Although mentally handicapped, Monty Ginn knows how to fix a mean chili dog and serve it up to hungry customers.
Come summertime, Ginn, a student at Layton High School, likely will be employed at a fast-food restaurant, working his way to self-sufficiency."He's the kind of employee everyone wants to get their hands on," said Sherilin Rowley, executive director of the Davis County chapter of the Association of Retarded Citizens.
And much of Ginn's success can be attributed to a hot-dog stand on the sidewalk outside the front doors of the Layton ShopKo.
Called "Dogs 'n Stuff," the stand - a portable food-service trailer - was opened last month by the association to help prepare mentally handicapped people for fast-food jobs.
Ginn is just half of the stand's success story so far. Randee Toole, also a Layton High student, works at the stand, too.
One of Toole's teachers said she probably would not succeed at the job because of the severity of her handicap.
When Toole failed to pass the test for her food handler's permit, it looked as though the teacher was right, Rowley said. But she studied hard, took the test again, not only passing it but answering 100 percent of the questions correctly.
Now, Toole is sharpening her skills by fixing hot dogs, nachos and soft drinks at Dogs 'n Stuff.
Aided by Donna Bryson, an employment training specialist, the two Layton High students will soon be joined by two mentally retarded adults who are enrolled in a post-high school program.
"Hopefully, they'll get some marketable skills and we can eventually place them into a fast-food job," said Rowley, whose association poured $20,000 into the project, which is expected soon to begin turning a profit, money that will be used to provide additional training and possibly purchase another hot-dog stand for another locale.
The major advantage of Dogs 'n Stuff is the opportunity for the handicapped to deal with the public in a low-pressure, supervised setting.
"They have an institutionalized fear of dealing with the public," said Susan Carver, a special-education teacher at Layton High. "This really increases their self-confidence in approaching people and enlarging their circle of acquaintances."
Carver said Ginn and Toole look forward to going to work and are motivated by the job to study harder in the classroom.
Because the handicapped students only work part time, the stand is operated by two full-time employees, Troy Bishop and Michelle Gilmore, who keep it open from 9:30 a.m. to the evening hours for continuity in the business.
Rowley said the public has been extremely supportive of the stand and not just because of its mission. "We're serving excellent food, too."