Written by Gary Zagar
Edited by Jo Gardner

Last summer, Zagar incorporated proudly welcomed individuals from a volunteer group called Youth Opportunities Unlimited, which is comprised of disadvantaged youth from Cuyahoga county. These young adults were assigned to our business to help with a variety of tasks. What they learned were important business skills. What we gained was invaluable.

These young men and women have been employed before by several local manufacturers through the Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U.).  We contacted the organization with the intention to contribute positive experiences to more kids’ lives.  It was our good luck that we happened to be able to work with a fantastic group of young adults. 

If you are interested in participating in a youth work program, the organization, Y.O.U. can be contacted through their website www.youthopportunities.org. Their summer jobs program representatives can be contacted at summerjobsprogram@youthopportunities.com. The whole signup process is very simple, and it introduces adolescents to the workplace, and potentially, to their first summer job. This valuable program has helped many youth find their way in a wholesome work environment with responsible potential mentors that can impact a full group of youth well into their adulthood.

While at Zagar Inc, our youth group learned about being on time, being where they were expected to be, doing the job they were supposed to do, working hard, as well as smiling and waving at people. We began Monday morning, immediately following Father’s Day with their orientation and a plan of work to accomplish. Our business is in an older factory building, so we had some pretty rough places to clean and improve in the building. We assigned this task to two of our three students, who started by cleaning the front and back staircases. Regardless of ensuring the group wore proper protective equipment, we still had them use only mild soap and water to wash and rinse the stairwells.

While two participants handled cleanup, the other young adult worked on the computer and inputted names of customers into an email database and connected on LinkedIn with many of them. She was successfully able to “touch” more than 5700 customers and then she set up our databases for the future! With the newly organized database, we are able to reach many of our customers through social media, facilitating more information sharing on our offerings.  It has helped us to communicate better with customers and ensures a more positive experience overall.

Then she set up our databases for the future!

The next tasks were to clean up the parking lot.  Two of our hardworking group – using safety measures – sprayed herbicide on the weeds sprouting in the lot.  After proper training, they were able to dispose of a pile of pallets in the rear of the building, many of which were donated to homeowners in the area to create outdoor seating platforms for summer enjoyment. Cleaning up the yard is still important to the well-being of the organization; the impression your business’ gives will become the impression of you. Shop cleanliness is an important slice of maintenance that needs to be done on a regular basis.  It affects not only health and safety, but morale.

As the summer grinded a way, the youth and we got to know each other better and we mixed in a little fun along the way. We introduced them to Cleveland State University School of Engineering, and we bought them lunch to show our appreciation for all their effort. We also took them to the driving range to introduce them to my favorite sport.  We taught them about the manufacturing industry too, and before the summer was over, we all seemed to enjoy the experience.   Although 2020 prevented us from reconnecting and working with the group due to health and safety restrictions, we hope to invite back members of this valuable organization in 2021.  We believe we can build stronger relationships in our neighborhoods, while we guide youth in business, and mentor them as future good stewards of society.