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Cosby is a special asset to Trussville Taziki’s

By Chris Yow

TRUSSVILLE — Sometimes the simplest of jobs can be important to someone else. That sentiment is certainly the case for 15 employees who have jobs at Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe across the state of Alabama. The Birmingham-based company was established in 1998 and now has nearly 50 locations in 13 states. But the size of the company doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for way to help each community in some way. That’s why the company employs special needs students in many of their restaurants, including the Trussville location on U.S. 11.

Taylor Cosby, a special needs employee at Trussville Taziki's, rolls silverware. Photo by Chris Yow

Taylor Cosby, a special needs employee at Trussville Taziki’s, rolls silverware. Photo by Chris Yow

Taylor Cosby, or “Number 1” as the Taziki’s team affectionately calls her, is a special needs student who has found a home with Taziki’s where she fits right in and has a real job.

Cosby takes care of several tasks at the restaurant, and the store’s General Manager Ryan Grier applauds the job she does when she is working.

“She can do almost anything. She helps run food, makes drinks, take payments, roll silverware — she does a little bit of everything,” Grier said.

Rolling silverware, in fact, is Cosby’s favorite job, although she admits sometimes her job isn’t always fun.

“Sometimes it’s stressful,” she said.

Although stressed at times, Cosby is one of the bright spots on the Trussville Taziki’s team, according to Grier.

“She helps bring everyone up. When she’s in a good mood, she puts a smile on everybody’s face. She helps us all out on a daily basis,” he said.

She wouldn’t have this chance, however, except for a boring cruise.

Taziki’s Founder and Chief Development Officer Keith Richards — no, not that Keith Richards — said he was on a cruise, and he was bored.

Luckily, there was a band playing one evening, and despite struggling through many of the songs, were really giving it their all on stage. Richards, who says God has given him the ability to play drums, asked the band could he help out. Apparently the drummer was singing as well, and doing both is a very difficult task.

“I asked them if I could sit in because I was so bored. I jumped on the stage and started jamming,” Richards said.

It was during that jam session that fate stepped in.

Taylor Cosby shows off an appetizer from Tazikis menu. Photo by Chris Yow

Taylor Cosby shows off an appetizer from Tazikis menu. Photo by Chris Yow

“During that time, Amy was out there watching us play and she struck up a conversation with a lady sitting beside us who happened to be Cindy Vinson,” Richards said. “She is the job coach for Shelby County Schools, and she asked if we had ever considered hiring special needs students for work.”

At the time, Richards hadn’t thought of that.

“We never knew what they could do. As a child, I didn’t know anybody with special needs,” he said. “I didn’t know what all they were capable of doing.”

That’s when Richards found Brandy Nevins and her mother Donna, whom everyone in the company knows affectionately as “Mama D”.

“We fell in love with her. Once we had Brandy, and we had the other two stores Cindy came to me with another student, we filled it and kept it going. It was a God-send,” Richards said.

Grier said it was one of the most impressive programs he’s ever been around in the restaurant business.

“I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in the restaurant industry. You have a lot of different type owners in this industry, but to give back like that — it’s priceless. These kids love it. They come in, do their job and feel a part of the team. It helps them, and it’s great,” he said.

Helping these specific workers is something Richards is very proud to do.

“The most satisfying part is helping them. We’re increasing their self-potential and how they relate to peers and adults. You also deal with responsibilities,” Richards said. “I’ll get onto Taylor just like any other employee.

“What we’ve seen is it helps them mature and how to make money and really gives them a purpose. It gives them a purpose just like it does us. “

Payday is something Cosby looks forward to reaching. When she gets paid, she said she likes to save money, maybe for a trip to Disney World. What else might she be saving for?

“An RV,” she said laughing.

Richards knows he could have his other employees complete the daily tasks, but allowing Cosby and other employees like her to do them allows them to hold themselves accountable.

“In a restaurant, it’s always the things we perceive as simple, they enjoy doing those jobs. It gives them a little self-worth,” Richards said. “They take it serious, and they write their notes. They hold themselves accountable and I hold them accountable, too.”

Why is it so important, though, for Richards and this company to give these special needs students the chance to earn some money while learning about responsibility?

“God blessed me with 4 healthy kids,” Richards said. “I know how stressful it is for my wife while I’m at work. These are kids for life, and if I can allow that parent three hours a day to do whatever it is they want to do, I’ve helped two souls.”

Cosby said she would like to tell other special needs students who may believe they will never be able to work that if you put your mind to it, it can be done.

“There are good jobs and places like this to help,” she said.

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