Lancaster – The leaders of the organizations who are working together in The Zone on the Ohio University Lancaster Campus are calling the new three-way partnership between OUL, Fairfield County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Bobcat Essentials a "win, win, win." The three leaders ate lunch together at The Zone on Tuesday.
The OUL student lounge re-opened Monday for the first day of classes. It is now being managed by an extension of Ohio University's Auxiliaries Department in Athens, Bobcat Essentials. For the last several years, Fairfield DD managed the operation to give their clients on-the-job training. Individuals with developmental disabilities are still working at The Zone under the new arrangement, but are getting new opportunities to learn different kinds of job skills.
"When we began discussing this several months ago, one thing we were most impressed with at Fairfield DD was that the intent was to improve the student experience at The Zone by offering new menu options, but the intent was also to keep our partnership intact," said Fairfield DD Superintendent John Pekar. "OUL is the oldest and dearest partnership that we have in the community and the fact that they said we still want you to be part of this spoke volumes about the depth of this partnership."
Bobcat Essentials makes fresh items daily in Athens using some produce from local farmers. They transport those items to Lancaster and sell them at The Zone.
"Having Bobcat Essentials bring in their equipment and menu gave us more options for what types of foods we could offer at The Zone," said Lancaster Campus Dean Jim Smith. "But we could still have DD clients and their job coaches working at The Zone. It is a situation where all three organizations win."
"The DD employees are very responsive and they're willing to learn the new items and new equipment," said Auxiliaries Associate Director of Retail Operations Kent Scott. "They're very excited to try new things. With the new cash register system, they're using scales and a credit card machine."
Other opportunities will be available for individuals with developmental disabilities in the future.Plans include jobs in the Lancaster Campus bookstore and employment at a future coffee shop on campus.
"The Zone, the coffee shop and the bookstore are great opportunities for our clients because it is great for them to become more embedded in student life on campus," said Pekar.
Scott said the first few days of operation under the new system at The Zone have gone really well. Students, faculty and staff are responding positively to the new menu, healthier options and salad bar.The next step is to evaluate the menu and see what other items can be added. Hours of operation are Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.