Business Honored For Disability Awareness

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Chris Cooper thought he was just giving somebody a shot, but the town of Payson saw it as something more.

Every October, for National Disability Employment Awareness Month, Payson's Disabilities Awareness Committee honors one local business owner for his or her dedication to training and hiring disabled individuals; this year, that individual was Cooper.

"I was extremely elated," Cooper said. "It's nice to be recognized, but on the same token it's nice to do something for the handicapped."

Cooper wasn't aware there was an award when he and Gary Bonn, a longtime customer of his Sesame Inn Restaurant, started talking one day.

"He was a patron, we got to talking and he was looking for a job," Cooper said. "I treat Gary like he's any other person. I didn't expect anything out of it."

Bonn is developmentally disabled, but Cooper said he didn't see a problem with that; everybody deserves a chance, he said.

"I feel for people who don't get a shot," Cooper said.

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Chris Cooper

Jan. 3 marked Bonn's two-year anniversary bussing tables at the restaurant, and he said he still enjoys coming into work.

"It's really nice. I like working here," Bonn said. "(Cooper) is a really cool guy. I like him, he got me a job. I like it and I like him."

Cooper said Bonn's attitude is contagious. He said he wishes everyone could have the same outlook that Bonn does.

"He is always positive when he comes in to work and you don't find many employees like that," Cooper said. "It just warms my heart to see him happy and excited."

Valerie Kaufmann, a rehabilitation technician at Horizon Human Services, helps the committee find the businesses they recognize. She said that while there are many people in Payson who help the disabled community, Cooper is more than deserving of the award.

"Chris is caring and giving and an excellent supervisor," she said. "He was more than willing to give Gary the chance to prove he could do the job."

And, Kaufmann said, Bonn also has proven himself to be a valuable employee.

"Gary is very willing to learn, outgoing, trustworthy," she said.

The award, she said, is important because often people with disabilities are not afforded the chances that others might be given.

"They are looked at a little harsher, but they have proven they can do the job," she said. "They might as well have the same opportunities that anyone else has."

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