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Mary Stek of Rochester, catering manager for Lifetime Occasions in Chili, gives wrap-folding tips to Cedric Flowers of Rochester.
(TINA YEE staff photographer)

Lifetime Assistance runs successful catering business with disabled workers           

(January 21, 2008) CHILI Twenty-three years ago, Mary Stek was contemplating career paths.
In the midst of the decision-making, someone told her about an opportunity to work with the developmentally disabled.

"A friend of mine had a son with a disability, and it was just suggested that I should give it a try," said Stek, a catering manager for Lifetime Occasions.

"My friend saw something in me, even though I had no experience at all working with anyone with a disability."

Lifetime Occasions, a division of Lifetime Assistance Inc., 425 Paul Road in Chili, is celebrating its 10th year as a full-service catering business providing employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities.

The organization serves more than 1,800 disabled clients.

"The unemployment rate among those who are disabled is around 70 percent, and this program offers a great (employment) opportunity that isn't always available," said Tom Hicks, director of vocational services for Lifetime.

The catering service has worked with small and large Rochester businesses; last month, it provided food and service for a weeklong training session at PAETEC, who is a regular customer.

The catering company is run by Stek, who works side by side with disabled individuals as they learn all aspects of the food service industry. It is the first step for many who are hoping to gain steady employment in the community.

"I train them to be prepared to work an everyday job in the competitive working world," said Stek, a Rochester resident. "The impact of this program is tremendous because you can see people turn into a totally independent person, and they are ready to work in mainstream society instead of feeling isolated and different."

Catherine Amico has known Stek for more than two decades, and said she is an inspiration.
"Mary is so pleasant, friendly and creative and can easily go with the flow," said Amico, an administrative assistant. "She is wonderful and works well with individuals with developmentally disabilties and adores the people who work with her. She treats them all like family."

Hicks said Stek is invaluable. "She has so many wonderful skills and experience that we are lucky to have her," he said.

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                    or call Mary at: (585) 247-2255

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