CSD: Putting the Community to Work
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.
VERC Enterprises, which operates 21 convenience stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, has reached a new milestone by including challenged/disabled individuals as 20 percent of its 200-member strong employee team. With its goal reached, the company is now setting its sights on helping former non-violent prisoners get a new start as a way to further assist its local community.
Leo Vercollone, CEO of VERC Enterprises, said he embarked on the process of reaching out to local individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) eight years ago. Positions filled by disabled/challenged employees include stocking, landscaping and helping to bag products from counter sales. While it takes patience by managers and front-line people with these individuals “to help them succeed,” he credits the program with keeping the chain’s turnover rate at 35 percent on average over the last three years and boosting the chain’s overall morale.
“It’s not just an altruistic thing we’re doing,” he stated. The IDD employee numbers are expected to remain in the 20 percent range going forward due to the financial investment involved.
VERC is now working with Massachusetts’ Department of Corrections to hire reformed individuals exiting the prison program. Unlike with the IDD individuals, VERC doesn’t need to provide as much financial support to assist the former prisoners. Former prisoners can also do more of the daily job of associates, including working the cash register.
The c-store store is only looking at individuals that have committed non-violent crimes and the company has strong procedures in place against theft. He adds, “I personally don’t think people that have a prison background are going to be at a greater risk for shrink than our other employees.”
But the program also addresses the struggles individuals that come from the prison system often find gaining employment. As it slowly assesses the program, VERC has hired four former prisoners, two of which it has retained.
“Some people in everyone’s family have challenges, and that doesn’t make them bad people — that doesn’t mean they can’t be productive members of society,” said Mr. Vercollone. “We’re a company that views itself as a family, and we’re going to have some members that have challenges. They deserve a second or a third chance to work it out and we should be there to support them, especially when they live in our community.”
Discussion Questions: What do you think of VERC’s hiring initiatives? Should retailers be more open to hiring disabled/challenged individuals as well as non-violent ex-convicts?