The London Club, an Experience in Sophistication and Compassion
Posted on March 7, 2016
By Janice Richmond
Through the doors of the posh, elegant London Club the movers and shakers and power brokers of the Forest City sip wine, dine on fine food and exude sophistication.
Originating in 1880, The London Club on Queens Avenue started as a men’s club with just nine members. Its forte was combining business conversations with sports. Once filled with billiard tables, a squash court, even a bowling alley, the Club has grown and changed.
Now with up to 900 members including women, only one pool table remains. The bowling alley is there in name only, as it is now the location of a fine dining room. Through the changes, the London Club still bills itself as London’s Premier Private Club.
Geoff Curphey, dressed in a tailored blue suit and tie with polished leather shoes, speaks confidently about working with his management team to ensure an utmost professional experience for the members.
Through the doors of the Hutton House Learning Centre where a volunteer greets the staff and public alike, trained facilitators gather a group of about a dozen young people in a simple kitchen/classroom.
The young and inexperienced participants receive ten weeks of pre-employment training about the hospitality industry. They learn and then earn certificates for safe food handling, smart serve, customer service excellence, worker health and safety, W.H.M.I.S., cash training and cooking.
These are young people who need a chance. They face barriers to finding regular employment through no fault of their own. Society labels them as youth with disabilities. But if you listen to them, you will hear about their abilities.
Such is the case of 24 year old Tyler Homer, a young man with his own fantasy and sci-fi novels constantly running through his head His dream is to become a published author. Tyler has autism. He graduated from John Paul II Secondary School and tried college. He didn’t make it there. But he excelled within the Essential Skills Food Program at Hutton House and that’s when the doors to The London Club opened to him.
“The London Club in all truth is one of the best organizations that I’ve ever encountered, because it’s run very professionally and everyone is treated equally. The general manager is a very hard working man, and a very respectable mentor. He taught me a lot about how the club is run and plus a lot about leadership,” said Tyler when reminiscing about his recent internship there.
Tyler got to try his hand in just about every aspect of the Club. From cleaning silverware and peeling potatoes to setting and clearing tables, carrying trays of food and serving the members. Curphey could tell that Tyler would do well wherever he was placed. “I don’t know what it is about Tyler, but if you asked him to do something, he said yes. Our philosophy here at the club for our staff is The Answer is Yes, What’s the Question? It’s amazing what he was willing to do.” Curphey’s administrative assistant Michelle Kervanka added “Any task or goal that we set for him, he was so eager to not only complete it, but surpass it. He would tell me that he would practice different things at home so that the next day he could come in and show us that he’d improved or that he’d been working on it, and that drive to learn was just really wonderful to see.”
From Tyler’s perspective it was not only the opportunity to do well at a job, but the relationship that Curphey built with him that made him want to succeed. “Because I saw him as the ideal manager, I admired and respected him. He taught me to always be on time, always dress nicely, have respectable manners, be loyal to the members and treat everyone with respect.” He was clearly a great mentor.
The life lessons Tyler learned at the London Club are lessons in life that most parents, teachers and social workers try to instill in their children, students and participants. But sometimes it takes that one special person to make those lessons sink in. Curphey was that person for Tyler. “I hope that what Tyler got out of this program were life skills that he could use. So we developed a program for him so that he could work in all areas of the club, and we rotated him through and we set goals that he would make in each area, so that he got as much out of it as we did,” said Curphey.
Life skills are very important for the individual. For an employer, it is often the training skills that matter more. At the London Club, Tyler learned from the best. He now knows how to make a martini, carry a tray, and make a meal using special knife and safety skills.
But London’s Premier Private Club learned some things from this partnership too. “Our managers sort of opened their eyes about what we can do to help people in the community. I think it brought us together more as a management team. It was interesting to break down our training more step by step. Because when we looked into autism, multitasking was something that would not be a strong suit. So we made sure to keep it one task, start the task, check up on the task and complete the task. And I think that made some of us a little more patient.”
Asked whether the members had to be more patient too, Curphey said that as far as he knows, the membership didn’t even realize that Tyler has autism. He said the Board knew though and was pleased with what they saw and is happy to bring in other participants from the program.
Tyler continues his relationship with both Hutton House and the London Club. But his main goal is to get his fantasy and science fiction novels published, and then he’d like to venture into movies and video games. He knows that being an author may also mean behaving more as a businessman like those he saw at the Club. “It’s very sophisticated. I’ve always found people that have accomplished great things in life to be my best role models.”
And he’s ready to dress the part. He recalls with a laugh that Curphey taught him how to tie a tie. “I know that seems like a small thing to some people but to me it felt like the next step in my life. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t do it. But every time he did it I watched and so it became very symbolic, because a person with a tie seems important. Geoff gave me that confidence. I tried for two weeks and by the end of that I could tie a tie within 15 seconds. It felt great!”
The London Club will continue its relationship with Hutton House and encourages other employers to also open their doors to participants with disabilities.
Hutton House specializes in helping people with all kinds of disabilities find work and positive experiences. If you, or someone you know could benefit from our expertise, please give us a call, visit us in person, or online.
519 472 1541 x 232 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
301 Oxford St. W. in the Cherryhill Village Mall,
London, ON N6H 1S6
IN TYLER'S OWN WORDS...
Following Your Heart to Reach Your Dreams
By Tyler Homer
In 2011, I quit my job. I did this for a reason: I have difficulty handling noises and socializing. I have autism.
My mind works in a way that confuses me. I have a big imagination.
I was employed at McDonald’s for two years. I liked the job. It wasn’t until I began to have trouble socially and mentally that I chose to quit.
I hope my story will help people like me, and teach others a little about autism.
When I am in the world it feels like everyone is moving. They do so very fast. This interferes with my focus and attention. At work, I envisioned imaginary places. I thought of great warriors and aliens. I would often create my storylines, characters, and plots.
When I returned home, I would begin to write what I had created.
I have written several books.
But at work, when someone asked me a question I would not hear them. The person would ask me again. This angered them making me feel sad. I would apologize. I would unknowingly show the expressions of my characters that I was creating while working. I spoke to my manager about this. I told him what was happening. He understood my problem.
Before I quit my job I fought to keep the stories under control. It became too unbearable. I felt insane. After many similar experiences, I began to feel a tight throbbing in the back of my head. The pain eventually caused me to quit.
After being unemployed for awhile, I went to Hutton House and learned how to cook and work in a restaurant. I earned industry-related certificates and got the opportunity to work in classy facilities like Aroma restaurant and the London Club.
When I worked at the London Club for my placement I did not feel that pressure inside my head. I still had my racing stories. I felt content. I belonged.
I am now writing an autobiography about my life with autism. I have my own website where people can read about my work and see a video I took part in for Rogers TV London.
I learned to choose a job that I could mentally handle. But, I never forgot where my heart lay. I remembered to hold onto my dreams.