VERC Enterprises, an independent chain of gasoline stations and convenience stores throughout the region, has reached its goal of having a workforce made up of 15% disabled/challenged individuals within their stores, dBusinessNews reported.
Leo Vercollone, CEO of VERC Enterprises, said his company has long believed in the value of reaching out to individuals who have physical or mental disabilities or challenges, and that the stores that his company owns and manage have many employment opportunities for those workers. “We have been going in this direction for a while. For a few years, we were at 10% and thought we could do better, so we set a company goal of 15% and we have achieved it this year,” Vercollone said.
Verc Enterprises, with nearly 200 employees and 21 locations, has made an effort to reach out to organizations that look to place individuals with challenges in the workplace.
“Our efforts began seven or eight years ago when we brought in a few individuals with challenges and found that our store cultures were able to provide the support needed to make a program like this work,” Vercollone said. He credits the New York Times bestseller, “From Good to Great,” as inspiration for him to develop the program further. “The book essentially says that in order for a business to survive, being good isn’t enough – you have to be the best at something. What we discovered is that what we can be great at is bringing in people with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. It has been a win-win for our stores and our communities.”
Since the early days, the company has worked as a team to bring the disabled/challenged population to the 15% level. Leo Vercollone and his brother Paul have worked closely with Director of Human Resources/Operations Barry Ahern and others on the team to develop, implement and sustain the program.
“The employees that we bring in under this program are excellent,” said Vercollone. “They are productive, do great work and add to the culture.” In addition to local applicants who may apply for work independently, VERC has developed a strong network of resources that includes Minuteman ARC, Plymouth ARC, Best Buddies, BAMSI, Eastern Middlesex ARC, Post Program of Duxbury, Road to Responsibility and others. Representatives of VERC Enterprises have gone out to the organizations to speak with them.
Working with the agencies, many of the individuals come with job coaches to help acclimate them to the workforce. However, Vercollone understands that his managers need to be completely on board with the concept for it to work. And, he says, his managers are all very enthusiastic. “The store manager needs to be patient and caring toward these individuals,” he said.
Positions filled by the employees include stocking, landscaping, and assistance with bagging products from counter sales. “The jobs are enthusiastically done, and everyone wins.” The mix is 75% from state agency placements and about 25% from the communities. “We are open to anyone who has a challenge. We know what it takes to run a busy store and this is part of how we help support the communities and the population that supports our efforts,” Vercollone said. “We look for mature people, who understand the benefit of having a job; we know that work adds to an individual’s self-esteem.” He said that the company has always done a lot to support communities but that this program is one he considers especially worthwhile and one that he regards with a great deal of pride. Now that he’s reached his goal, however, Vercollone said he’s ready to set the next one. ”Our next goal is 20% (of the workforce),” he said.
He said he welcomes other companies to visit and see how the program works, and institute a similar program. “Think of what could happen if every company set a minimum goal of 15% disabled/challenged for their workforce,” he said.
Vercollone admits there are additional costs to develop and sustain a program of this sort, but added, “We want to be known as an organization that supports those with intellectual and development disabilities, and we want to be the best in Massachusetts.” And the company may well be on its way. So far, Minuteman ARC has recognized the company as Community Employer of the Year.