who is autistic, now serves a lead role in the Central Dauphin East High School kitchen, checking food supply orders, running the register and performing other duties.

“Julius is a strong member of our team,’’ Kidd said. “I don’t believe people should be defined by a label; people are so much more than what they may appear on the surface, and you only see that through direct interaction.’’

For more information on hiring individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism, call the Dauphin County Office of Mental Health/Autism/Developmental Programs at 717-780-7050.