South Natomas Grocery Outlet reaches out to NUSD students with disabilities

--- Published on May 13th 2019 ---
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Adult Transition Program students work weekly at South Natomas Grocery Outlet

South Natomas Grocery Outlet owners Tony and Nikki Chand wanted to give back to their community.

So they have, bigtime, to Natomas Unified.

The Chands have created and nurtured a special relationship with NUSD students with disabilities, including:

•Once a week, South Natomas Grocery Outlet hosts all students in Joel Schwieger’s Adult Transition Program at Natomas High to work for an hour in the store, learning skills that can help them land jobs in the future.

•The store has donated more than a thousand pounds of canned and non-perishable goods to Joey’s Food Locker, which is run by the Adult Transition Program students and serves local families in need.

•South Natomas Grocery Outlet also is participating in NUSD’s Workability program, through which students with disabilities, ages 16 or older, get paid through state funds to gain on-the-job experience for 70 hours in a local business.

The Chands say they live in Natomas, they care about the community, and they want to help strengthen and uplift it. Reaching out to students with disabilities is particularly gratifying, they said, because their son has autism.

“We don’t look at a disability as a negative, we want to turn it into a positive and do what we can as owner-operators to help (students) grow,” Tony Chand said.

The Chands have been impressed by the gung-ho attitude of Adult Transition Program students, ages 18 to 22, who have mental or physical challenges and are taught skills in the Natomas High program to help them live independently and support themselves.

“Everybody’s eager to learn,” Tony Chand said of his store’s weekly work sessions. “Joel (Schwieger) has done a fantastic job with the kids, motivating them, so when they come here, they’re just ready to rock.”

At one of the Adult Transition Program work sessions, last Tuesday, the students were assigned tasks ranging from straightening shelves to stocking food items to sweeping a parking lot behind the store. 

Because WorkAbility students spend many more hours at the store than Adult Transition Program students do, they practice a variety of other grocery store tasks, from customer service to merchandising to bagging groceries.

Tony Chand said he hopes to hire some of the students with disabilities for paying jobs at South Natomas Grocery Outlet, 1630 West El Camino, which is located beside Truxel Road.

Schwieger called the Chands “phenomenal people” who “go way above and beyond” in helping his students. 

Adult Transition Program students interviewed at Tuesday’s work session said they look forward to coming every week.

“It’s fun,” said Felicity, 21.

“I like everything about it here,” said Rebecca, 20.

“They’re really nice – a nice boss, everything,” added Sean.

When the class was done Tuesday, South Natomas Grocery Outlet provided cartloads of foods for Joey’s Food Locker, as they do every week. Donations ranged from meats to potatoes, biscuits, yogurt, cheese and milk. The list could go on and on.

The Chands donated so many items, in fact, that Schwieger struggled to fit them all in the storage compartment of a large NUSD bus.

“I love these guys,” Schwieger said, smiling.

(Note: This story mentioned WorkAbility as one of the NUSD programs assisted by Soutn Natomas Grocery Outlet. Other businesses interested in signing up for that program should call NUSD’s Jody Beckwith at (916) 275-0099. State funds bankroll the program, so merchants pay nothing in return for agreeing to let a student with special needs work and learn in their business for 70 hours.)

(Note: South Natomas Grocery Outlet also honors teachers with a discount card offering $3 off purchases exceeding $35. Several non-food items, such as alcohol and gift cards, are excluded.)