Monday, July 2, 2001

Big City Diner
and rehabilitated worker
honored for success story

Star-Bulletin staff

Alvin Nakama's family was worried that it might be difficult for him to take a new job after working 36 years as a janitor and maintenance man at Woolworth's Department Store.

But the man with learning challenges did not hesitate to take on new challenges when Woolworth closed in 1997 and he lost his job.

He wanted to work and went to the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for help in finding new employment.

Big City Diner hired him as a janitor and dishwasher, and within two months he progressed to doing food preparation.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Division's Windward Section recently recognized Nakama and his employer as the outstanding rehabilitant and employer of the year. Lane Muraoka, owner and general manager of the diner, accepted the employer's award.

Nakama was honored for overcoming barriers, and Big City Diner was recognized for contributing to the community and economy by employing persons with a disability.

Nakama was described as a dependable worker, always on time and willing to learn new tasks, a team member who is helpful to co-workers and his supervisor.

"He is very friendly, always smiling and well liked by customers, co-workers and employer," the Vocational Rehabilitation Division said.

Muraoka, it said, "is committed to hiring persons with disabilities" and provides training to meet their needs.

"His policy of accommodating by adjusting work hours and holding a position open for another employee, who was injured outside the work setting, demonstrates his commitment," the division said.

"His positive attitude has also influenced his staff to be supportive and encouraging of new employees with disabilities.

The division said Muraoka sees fit to utilize a person's full potential and created upward mobility for a Vocational Rehabilitation participant whose abilities were questioned by others.

That employee has greatly improved his self-confidence as a result and has learned other skills, the division said.

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