On hand for Community Living BC’s inclusive employer award presentation to Okanagan Springs brewery on Thursday were: back row (from left) Russel Larnder, Sleeman Breweries, and Ryan Cucheron, Venture Training; front row Robin Makortoff; Eileen Howells, Venture Training; Franky Martens, Sleeman Breweries; Jennifer Love, Community Living BC. Photo credit: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Vernon brewery wins award

Okanagan Springs cited for inclusive employer award by Community Living BC

Robin Makortoff is a shining example of an adult with developmental disabilities able to fill a valued role for an employer in the workplace.

For the past 27 years Makortoff has worked for the Okanagan Spring Brewery in Vernon.

“I like working here with my friends. All my friends are here,” is how Makortoff describes where she works.

In recognition of the support she has received, always being challenged and treated just like any other brewery staff member, Makortoff submitted an inclusive employer award nomination for Okanagan Spring, an initiative of Community Living BC, the Crown agency responsible for supporting adults with developmental disabilities across the province.

From nine nominations submitted, Okanagan Spring was chosen as the second annual award recipient, formally presented to brewery management staff Franky Martens and Russel Larnder on Thursday morning.

Eileen Howells, the executive director of Venture Training, said Makortoff was unable to point to one person specifically who has aided her Okanagan Spring employment journey because so many in the organization have helped her over the years.

“This award is a way to say thanks so much to all who have supported Robin over the years and been part of this wonderful program,” Howells said.

Venture Training is aligned with the CLBC’s local community council and has been helping people with learning challenges, first with children starting in 1955 and expanding to incorporate adults as well in 1962.

Venture Training offers three work programs—the therapeutic work program where people learn how to behave in a work environment; the supported work program for carrying out community tasks and the community employment program that Makortoff has been the longest serving participant.

Martens, continuous improvement manager with Sleeman Breweries, said the brewery is thankful for the award and acknowledged Makortoff’s contribution to the company.

“Robin has been a great employee. I have been here for 19 years and she has surpassed my tenure here,” Martens laughed. “She has been here a long time and continues to be a great employee.”

Jennifer Love, the North Okanagan/Shuswap zone integrated services manager for Community Living BC, said the employment program has been a win-win for both employers and the participants.

“It’s been a success both ways, and Okanagan Springs has been a great supporter of our work-based programs for the past 30 years,” Love said.


 


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