Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/10/2018 (758 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Armed with a mop or a towel, Edward Case is on the lookout for things to clean.

The 40-year-old Case, who lives with special needs and was recently followed for a short time by a Free Press reporter and photographer at the McDonald’s restaurant on Henderson Highway, is constantly on the move. He is looking for pop spilled on the floor, for a table that needs to be cleared of empty cups and paper wrappings, and to ensure that the drink station is clean.

Edward Case enjoys his job.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Edward Case enjoys his job.

Case does this three times a week for a few hours each day.

And, unlike many adults living with disabilities, Case is not volunteering — he is getting paid.

Case is lucky. People living with special needs have the highest unemployment rates in society.

A 2014 report by Statistics Canada found the employment rate of Canadians aged 25 to 64 living with a physical or mental disability was 49 per cent, compared with 79 per cent for Canadians without a disability. As well, 12 per cent of people overall living with special needs — including 33 per cent of those with severe or very severe disabilities — report they were refused a job because of their disability.

But thanks to a partnership between this McDonald’s restaurant and Pulford Community Living Services, Case has a job. And there soon could be others joining him in employment.

Ryan McCullough, the restaurant’s owner/operator, is working with Pulford, a not-for-profit community-based organization which provides housing and support for people living with developmental disabilities, to hire as many people living with special needs as he can.

"When I saw Edward, I had this vision," McCullough said recently.

"I saw him volunteering at our McHappy Day and he was doing such a good job communicating with our guests in his own way. I thought, ‘Why couldn’t he do this and get paid for it?’

"He’s now the first (adult living with special needs) in my career that has applied for a job with us."

When McCullough went to Pulford to ask if Case would be willing to apply to work for McDonald’s, Pulford’s response was to have Case try it by volunteering first.

"We don’t want a person to say yes, I want to work there, and then a week later walk away," said Andy Russo, Pulford’s director of organizational development.

Ryan Mccullough, McDonald’s owner/operator (left), Edward Case, an adult living with special needs, and Karen Case, Edward's sister, at McDonald's in Winnipeg Wednesday. 

Winnipeg Free Press 2018.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Ryan Mccullough, McDonald’s owner/operator (left), Edward Case, an adult living with special needs, and Karen Case, Edward's sister, at McDonald's in Winnipeg Wednesday. Winnipeg Free Press 2018.

"It’s best to make a decision during the volunteer time. If both sides are happy, then it will turn into employment. Edward is the first in my time here who was able to gain paid employment. We’ve had a number of people volunteer at places, but Edward is getting paid."

Russo said the match between Case and McDonald’s is so great, Pulford decided to put together a video to show both the public and potential employers the potential of people living with special needs. The video is on Pulford’s website at pulford.ca/news/edward-case-story-inclusion-and-opportunity

"This job keeps him busy and he’s happy," Russo said.

"His sister and family have seen a change in him. It just starts with somebody giving him an opportunity and opening a door. We talk about inclusion but it starts with each and every one of us."

Seeing Edward working not only makes his sister, Karen, and the rest of his family proud of him, but also comforted.

"I’m very happy for him — he is doing what everybody else is doing. And this has helped him so much. He likes feeling he is helping people.

"It makes him really happy."

Case was born and lived up north in Gillam before moving to Thompson as an adult to enter a day program and live there.

But through the years, Case’s family moved down south and they applied for Edward to move to Winnipeg. It took a few years, but he finally moved to a Pulford group home earlier this year.

Now, with the job, Case’s sister says her brother is taking his place fully in society.

"It’s perfect for him," she said. "He always had a knack for cleaning. He comes home and needs to do the dishes.

"When people see him, they can’t see right away that he has a disability. I still worry he could offend somebody, but he doesn’t really mean to.

"And being out in public helps him to expand his skills."

Case himself doesn’t say much, but when asked if he likes the work he is doing, he quickly responds, "I’m happy."

And, when asked what his favourite part of the job is, Case gives a quick smile and says, "I like mopping best."

It’s easy to see how much Case loves mopping. Every few minutes he pulls out the red bucket on wheels, puts out yellow warning signs on the floor, and begins moving the wet mop around the floor, between and under tables and in the areas where people walk the most.

And Karen says her brother loves his work so much, he’ll suddenly do it at other McDonald’s restaurants.

"I was having coffee with him at the McDonald’s at Club Regent and he began cleaning there — he doesn’t even work there. But he saw it needed to be done, so he did it."

McCullough knows firsthand how many people living with special needs are capable of doing far more than people give them credit to do. His parents adopted a girl with cerebral palsy when she was two and he grew up assisting her with not only homework, but also in learning to skate. She is now the mother of two and works full-time at a bakery making dog biscuits.

McCullough said what impresses him most about Case is what the man does whenever he checks tables in one corner of the restaurant.

"I told him to mash the garbage down in this bin," McCullough said. "If you do that we can fit more garbage in the bag and we don’t have to take it outside as often... I tell all my employees to do that, but Edward is the only one who does it."

McCullough hopes that in the future, Case can be trained to help with the french fry fryers or to hand food out to guests at the drive-thru window.

And McCullough says there is room for more employees like Case — he owns 10 other McDonald’s locations in the city.

"This has turned out to be a great thing and a great initiative, not just for him, but for our own people. They’ve all learned how to be an inclusive family."

And, now that Case is earning his own money, what will he spend it on?

"He likes electronics," his sister says. "I’m sure he’ll want to buy a big-screen laptop.

"It’s wonderful that someone like Edward was given a chance — he has a lot of potential.

"I’m very proud of him."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

   Read full biography