On a mission

Cynthia Esparza is participating in a 10-week internship initiative for learning the mortgage industry.

Cynthia Esparza is participating in a 10-week internship initiative for learning the mortgage industry.

Between noon and 3 p.m. daily a steady stream of customers enters Real Scoop ice cream shop, some ordering the Wow Cow low-calorie soft-serve dessert.

Operated by Ormsby ARC since last October, the business trains developmentally disabled adults for customer service.

Colleen Stainbrook works up to 30 hours a week at the shop. Her husband is also an Ormsby ARC client and works as a stocker at Scolari's. Together they have twin 9-year-old girls, Brianna and Myranda. The money she makes here helps to raise her daughters.

"I like to serve customers and work with the other employees," Stainbrook said. "I'm learning different things."

Stainbrook has worked at Real Scoop since Ormsby ARC took over ownership on Oct. 1. She has progressed to employee status and now makes minimum wage.

Federal laws apply differently to developmentally disabled adults in training programs. At Real Scoop, they are paid below minimum wage, then go up to $5.15 an hour after training is complete.

Mary Winkler, executive director for Ormsby ARC, said Real Scoop is one of their bridges to the community. The program also operates a thrift store and two other "enclaves." One is a calculator shipping and quality control industry. The other enclave is the general maintenance department at Western Nevada Community College. Ormsby ARC also sends clients to participating businesses, such as Scolari's, Taco Bell and S&W Feed.

"People often have stereotypes," Winkler said. "But often the customers can't tell which staff have disabilities and which don't."

The training period for a client varies from two weeks to eight months at Real Scoop. Developmentally disabled adults apply to work at the ice cream shop, but it's proven to be a popular work site, so they often have to be persistent. Clients such as Maureen Begly, who said she liked working here the best, but had to keep bothering the bosses to send her back after each training session.

"These guys do just about as good a job as anyone else, sometimes better," said Mike Askew, ice cream shop manager and Ormsby ARC vocational program supervisor. He has about seven employees - half of whom are Ormsby clients. "We have the same problems and the same successes as you would have in any other business."

Ormsby ARC executives - the nonprofit is governed by a board of directors - waited a long time for a business opportunity such as the Real Scoop.

Bob Simola, vocational program coordinator, said last July they partnered with Real Scoop to bring in clients, but then the owner decided she wanted to sell.

"We bought it and we found that clients enjoy coming here and working in the shop," Simola said. "It's a battle. They all want to come down here."

He said the business hasn't made a profit yet. Everything they make is used to buy supplies.

"We hope to eventually (make a profit). But if we do, it'll just go back to the clients," Simola said.

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at bbosshart@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.


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