If you’ve ever stopped in at The Gap Coles for a sneaky choccy (or a last-minute dash for toilet paper) chances are you’ve run into the Customer Service Kings Benny and Rick. Whether you were greeted by Benny’s smiling face, or witnessed Ricks handy work on aisle 9, there’s no denying that these two hardworking legends know how to get the job done.
A CAREER MADE TO LAST
With a 25-year tenure under his belt, and a bevy of adoring customers, Benny Hart is not only a Gap celebrity but also one of HELP’s longest running success stories.
Famous for his antics on and off the Bocce green, Benny is somewhat of a permanent fixture at Coles The Gap. Benny’s days at work are often spent helping new customers, chatting with regulars and collecting rubbish and cardboard to make sure everything looks tidy. Though he’s seen many faces come and go during his time in the bakery and grocery departments, Benny always has a story to tell and remains a loyal and valued member of the team.
“I love working for Coles – always have. We’re all mates, they help us and we help them – that’s the way it should be”, said Benny.
Team mate Rick Sutton is another long-term employee at The Gap and supported through the DES (Disability Employment Service) HELP program. Like Benny, Rick has become a much-loved part of the Coles team and has been able to make impressive progress during his employment.
Nicknamed Rick the Ripper, or the Cardboard King, Rick started his career at Coles crushing and disposing of cardboard packaging, before being promoted to store presentation. Rick’s attention to detail and ability to help customers find what they’re looking for (no matter what it is!) are skills that are admired by many of his team mates.
“The preso that Rick does – I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life. If I had 12 Ricks my life would just be amazing and so easy because he just does such a brilliant job everyday”, said Store Manager Anita Berriman.
Before working with Benny and Rick, Anita had not worked with anyone with disability, or on the DES program.
“Until I came to The Gap I’d never had anyone in store that was on a supported wage or disability so it’s definitely a new experience for me, but it’s been really really positive. All of the guys are really easy to work with and honestly they’re just fantastic – they bring a smile to my face every day”, she said.
“It makes such a difference to our store and it makes a difference to the team members. It really gives them [Rick and Benny] a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. I know for Rick, it provides him with some really great structure to his week – he bases everything he does around work, he loves to be involved in the team, and I know Benny does as well.”
“It’s so good for both parties. There are benefits for us and there’s benefits for them, and it makes me feel good at the end of the day that I’ve supported someone.”
FINDING THE RIGHT SUPPORT
HELP Relationships Manager Rob Freiberg, originally the DES manager for HELP Employment Mitchelton Branch, has been working with the team at Coles The Gap for the past 6 years to support Rick and Benny in their roles.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure knowing them over the past 5-6 years; interacting with them and becoming friends with them. It’s been a wonderful experience.”
The HELP team stop in weekly to chat with Benny and Rick to see how they’re going not just at work, but in their personal life too. Since changing roles himself, Rob has seen Rick and Benny make impressive progress in their careers, and even played a key part in getting Rick’s health back on track after a diabetes diagnosis.
“It’s what keeps me coming back to work every day – it’s my WHY. I don’t just want to make a difference I want to see a difference. When you see someone improve and enjoy their life, it’s invaluable, you can’t even put it into words, you can’t put a price on it”, said Rob.
“When I was seeing Rick a couple of years ago, he was only ripping up cardboard and compacting the cardboard downstairs, but now they’ve got him doing store presentation, and we saw how perfectly the aisles were all arranged, and that’s a strength in autism. That’s why we need more employers to embrace hiring people with autism and giving them a go. Ricks’ focus on those tasks, on getting those shelves perfectly presented – it’s like a work of art, it’s amazing.”
“It’s a privilege to do what we do. To see Benny and be involved with Benny’s life. It’s a real privilege to do that – to be intertwined with their lives and see how they’re progressing and making sure that they’re ok.”
Coles has a long history of supporting people with disability and collaborates with the HELP team on a regular basis to make sure Rick and Benny have new opportunities for growth.
Fellow teammate and assistant manager Tim Madden has worked alongside both Benny and Rick for many years and is also a passionate advocate for diversity in the workplace.
His advice to prospective employers looking to hire people with disability is simply, “Give it a go! Everyone’s got a story. There’s more to people than just the outside”.
HELP works with businesses big and small to break down barriers, change perceptions, and provide fulfilling job opportunities for people with disability.
If you’d like to find more about jobs with HELP visit our DES information page.
To see if you’re eligible for HELP Employment support services contact our friendly team for a no strings attached consult.
If you are an employer looking for recruitment and staffing support click here to register a vacancy or call 1800 VACANCY to speak to our team.