Plates squeak underhand, as Annie Stanyer scrubs off the remains of the day. Standing at the industrial-sized sink, she works methodically and quickly, making sure the cutlery, dishes, pots and pans sparkle.
Stanyer smiles at the thought of how much her life has changed for the better since she started working as a baker’s helper and dishwasher at Gumtree Catering six years ago.
Not only has she taken on other duties, including dishwashing at Gumtree’s staff-only café at Kal Tire headquarters, but she has also moved into a self-contained suite near Okanagan College, which is closer to work, and has embarked on new adventures.
“Gumtree is the longest workplace I have ever worked, and I am still enjoying it. I have become more independent and have gained more confidence. I also like dishwashing. People say I am a faster dishwasher than everyone else,” Stanyer said with a laugh.
A Giant Leap Forward
Before starting at Gumtree, Stanyer was at a crossroads. Born with a learning disability, she later moved to Vernon from Vancouver and had just lost the woman — her aunt — who had raised both her and her sister. She lived in shared accommodations, worked in a fast-food restaurant, and knew she wanted to do more with her life.
That’s when she decided to seek help from WorkBC Vernon. Assigned to employment advisor Anita Labelle, who helps adults with disabilities find work, Stanyer was able to access meaningful employment through the Opportunities Fund, which provides financial support to business owners who employ people with diverse abilities.
Gumtree was willing to take a chance on Annie, and the rest is history.
“Annie has become an integral part of the Gumtree family,” Stanyer’s employer Sarah Pruckl said. “She is always willing to try new tasks and does it with a smile. She’s friendly and hardworking.”
The Road to Independence
Stanyer’s confidence has also spilled into other avenues.
“Years ago, I told Annie she should go on a cruise and she took that idea, saved the money, and went on her first big travel adventure and that put the travel bug in her. She had another cruise booked for this fall, which has been cancelled, but I loved seeing her determination to research and plan her trips and share her stories with us,” Pruckl said.
For Stanyer, travel was always something she wanted to do, but she didn’t feel she was ready until three years ago, when she embarked on her first solo adventure, travelling more than 3,500 kilometres by Greyhound bus from Salmon Arm to Toronto.
“I grew up in Vancouver and always dreamt about going to Toronto,” said Stanyer, who travelled back to the city by plane two years ago. “I was able to save up enough money for the trips and stayed at a hostel in the city. The first time I took public transit out to the zoo and the second time, I was able to go to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition).”
Last year, Stanyer boarded her first cruise, sailing from Vancouver through the Inside Passage to Alaska.
“People say I am brave for travelling on my own, but I do a lot of research before I go, and I have schedules and know where I am staying,” she said, noting she has met many people while travelling.
“While on the Alaskan Cruise, I went to see these two piano players perform, and a group of people there asked if I was by myself. It turned out they were from Kamloops. I ended up sitting with them every night to watch the piano players.”
Stanyer is planning her next adventures once it is safe to travel.
“I hope to get to London, Seattle, and New York next,” she said.
If you or someone you know is looking for employment opportunities for people with different abilities, reach out to WorkBC Employment Services in Vernon for employment counselling, specialized services, and more.