Regional Recycling -- Over 100 Years Recycling

 Regional Recycling

Regional Recycling is a part of a family run business that has been a leader in the recycling business in the Greater Vancouver Region for more than 100 years.  They operate 8 locations in BC and are constantly looking for opportunities to grow or improve existing facilities.

Regional Recycling also understands the importance of employing people who are considered to have disabilities.  Working with AbbotsfordWORKS, Regional Recycling in Abbotsford has hired individuals with disabilities that range from mental health issues to developmental disabilities such as autism and undiagnosed learning disabilities.

Hiring people with disabilities is not always an easy task, but when the right person is matched up with the right job, disabilities become irrelevant and the end result is a win/win solution.  Regional Recycling has won by gaining long-term employees who are capable and excited to be part of their company.  Those job seekers who have been hired have won by achieving meaningful employment which includes a competitive salary and a place to make a valuable contribution.  One such employee who has been identified as “someone who focuses on her job, knows what has to be done and achieves it well, without any problems” approached the job developer from AbbotsfordWORKS and thanked him for helping her find employment at Regional Recycling.  “I love my coworkers, I love my job, and my disabilities don’t matter here.  This job has changed my life.”


One of the challenges in hiring people with disabilities involves understanding the limitations of an individual in order to best work with their abilities.  For example, one individual working at Regional needs very detailed instructions.  It is not good enough to simply mention that a tool is at the back of the room.  This individual needs to understand exactly where the item is, and what is expected of him once he has it.  However, if the time is taken to give such clear instructions, the individual can and will accomplish the task.  This same individual has a gift for quick and accurate addition; many times resulting in more accurate counts than some of the other employees which is essential for a recycling depot.

Sometimes after a match has been identified and an offer of employment has been presented, a person will work for a while before a need for assistance is identified.  Shortly after Regional Recycling hired one individual, the employee began to display challenging behavior.  At one point a serious discussion occurred regarding the possibility of letting the employee go.  Since this placement was arranged through AbbotsfordWORKS, Regional Recycling called the Job Developer in to do an on-site intervention with the employee.  After some discussion, the challenges were identified and the issues were resolved.  Today, over a year later, this employee continues to work at Regional Recycling and his supervisor has identified him as a valued part of their labor force.

regional2.jpgThese are just two of the positive stories that have occurred at Regional Recycling.  There are more.  It is important, however, to acknowledge that not all placements are successful.  There have been times when the match was less than ideal and it was agreed that the employee was not a good fit for Regional Recycling.  In these situations the job seeker came back to AbbotsfordWORKS, continued working with his case manager, and was directed to other services and training.

Many times, people with disabilities are seen as needing help or charity.  Regional Recycling views people with disabilities as essential members of the community, people who are willing and capable of being part of the valuable labor pool that keeps this country moving.  In partnership with AbbotsfordWORKS, Regional Recycling is reaping the benefits of an excited and committed work force who are dedicated to providing their best service to the company and their customers.


Abbotsford Marshalls -- Leveraging Diversity


Marion Schubert & Sonja Franke

Abbotsford Marshalls, located at High Street Mall, believes in leveraging differences within their community.  They hired Sonja Franke, a person with hearing impairment, to work both in their stock room as well as providing customer service as a cashier.  Sonja cannot read lips or hear what you say, but she still has the ability to successfully fulfill the role of a quality Customer Service Associate at Marshalls.  Her smile and her friendliness far outweigh any perceived disability.

You might think it strange to hire a person with hearing impairment for a customer service role in a retail environment, but Marion Schubert, the Abbotsford Marshalls General Manager, immediately knew that Sonja had the right customer service attitude for their organization.  In order to grow into her position, Sonja would have to be willing to branch out into other roles of responsibility.  Being a brave soul, Sonja agreed to try her hand at being a cashier.


Of course there were challenges.  The first question was how to include Sonja in the staff training that is involved with opening any new store.  This challenge was overcome with a little help from AbbotsfordWORKS who footed the bill to provide American Sign Language interpreters for the staff training sessions.  The second challenge was how to respectfully communicate to customers that Sonja’s form of communication would be somewhat different than their “normal” cashier experience.  Marshalls’ solution was to come up with a short explanation of who Sonja was and how she would be helping them (see photo).  A third challenge involved finding a creative way for Sonja to communicate if she needed assistance on the cash register.  The solution is a system of beeps that Sonja sends over the PA system.  Five beeps means Sonja needs a coordinator/manager for help with something like a price check; three beeps means that she needs cashiers on the front line.  Marion mentioned, “She is on cash by herself at times and you would be amazed how fast the team appears when they hear Sonja’s BEEPS.”  You may be wondering about customer service; Sonja does work from the door to floor departments.  When a customer approaches Sonja, she simply pulls out a note pad from her Marshalls apron with the words on it, “Hi, I am hearing impaired.  How may I help you?  Please write down what you said.”  Customers appear to be very forthcoming, return the smile and write down what they need.  Contrary to many public myths, no costly accommodations were needed to overcome these challenges, just some ingenuity and a creative mind.

Now Sonja works cash and provides excellent customer service to anyone in need, and if you’re wondering how the customers respond?  Their overall reactions are positive.  Marion often has customers take her aside and tell her how much they respect Marshalls for providing an opportunity for Sonja to try employment in a field that would not typically be seen as a great fit for someone with a hearing impairment.  In fact many customers return because of Marshalls’ decision to hire Sonja.

This is not a new concept to Marshalls who is part of a larger company called The TJX Companies.  The TJX Companies understand the value of embracing diversity and difference, so much that they have put in their mission statement:

At The TJX Companies, leveraging differences and diversity among people is part of who we are as a Company. As a Company of Choice, we are committed to being a Retailer of Choice – leveraging the diversity among our customers and our vendor base; an Employer of Choice – leveraging differences to recruit, retain, engage, and promote a talented and diverse workforce; and a Neighbor of Choice – leveraging diversity within the various communities we serve. At TJX, we embrace global diversity and inclusion as seriously as any business imperative (


So Sonja works as a cashier at Marshalls.  AbbotsfordWORKS provided sign language interpretation for the initial training sessions, but Marshalls came up with the creative solutions that have allowed Sonja to thrive as an effective and vital member of their team.  If you want to support businesses in the Abbotsford area who are intentional about making their hiring process and work environment friendly to all people, including those with a disability, visit Marshalls at High Street Mall (3122 Mt. Lehman Rd.; Abbotsford, BC; V4X 0B3).  They’ll be happy to see you and if you happen to hear a series of beeps over the PA, you’ll know that Sonja is currently working cash on their front line.  Stop by, she’ll be sure to give you a big smile and let you know that you are welcome.


TRADEX -- The Only Disability in Life is a Bad Attitude!


Andrea Collinson, Staffing Assistant and Terri Veillet, Event Staffing Manager

The Fraser Valley Trade & Exhibition Centre (TRADEX), believes that being a positive influence in the Abbotsford community exceeds that of simply providing quality events for the public. While this may be their mandate, their commitment goes further.

Over the years, TRADEX has made a commitment to being an equal opportunities employer. This means that intentionally hiring people with disabilities has been part of the way that TRADEX has given back to the community. Several staff members live with cognitive and physical disabilities as well as speech and hearing impediments, but this does not distract them from doing their job. On the contrary, Terri Veillet: the Event Staffing Manager at TRADEX believes that her employees with disabilities are an integral part of her entire team. Furthermore, she discredits the myth that employees with disabilities have a higher absenteeism rate. According to her experience the factual evidence at TRADEX is that "employees with disabilities make an extra effort to always be at work, more often than not they arrive early and are the first to offer to work on short notice." She goes on to state that, "our customers and clients are the first to commend us on our hiring practices and regularly send in thank you cards and let managers know what a wonderful job our disabled staff do. In most cases they are not even recognized for having a disability."

Realizing the value of their staff, the TRADEX makes efforts to keep them healthy – physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Workplace training offers all staff the opportunity to learn new skills, while wellness programs such as lunch time yoga and walk or run club focus are offered on a weekly basis. Staff are encouraged to join together to do the Grouse Grind and Run for Water 5k and 10k runs. Volunteer opportunities include the invitation to be involved in community events such as the Abbotsford's Annual Run for Water and a Big Brother's and Big Sister's Christmas Party. These activities are geared to support employees whether they have disabilities or not. Many of those who do have disabilities and are now employed at the TRADEX have been employed for long term, some up to a year and showing no sign of moving on.

However, the hiring of people with disabilities goes further than simply gaining productive workers. "Hiring persons with disabilities has affected us in such a positive way; our disabled employees are a source of inspiration for all of us and generally make our workplace a place we can all be proud of." Terri tells the following story with a smile on her face: "One of our staff has Cerebral Palsy, he never ever turns down a shift, and he is always smiling and chatting with everyone. He makes an effort every day to have a positive impact on those around him. Our clients regularly comment on what a wonderful disposition he has and what a great job he does! We are fortunate to have such a wonderful team member in our midst. He is just one of many who make up the wonderful TRADEX Team!"

The Fraser Valley TRADEX, one of many employers who believe that the intentional hiring of people with disabilities is good for their company and good for the community. "We have not only benefited as an organization from hiring those with disabilities we have been blessed and touched by every one of them professionally and personally!"

"Our team is our Strength...Our Strength is your Success!"

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