Dutch Haus ‘momma bears’ guide employees with disabilities

Johnna Parke, Sue Sebrell and Kelly Williamson of Best Western Plus Dutch Haus Inn and Suites in Columbiana proudly display a plaque recognizing the hotel and banquet facility for hiring individuals with disabilities. Presenting the award are Shirley Bowald and Paul Anthony of the Reach 4 More program. (Submitted photo)

COLUMBIANA–All new employees, but especially those with developmental disabilities, benefit from having supervisors and co-workers who are patient with them.

“We watch out for them and each other. We’re like momma bears,” said Johnna Parke, kitchen manager and chef at Dutch Haus Inn and Suites, a 52-room Best Western Plus hotel and banquet facility located in Columbiana.

The Columbiana County Board for the Developmentally Disabled and its Reach 4 More employment program recognized the Inn or its policy of hiring and training individuals with disabilities.

General Manager Kelly Williamson said a young man with disabilities recently was hired to work on events in the banquet facility. A young woman with a disability had worked four years recently in a similar capacity.

“They prep in the kitchen, set up and tear down tables, dress tables, clean and do whatever needs to be done,” said Parke. The facility offers a full-service kitchen and banquet services, both on-site and to-go catering, and hosts monthly dinner theater shows. “If we are busy, our part-time workers are busy, and we’ve been busy.”

Recent shows included tributes to Elvis and Johnny Cash, with Christian comedy, a murder mystery, and tributes to Lawrence Welk, Motown and Frank Sinatra coming up. Located at 150 E. State St., the hotel features rooms and suites, an indoor pool with hot tub, and all-new fitness room.

In addition to employing adults with disabilities,the Dutch Inn has over many years trained scores of area high school students with disabilities as a host site for the rotating internship program operated through the Columbiana County Educational Service Center. Salem High School, Leetonia High School and the Columbiana County Technical Center transport students twice weekly for half-day work internships during nine-week sessions.

All employees watch over and guide the interns and employees, but the chief kitchen assistant, Sue Sebrell, is their direct supervisor. “Sue has hands-on with these kids. Sue is so patient with them,” Parke said.

“This is a way of helping people learn what they are capable of,” said Williamson. “It can be challenging at times, but it is very rewarding when you see that confidence emerge.”

She credited owners of Dutch Haus Inn and its associated Dutch Village businesses – a restaurant, bookstore, jewelry store, beauty salon, bulk foods store and furniture store – with allowing and encouraging work programs for those with disabilities.

“This is just a great place to work, a big family,” said Parke.

Paul Anthony, jobs developer for the Reach 4 More program, said, “A place like this allows clients to be part of, not apart from, something.”

Information on the Dutch Village is at dasdutchvillage.com.

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