River View Restaurant employee Kristopher Blake played host to Thompson MLA Kelly Bindle during his last shift Dec. 13 for Take Your MLA to Work Day in belated recognition of Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Blake started working at River View in September 2016 but has resigned because he is moving back to his hometown of Snow Lake this week after 15 years in Thompson.
"I'm heartbroken to leave Thompson," said Blake. "I've done a lot of advocating for people with disabilities. At the same time I'm very excited because Snow Lake is my hometown. I'm going to miss Thompson but I will be back to visit for sure and thank you to everybody - People First of Canada, People First Thompson chapter, Society for Manitobans with Disabilities, Thompson Supported Employment Program and you too, Kelly. I want to be remembered as somebody who helped the disabled population in Thompson."
Blake got the job at River View as the result of a chance encounter with Shane Cripps, who owned the restaurant with his wife Li until he died in a canoeing excursion on the Burntwood River last Victoria Day long weekend. The two ran into each other at Family Foods and Cripps asked Blake if he was interested in a job.
"He said come down to my restaurant, see how the wheelchair moves around for you," Blake recalls. "He said, 'Well, the wheelchair works pretty good around here. Would you like a job?' I said sure. I started at four o'clock that day."
Blake's job included taking customers' payments, taking takeout orders over the phone and preparing takeout orders for pick up. The Society for Manitobans with Disabilities helped River View and Blake out by assisting the restaurant in getting lower tables for the cash register and takeout orders and a headset for the telephone.
"I just have to push a button and answer the phone," said Blake. "It's been a wonderful experience here."
"I'm happy to see the River View restaurant actually taking a chance and helping people and actually helping Kristopher break down barriers," said Bindle. "I know that Kristopher did a lot of work with People First and the Juniper Centre and helped lobby the government to open our eyes and let us know the barriers they run into and things we have to address to help them. "
Blake told the Thompson Citizen he has a job lined up at a hardware store in Snow Lake, where he was born, and is moving back to with his brother.