CCIU venture in government services building offers opportunity for students, food options for county employees
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
WESTTOWN — Few could argue with the value of a good cup of joe. Or a decent sandwich at lunchtime — but both have been scarce commodities at the Chester County Government Services Center until this morning.
But even better than just providing decent food service options for county employees, the new County Cup kiosk in the building’s lobby will be offering an education opportunity for students — including some disabled students — of the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU).
County officials, GSC employees and officials from the CCIU gathered Tuesday morning to celebrate the opening of the County Cup and to honor the students and staff who were able to make the kiosk a reality.
“This is a real partnership,” said Dr. Joseph O’Brien, Executive Director of CCIU. “We hope to work with them (Chester County) for a long time.”
County officials were just as enthusiastic.
“This is a real success story,” said County Commissioner Ryan Costello. “We’re really grateful that the IU was willing to take this on for us.”
“I see a lot of smiling faces here today,” County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone said. “That’s a really good thing — especially from the students and the building’s employees.”
While the officials expressed positive thoughts about the project, one student was singled as being key to the development of the kiosk: Dylan Ziegler, a 2011 graduate of the Pickering Campus of the Technical College High School from Phoenixville.
“He worked long hours to set this up and make it happen,” said Bonnie Wolff, president of CCIU Board of Directors. Although he downplayed his role, Ziegler could be seen working feverishly before the ceremony and admitted that the opening was “exciting.”
After the building’s cafeteria closed about 18 months ago — employees at the building had few options for lunch and snacks. As a result, the county issued a Request For Proposal (RPF) for a lobby food kiosk.
After a bit of internal discussion, the CCIU jumped into the process, building a program that will allow students from the unit’s three technical high school campuses – its Discover Program (a pre-vocational program for students aged 16-21 on Individualized Education Programs (IEP) ), and the Child and Career Development Center, the K-12 special needs school run by the CCIU – to operate and work at the kiosk.
Students will be involved in all aspects of the operation of what is a full-fledged business, from food preparation, to ordering supplies, financial management and planning, managing staffing and point of service sales. The County Cup will give all students involved a real-world experience in running a food service business, while students with special needs will get valuable experience in a supervised work environment, officials say.
That’s a real benefit, according to Gary Entrekin, administrator for the county’s Department of Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
“Students will be able to use it as an opportunity to hone skills,” he said. He added that the kiosk will be a chance for students to challenge assumptions about what they can and cannot do, while building skills that could lead to greater future self-dependence.
The current menu includes soup, sandwiches, salads, desserts, cold beverages and coffee. Expanded morning hours and breakfast items are expected to be added in the coming weeks.