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People Inc. celebrated the grand opening of its newest vocational initiative to provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as people from the Deaf and hard of hearing community, the opportunity to engage with the community through meaningful activities and hands-on work experience through the People Shoppe. Every purchase supports the agency’s mission to provide inclusive experience, including training for a career in retail by exploring every aspect of operating a store from inventory to stocking to customer service to sales. Working toward achieving these skills at the store located at the Tri-Main Center, 2495 Main Street in Buffalo, is part of the individualized goals that each of the participants set for themselves.
One of the Ambassadors, Brandon Mazur, was eager to become a part of the People Shoppe experience from the beginning and has emerged as one of the most recognizable people associated with the store.
Every Wednesday, visitors will find him proudly wearing his People Inc. logo wear and hard at work setting up tables, turning on the lights, explaining about the various items for sale, stocking the shelves, greeting and listening to customers, working the cash register and helping with the bank deposit.
“I am proud to be the first person customers see – it makes me and them feel happy,” Brandon offered. “My money skills have increased since I started working here,” he added. Brandon is known for interacting with the customers, listening to their concerns and suggestions for the store and recognizing repeat customers. Additionally, he helps his peers learn about their ambassador responsibilities and how to become successful.
After reviewing the customer suggestion cards, Brandon helped to decide on ordering new products, such as the mouse pads, hair ties and hand sanitizer. He advocated to sell a couple of different types fidget spinners because, “Everybody needs to let their stress out!”
Adding to his resume, Brandon accompanied People Inc. staff to the New York Association of Day Service Providers state-wide conference, where together they presented details about the People Shoppe and his experiences. He really liked answering all of their questions and felt it was an honor to represent People Inc.
The staff who accompany Brandon commented on how they have seen his confidence increase over the past year, as well as how they have seen him take ownership of the store. He likes to make sure things are done efficiently, helps customers find just the right product or gift, checks dates on items, keeps an eye on the inventory and reconciles the bank deposit with the help of a People Inc. E.T.H.O.S AmeriCorps member.
Additionally, they shared that Brandon creates the positive atmosphere of the store through his infectious and magnetic personality, bringing laughter to the team of Ambassadors and staff, complimenting people and always showing up fully energized. Being around Brandon – all people become more positive, you can’t help it! The Ambassadors really have a true integration into the Tri-Main community.
In the future, Brandon would like to get a paying job in the community and shared that he is learning so much by being an Ambassador not only in the People Shoppe, but also through volunteering for People Inc. events, such as the golf tournament where he met a lot of golfers and got to talk to them.
People Inc. President and CEO Rhonda Frederick reflected, “From an idea to a reality, this project has been a true collaborative journey with many people coming together to make this day possible, including Deaf Access Services, now a program of People Inc., Tri-Main Development, the
Southeast Foundation Board, as well as all of the People Inc. support departments. The primary purpose of this space is not as a retail outlet, but instead a space for people to come and build relationships, engage with the community, and enjoy a hands-on experience.”
Rhonda added, “Ensuring that people with developmental disabilities and varying abilities secure and maintain meaningful, competitive employment is an important part of what People Inc. does year-round. Hiring a qualified person with a disability brings greater benefits beyond just filling an open job – it means increased productivity, enhanced corporate culture and dedicated, loyal and efficient employees – all of which contribute to a company’s success!”
People Inc. Vice President and Southeast Foundation Board Member Tim Pfohl shared, “The participants from the programs, our Ambassadors, have focused on engaging the Tri-Main’s business tenants and guests, asking for their suggestions for items to carry, increasing traffic and sharing information about People Inc. One group, using donated flowers, created arrangements and distributed them to all the building’s tenants.”
This story was part of the 2022 Annual Report.