A pizzeria in Nevada serves mouthwatering New York-style pies, as well as morsels of hope for people with disabilities within the community.
Walter Gloshinski and his wife, Judy, opened Smiling With Hope Pizza in Reno in January.
"We did it because it needed to be done," Gloshinski told ABC News. "There are no jobs out there for these kids, so they are being prepared for nothing."
Gloshinski worked as a special education teacher in Texas, California and Ohio for 25 years and created programs where kids with disabilities were able to work in bakeries and pizzerias. He said that the education system in this country does not provide adequate schooling for kids with disabilities. After leaving his teaching position in October, Gloshinski decided to continue his advocacy in the private sector.
"We decided to open a pizzeria ... and we are doing this all on our own dime. Everyone always thinks that other people will take care of people with disabilities," Gloshinski said.
Training at the pizza parlor is a thorough but individualized process.
"We try to assess their skills, and place them in a situation where they can be successful and grow. Right now one of our trainees likes to be in the back. She does all the dishes, puts together pizza boxes, and she does the garlic knots," Gloshinski said. "The other trainee is a people person, so he is up front seating people, busing tables and waiting tables."
The couple said they took out a $300,000 loan to get the pizzeria started.
The pizzeria employs six workers: Gloshinski and his wife, two volunteer chefs and two employees with developmental disabilities.
Gloshinski also said he hopes he can one day create pension plans and paid vacations for his workers.
“This is unique because he would really like to have all his staff be people with disabilities,” Ken Pierson, the Business Development Manager of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation in the State of Nevada, told ABC News today. DETR works to place people with developmental disabilities into the workforce, including at Smiling With Hope Pizza.
The community response to the pizzeria has been incredibly positive. Earlier this week, the Gloshinskis were forced to close their shop early after they ran out of pizza dough due to an unexpectedly large dinner crowd, the couple posted on Facebook.
Hiring people with intellectual or developmental disabilities also makes for good business sense, according to Nicole Jorwic, the Director of Rights Policy for The Arc, the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“It makes social sense and it also makes good business sense,” Jorwic told ABC News today. “They often make the most loyal and competent employees.”
The Arc puts out a comprehensive guide for businesses hiring individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. “Employment is such a catalyst for a full life that allows people to be fully a part of the community," Jorwic said.