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Bryan Burhart

BryanBryan Burhart knows first-hand what it’s like to have a hard time with the job-search. Born with cerebral palsy, Bryan cannot speak and has limited movement in his arms and hands. As a result, he communicates using a laptop that he operates with his head.

Bryan, 32, first got involved with the Life Skills CIL Ebay training project last year to learn how to market and sell products using Ebay. The Life Skills CIL is the Monroe branch office of the Ann Arbor CIL. Today Bryan serves as a marketer and developer for the Center’s emerging joint-partnership with private industry, which aims to create a training and employment center for people with disabilities in Southeast Michigan.

“Having a job to go to daily means a lot to me.  I feel like a productive member of society now.  I am able to put my skills to use.”

The Ann Arbor CIL and Rodnick, Co., maker of gourmet fruit and gift baskets, are teaming up to create a marketing, production, and distribution center staffed by a majority of people with disabilities. “Because there are so many aspects to the gift basket business, individuals with a wide variety of skill levels and abilities will be able to be employed at all stages of the business. Individuals with the most severe challenges and those with the highest levels of education will work side by side,” said Mike Marone, Managing Partner of Rodnick.

“The partnership with the Ann Arbor CIL makes sense on all levels,” said Mike. “We want to expand our business, and we need high quality employees to do so. People with disabilities make great employees.” With plans to house a production facility at the Ann Arbor CIL building, staff members of the Ann Arbor CIL will recruit employees, provide training, and offer on-going support to employees to ensure their success.

For now, while the partnership is in development, Bryan handles customer communication, marketing, and online sales for Rodnick on Ebay, and in turn is receiving valuable training and skill development.

“Working with the CIL has helped me see that anyone can do anything,” Marone said. “Things I previously thought of as limitations or barriers I now see as opportunities. By embarking on this project, we’re not lowering any standards; were raising the bar.”

Bryan is proof positive. “Bryan’s customer service is outstanding,” eBay instructor Mark Rawlings said. “He’s an example for everyone.” Mike added, “This partnership inspires me as an entrepreneur. Success means more jobs and more benefits to individuals with disabilities. It’s amazing to see the impact. It’s exciting.” Rodnick, Co. is based in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan.