By Kim Johnson

CAMBRIDGE, Minn. (WCCO) — On any given day, Dave Gunderson can reliably be found working in the lobby of Taco John’s in Cambridge.

“Wiping booths and tables,” he said. “Usually a little bit of everything.”

Gunderson is one of six employees with disabilities there, hired by general manager Tayna Wallace.

“They are great employees, they have great personalities,” she said.

Wallace has made it her mission to open her payroll to them.

“They need to work just like the rest of us, and they can do everything we can do, at least here,” she said.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and, this month, Wallace’s dedication earned her an award from Industries Inc., a company that helps people with disabilities find jobs.

“Tanya, she’s got a heart of gold, she accepts everybody that we bring in,” said Mary Barnes, with Industries Inc.

Barnes says Wallace cares about her employees succeeding so much so she shows up at their care taker meetings outside of work.

“She actually came over to Industries and sat down with the team, the social worker and the parents, and she says, ‘OK, this is what we need to do, we want you to be successful, what can I do to help?’ and no other company has done that,” Barnes said.

After mastering their skills at places like Taco Johns, Barnes says some of these employees will go on to earn a livable wage and be more competitively employed.

She hopes other businesses will be inspired to learn about the possibilities of giving those with disabilities a chance.

“They want to work as much as we do, they want a family as much as we do, they want a pay check just like we do,” Barnes said.

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