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Scotty's Brewhouse owner emphasizes the hiring of people with disabilities

Scotty Wise talks about inviting everyone into the circle of service

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Scotty Wise marked his 20th entrepreneurial anniversary with a bevy of openings in 2015 to add to his already vibrant roster of brewhouse locations, notably in college towns around Indiana, along with Broad Ripple-based Thr3e Wise Men Brewery and Restaurant.

While Scotty’s Dawghouse on the Butler campus gained the most space as a NUVO story Fall of 2015, it was the brief notice of opening a second Thr3e Wise Men location at 601 High St., in Muncie, that left us wanting more. Having initiated his first Scotty’s Brewhouse in Muncie in 1996, Wise said the downtown Muncie Thr3e Wise Men Restaurant, as a partnership with Arc of Indiana, represented a “coming home” —physically and philosophically — and, despite gentle probing on my part, he insisted on leaving it at that. Succeeding phone calls touched on other new locations in Indiana and openings in Oxford, Ohio and Punta Gorda, Florida.

Almost a year later, Scotty Wise finally fleshed out 
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 the philosophical aspect of ‘coming home.’ This call on Nov. 4 was prompted by national recognition for Thr3e Wise Men’s partnership with Arc of Indiana and their innovative Erskine Green Training Institute, tailored specifically for people with disabilities who want to go into the hospitality industry and into health care work.

Simultaneously with the Ruderman Award to Thr3e Wise Men, Arc of Indiana received a 2016 Indiana Innovation Award in recognition of a bold new concept “to provide all people with disabilities a postsecondary education opportunity in hospitality, food service or healthcare.” This initiative is in cooperation with Courtyard Muncie, Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co. and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital to partner classroom training with hands-on experience leading to employment. After only nine months of operation, the positive effects of Erskine Green is gaining a lot of attention.

Wise relates the partnership with Arc of Indiana as a meeting of minds to change Indiana’s 80% unemployment rate for adults with disabilities.
“My answer to Kim Dodson [Arc of Indiana executive director], when she called about joining with the Institute-hotel-restaurant plan, was ‘Why wouldn’t I want to do it?’” said Wise.

Dodson, for her part, laughs about not getting the chance to continue her spiel and simply said ‘Thank you’ to Wise for his enthusiastic, “I’m in.”

While readily embracing the Arc of Indiana commitment “to all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities realizing their goals of learning, living, working and fully participating in the community, the venture came with a degree of trepidation,” admits Wise.

“I know where my heart is; I know my personality and attitude when I meet people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,”  explained Wise. I knew I could work within the company to train all of the staff to be accepting. I was worried about how the Muncie community — the customers — would react.

“The word has to go out about the untapped potential and the challenges that people with disabilities can meet. They can master a task, move up to another challenge, take on another opportunity.”

After the fact, Wise says his worries about customer acceptance were naive. He describes how the public has been totally accepting of a staff that simply works together as a team. Thus emboldened, Wise opened opportunities at all Indiana-based Scotty’s locations. Wise says, as of the present, graduates of the Erskine Green Institute make up 10-percent of the workforce of 2,000. The goal for 2017 is 20-percent.
Wise describes why he took this path that is a giant step even beyond a focus on considered growth that has encompassed a range of civic commitments and philanthropic events. Wise recounts his encounter with ‘near death.’

“In 2012 I contracted viral encephalitis, a brain infection from which I was not expected to recover. When I woke up, and spoke with my wife and children, all my family, I realized I came through this with a new meaning for my life.

“I decided that God’s mission for me on Earth was to use the platform I was given to do good in our world,” he explains. “To inspire; to lead; to help others. We live in a world where we are called upon to change lives for good — to do good as a community citizen,” said Wise.

Wise describes why working with Arc of Indiana, established in 1956 by parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities “to build a better and more accepting world for their children,” has become the perfect opportunity to act on his desire to give anybody, everybody, a chance to thrive on some level in the hospitality business.

“I wake up every day loving my life, my job,” said Wise. “While it doesn’t seem right to get an award for doing the right thing, for what makes you happy, I’m accepting The Ruderman Best in Business Award [for inclusive hiring, supporting and employing people with disabilities] on behalf of the individuals and their families; and on behalf of all our employees and our customers.”

For Wise, this is affirmation of his father’s early career advice “to concentrate on tasks, not dollars. He told me, ‘If you’re doing the right thing for the right reason, the dollars will come.’”

The Muncie-based Erskine Green Training Institute, established by the Arc of Indiana Foundation January 2016, is named in honor of Baseball Hall of Famer Carl Erskine, and Basketball Hall of Famer Steve Green, who have been central to the founding and continued growth of the work of ARC of Indiana throughout its 60-years of operation.

Arc of Indiana cites:

“We are on the front lines to:
Empower families with information and resources to assist them in their journey of raising a child with a disability to lead a full and meaningful life.
Empower people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to be self sufficient and independent to the greatest extent possible.
Inspire positive change in public policy and public attitudes.
Prevent disabilities through education about the dangers of drugs and alcohol while pregnant and advocating for all women to have quality prenatal care.
Serve as a spokesperson and advocate for families and their loved ones.

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