story by Joanne Bailey-Boorsma | photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick
Kent ISD — Fat Boy restaurant owner Matt Urbane double checks the soda orders.
“What does Jamie want?” Urbane asks.
“She likes a Sprite with no ice,” responds Patty Beute, a Kent ISD Community Transition Center instruction support staffer.
Urbane gives a quick thumbs up and pours the drink for student Jamie Dubbink.
Every Monday since August, four students with two staff from Mayfield Transition Center have been coming to Fat Boy, located at 2450 Plainfield Ave. NE, to help deep-clean the eatery, a longtime favorite for burgers, breakfast and more.
“A friend of mine, Lisa (Erhan), who works there, reached out and asked if I would be interested in having the students come,” Urbane said. “I thought it was a fantastic idea. I am married to a social worker and my sisters are in social work, so I know the value of students seeing what a working environment is like.”
Urbane admits he also had a need. Due to the COVID pandemic, cleaning requirements for businesses, especially restaurants, have increased beyond just tables and chairs, They include frequently touched areas such as door handles, cash registers, receipt trays, condiment holders and menus between uses.
“My staff carries around cleaning bottles and can whip them out at a moment’s notice,” Urbane says. “Their hands are chapped from cleaning so much.”
So having a group come in once a week to give the restaurant a thorough cleaning is a big help.
“Basically it is a win-win,” Urbane says. “We are closed on Mondays, so when the students come in, there is not a lot of distraction by customers. We get a sanitized space and the students learn work skills that they can use.”
Making a Difference
The students shuffle in around 8 a.m. to start the task. Fat Boy is not a big restaurant, so it is easy to divvy up what needs to be done.
“I like wiping down the tables,” says senior Jermarrio Lynn. He quickly grabs a white cleaning rag and heads over to the booths to start wiping them down. Meanwhile other students help move tables so that Jamie Dubbink can vacuum the dining area.
“One of our goals at the CTC is to teach life skills to the students so that they have something they can use to perhaps get a job after they are done with school,” Beute says. In fact, three main goals of the CTC program are adult living skills, community participation, and employability for young adults with special needs.
Having the students be able to come into a work environment and be able to be part of the business gives them a sense of achievement, said Beute, who takes students to several local businesses during the week. The students pitch in on a number of tasks to help develop their skills.
The success of the Monday cleanings has led Urbane to also have students come in on Friday to help.
“It is great to see the program grow and expand,” Beute says. “The students are excited for the opportunity.”