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Black Hills Works honors outstanding inclusive businesses

  • Updated

When Black Hills Bagels owners Debra and Jack Jensen have job openings, Black Hills Works is one of their go-to resources for finding reliable employees. Black Hills Bagels is one of five Rapid City businesses being recognized this week as an outstanding employer of people with disabilities.

Monument Health, Colonial House restaurant, Bestowed Essentials eco-friendly home goods, McKie Ford and Black Hills Bagels are being honored as part of a new Black Hills Works program. Collectively, these businesses currently employ 35 people supported by Black Hills Works.

These businesses “developed a relationship with the people we support that goes beyond employer-employee. They’ve taken them under their wing. They treat them like family,” said Carrie Moser, director of engagement for the Black Hills Works Foundation.

“We wanted to highlight how much they’ve gone above and beyond assisting the people we support,” she said. “We greatly appreciate how they have accepted the people we support into their businesses and provided them with opportunities to learn new skills, increase their circle of support, and become more independent.”

Black Hills Works is presenting these five businesses with a “Proud Employer” window seal and larger frameable window seal. More than 40 businesses employ more than 250 people with disabilities in the Rapid City area, and all will receive the “Proud Employer” seals within about a month, Moser said.

Ultimately, Moser said Black Hills Works hopes its employer recognition program will raise awareness and encourage more local businesses to see the benefits of including people with disabilities in their workforce. Black Hills Works set a goal for this year to partner with five more employers to hire people with disabilities.

“We’re always on the lookout for new business partners. … The relationship between the employers and Black Hills Works can be positive,” Moser said. “Hopefully we can increase awareness of how it can be possible and how they can make it work.”

Janelle Kelly is one of 28 people Monument Health employs through its partnership with Black Hills Works. Monument Health is the largest employer being honored this week.

“It makes me proud to be able to help out like I do,” said Kelly, who works for Monument Health’s Environmental Services Division and praised her co-workers for being “very nice and supportive.”

“Janelle brings a positive attitude to work,” said Carol Fousek, Environmental Services manager and Kelly’s supervisor. “Janelle is always willing to do anything we ask, which is so helpful, given how fast-paced this environment is. She fits in perfectly.”

Fousek said she has always had good experiences with employees supported by Black Hills Works, a sentiment echoed by Debra Jensen from Black Hills Bagels. She and her husband have owned Black Hills Bagels for 19 years and have partnered with Black Hills Works for seven to 10 years, Debra said.

“These people are amazing. I’m not sure why we even call it disability. They add so much to our staff in many ways. We have some in our kitchen and some on our custodial staff,” Debra said. “They’ve been great. They’re very dedicated.

“When we need help and we’re looking for people who are dedicated and can do the job and like the job, we always contact Black Hills Works,” Jensen said.

In particular, Debra said she appreciates the training that her employees from Black Hills Works receive.

“They come to work with skills like customer service, and soft skills such as showing up to work on time and wearing the appropriate uniform or attire for the workforce. They’re very polite. They add a lot to our culture,” she said.

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