Leona Barendregt (left to right)

VIDEO: A slice of WOW from inclusive Smithers employer

Chris Morsund, Chatters co-owner, was recognized for years of providing meaningful employment for adults with developmental disabilities.

Chatters Pizzeria and Bistro is setting an example of inclusion for other small businesses.

The company’s co-owner Chris Morsund received a WOW Award (Widening Our World) for creating meaningful employment for adults with developmental disabilities and raising public awareness of the contributions they can make to their communities.

The award was presented at Bulkley Valley Wholesale by Lisa Porcellato from Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) on March 28.

Anita Clegg, parent and volunteer from CLBC’s North Region Community Council, nominated Morsund.

“Chris feels strongly that people living with developmental disabilities deserve the opportunity to work and be a part of their community, just like anyone else. Chris and the staff have tailored employment to the individual skill set of his employees and provides the same work experience and expectations as he would any other employee,” said Clegg in a release from CLBC.

Chris and his mom Leslee explained supporting the businesses and people in the community of Smithers is a no-brainer for either of them.

“For us, we use local suppliers. We’ve been in Smithers, we’ve kept all our business in Smithers, we just love it,” said Chris.

In the nine years they have been in business, Candace McCullough and Leona Barendregt have been a part of the Chatters team.

“All of our staff have come to really love these two,” said Chris.

The feeling is mutual for employee Candace — she couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.

“I like working here, I can have fun with my co-workers and friends,” she said.

You can find Candace in the back helping with dishes, prepping food or working at the factory building next door every Thursday.

“Inclusion is integral to creating a better British Columbia, one in which people of all abilities lead fulfilling lives, and employment is a key part of that. I congratulate Chris on his commitment to working towards an inclusive community and having such a positive impact on the lives of those around him,” said Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Michelle Stilwell in the release.

Since 2009, CLBC has presented WOW awards to recognize individuals who are helping to build community inclusion for the people CLBC serves. The 2016 nomination process invited British Columbians to nominate someone they think is creating opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to lead full lives, have rich relationships, choices in how they live, and employment opportunities.

“I want to congratulate Chris for being recognized with a WOW Award. Chris exemplifies CLBC’s vision of lives filled with possibility and communities full of opportunity. With the jobs he has created, his staff are learning new skills and building confidence while having pride in doing valuable work. Inclusion is a collaborative effort and I thank Chris and all our other winners and nominees for the work they do each and every day to help the people CLBC serves be recognized for their abilities, their strengths and their contributions,” added CLBC CEO Seonag Macrae in the release.

– With files from LaShaina Blair-White and CLBC.

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