Erik G. is enjoying one of his favorite pastimes: chatting.

Especially about his job at Canteen Vending Service!

An admitted social butterfly, the 35-year-old professes to speaking extensively on various subjects, ranging from his best friends to professional wrestler John Cena. He especially enjoys talking about his job at Canteen Vending Service.

Since February 2021, Erik has been employed as a warehouse attendant at Canteen’s Phoenix branch, which touts itself as the largest vending and office coffee service and micro-market provider in Arizona. Canteen is also a STARS Champion.

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“If I were to compare it, I would have to say Canteen is the A-lister of all companies I’ve been to,” he says. “They’re like family to me. Everyone is right by my side at Canteen.” But Erik admits it’s been a long journey. Prior to working there, he struggled at his previous jobs. “Sometimes I have really bad panic attacks, which some people don’t get,” he says. “They look at me and ask, ‘Why is he pacing back and forth? Why is he standing there?’”

Jason S., STARS’ Job Placement Coordinator who has known Erik for several years, says Erik was so unhappy at his previous job that he stopped showing up and became depressed.

But the CIE program and Canteen were godsends. An employment service for people with cognitive and developmental disabilities, the CIE (Competitive Integrated Employment) program offers personalized vocational services with trained staff.  Jason says Erik’s path has been a metamorphosis.

“I’ve been at other job sites and Canteen just gets it. They have a softer approach,” he notes. “The reward is seeing our clients succeed in the community when they’ve been told all their life that it’s not going to happen. It’s just so amazing.”

Alfred “Al” Martinez, Canteen’s senior warehouse manager, says he has seen Erik, who has been named employee of the month, mature since starting at the company.

“He wants to leave a good mark, be more involved and be part of the Canteen family,” says Martinez, adding that with all new employees, he tries to tailor the job to the individual’s strengths. One of Erik’s assets is his outgoing personality, which needs redirecting sometimes.

“He’s very social and likes to talk. I told him there’s no problem with talking, but he also must work. I stress the importance of taking ownership and what’s needed to complete the task,” Martinez says.

With any new employee, there’s always a learning curve. So, Martinez is patient. When he sees Erik grappling with a task, Erik asks for his feedback to better assist him moving forward.

“He takes it to heart when he makes mistakes and I know it’s hard on him. I tell him, ‘It’s OK, I’ve made mistakes also,’” says Martinez, who looks forward to working with more of STARS’ CIE clients. “The STARS program is very good to work with because I see firsthand, Erik doing it. If given a shot, [clients] can be contributors to the workforce team. They can do any task.”

Erik, who credits Martinez with being a great manager, hopes to possibly follow in his footsteps “helping people out and accomplishing more things with the company.” In the meantime, he says he’ll continue following two of his favorite sayings by John Cena.

“Never give up and keep trying to reach the goal you want to have,” he says proudly. – Written by Julia De Simone

Forging Paths, IMpacting Futures

STARS is empowering participants for workplace success through the CIE Program.

This is 1 of almost 100 stories of how STARS CIE is changing lives. Help support these hard working CIE program participants and others forging their paths today.

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