Soren Working at Shop

What Inclusion Looks Like

McNeil Auto being presented with the Cambridge Inclusive Business  
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McNeil Auto being presented with the Cambridge
Inclusive Business Award. Pictured here Bruce McNeil,
Mary Fleet, Soren Martin and Al McNeil

Want to know what an inclusive business looks like? Stop in at McNeil Auto Supply and you’ll find out. McNeil Auto was started in 1956 and moved to their current location on  Parkhill Rd in 1976, where it has been serving Cambridge customers ever since. In 1998, the auto shop was approached by a Community Living Cambridge job coach looking for a trial placement for a young man with autism. They had never hired anyone with a developmental disability, but they thought of what it would be like to be that individual and hoped that someone would give them a chance. With open minds, they welcomed Soren into the business.

Soren had been employed at several places, but he never wanted to stay anywhere, until he came to McNeil Auto.  Soren works three days a week doing an assortment of tasks: stocking shelves, loading trucks, assisting with deliveries, sweeping and dusting the shop, and his all-time favorite task, completing special orders for customers.

Bruce and Al McNeil, owners of McNeil Auto, claim Soren is never in a bad mood.  He has been there 20 years and still loves to come to work bringing with him, his cheerful, upbeat attitude.  He is always on time and never misses a shift. He is part of the team and has become part of the family.  Soren is the longest paid employee at McNeil Auto, apart from the owners. Al McNeil, who has watched Soren grow up, states, “He brings variety,” to the shop, demonstrating that there are multiple ways to get the same job accomplished. Community Living Cambridge provides ongoing on-the-job support for partner employers, but in all the years Soren has been at McNeil, not once have they ever had to call over any concerns with Soren.

For those customers who get to know Soren, he is sure to remember your name and birthday if you share it. Some customers have gotten to know him over the years and send special gifts for Soren in appreciation.  Soren, who is also a talented artist, gives hand-drawn or painted Christmas cards for the other staff and favorite customers. His artwork has been on display at local galleries, attracting the attention of other well-known local artists who some of which, now hang Soren’s art on their walls.

On May 8th, McNeil Auto Supply was awarded the inaugural Cambridge Inclusive Business Award for their demonstrated commitment to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and promoting a more inclusive workplace. As Bruce McNeil so wisely stated, “Everyone deserves a chance.  You’d be surprised at what they are capable of.” Thank you to McNeil Auto for giving someone the opportunity to show what they are capable of.

A piece of artwork
A sampling of Soren’s artwork

For those of you who missed it, CTV Kitchener ran their story on CTV News. 

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