Work program struggling through limited funding | SierraSun.com

Work program struggling through limited funding

Christine Stanley

Christine Stanley/Sierra Sun Work ability students David Allen, Dania Corral and Andy Shortridge prepare for lunchtime at Zano's Family Italian & Pizzeria this week.

For three Truckee teens, Monday mornings make all the difference in the world. As part of Truckee High School’s Community Based Instruction Program, the trio waltz promptly into Zano’s Family Italian & Pizzeria like they own the joint, and set to work preparing for the day’s customers.Since the restaurant opened more than a year ago, Zano’s manager and owner, Timbo Brown, has employed the handicapped students through a work ability program funded by the state. It is an opportunity for youth with physical and mental limitations to contribute to the community and learn the ins-and-outs of holding a job; from punching the clock and cashing their check to perks like free pizza fresh from the oven.

“This program is far reaching into the world of work and money,” said Randy Allen, father of one of the boys in the program. “This is as important as it gets for these guys,” said Allen, who is also a special education instructional aid at the high school. But with state budget cuts, the work ability program is struggling to provide the resources and activities that its participants need. Grants from the state are currently unavailable, and fundraised money is serving to pay the students’ minimum wage, but is not enough to cover the transportation and recreational activities that are essential to the program’s success and future growth.

“We want to keep this program going so that [the students] can become productive members of society,” Brown said. “But due to the limits and delay in this year’s funding, it is now up to the community to provide and fund most of this program.”Because the students are participating in a program under the school district’s umbrella, they are not allowed to directly solicit individuals or merchants to raise money. Instead, they raise money by selling homemade dog treats in the community, and popcorn once a week during school breaks. Bright ideas, but not the most lucrative of ventures. To assist with their efforts, Brown has been challenging local business owners to contribute, a move that has gotten some response, but still not enough to overcome the lack of funding.

Anyone else interested in contributing to the program should contact Brown at Zano’s Family Italian & Pizzeria at 587-7411. Brown is also planning an Italian festival for next fall, from which he hopes to raise enough money to fund the program for one year.