Finding a Station in Life

The smell of frying bacon and smoky ribs hit the nostrils as Karrie Würmann enters the restaurant to start her shift by flipping the coffee on and getting the laundry going.

She sweeps the floors, cleans the tables, checks that the hand-wash station has soap and paper towels, and makes sure the decorative salt and pepper shakers are filled in preparation for opening.

Karrie has become a regular fixture at Station BBQ Smokehouse since she started working mornings at the busy Vernon restaurant back in May. 

“I like to make sure everything looks presentable,” Karrie explains, over the music playing in the background. “I try to make the restaurant look like a place where people feel comfortable.”

Cooking up a Plan

Originally from the Yukon, Karrie moved around a lot as a child. She lived in Germany with her family when she was young, then later returned to Canada, settling in Alberta before moving to BC.

“When my family moved to Winnipeg, I said ‘I am not following you.’ “My parents invested in a condo for me to live in, and I stayed here in Vernon,” Karrie says. “My family have always been supportive of me, with my learning challenges and have always come up with ways to help me through it.”

Besides volunteering at the Vernon Community Policing Office, Karrie has held a variety of different jobs since moving to the Vernon area.

“I have sometimes found it difficult when it comes work, as I have dyslexia as well as anxiety,” she explains.

To overcome some of those challenges, Karrie enlisted the help of Neil Thompson, who works as an Employment Advisor at the Vernon WorkBC Centre.

“Neil helped me find my last job, but then my work hours were cut, so I went back to him to help me find new employment. I’ve always felt comfortable with Neil and I knew he would help me find another job,” Karrie says, adding, “I had a lot of different ideas of where I wanted to work, but the main thing was to be able to work within walking distance of downtown.”

Tanya Wisse, who co-owns Station BBQ Smokehouse with her husband Eric, was also looking for an employee to do morning cleaning and set up. She also says she had previously hired a student through the Community Futures North Okanagan Employ! program.

“I went to the program coordinator and she passed the information on to Neil, who then told me about Karrie. It was the perfect alignment of stars,” says Wisse.

“I met with Tanya and told her about some of the challenges that Karrie faces,” adds Thompson. “At the interview and during training, Tanya was willing to do whatever it took to make sure Karrie would succeed and feel comfortable.”

A Stake in Her Future

Together, Wisse and Thompson have devised ways to help Karrie remember her daily tasks. This includes using cue cards that list all the information of what Karrie needs to do.

“Sometimes a challenge comes up when my routine is interrupted and I get flustered or anxious, but Tanya recognizes that right away and suggests I go for a walk. I also listen to music while I work to keep calm and feel relaxed,” Karrie says.

“We have really good communication,” Wisse adds. “During Karrie’s training period, I would explain to her how I wanted everything organized and I would never have to say it twice. Karrie would remind me what needed to be prepared or when the sauce caddies needed to be cleaned. She always has a running checklist of things that needed to be done that were beyond the scope of what I told her.”

In fact, Karrie has become so proficient with her new job that, on her own initiative, she has taken on extra tasks such as re-filling the barbecue sauce bottles every morning.

“The best thing about this job is that everyone is really nice and we are all treated as equals. I have a certain amount of freedom where no one is looking over my shoulder but I am comfortable enough to ask someone if I need help.”

Have you experienced challenges in finding meaningful work? Contact the Vernon WorkBC Centre to access a number of employment services. This includes one-to-one job counselling, skills assessment, training, work experience opportunities, and more.