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GREG DERR/The Patriot Ledger
Leo Vercollone of Duxbury-based VERC Enterprises has made it a company goal to provide jobs to hard-to-place individuals. The photo was taken on Tuesday, Jan. 7. 2014.

For Leo Vercollone, president of VERC Enterprises, business goals always come back to serving the communities where he works. VERC Enterprises, his 26-site gas station, convenience store and car wash chain, spans Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and has seven locations on the South Shore.

Fifteen years ago, Vercollone test-ran a program that provided work to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

After finding that these employees contributed positively to VERC’s workplace culture, Vercollone was inspired to continue providing employment to other hard-to-place individuals.

Today, 21 percent of his 250 employees are individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the company hopes to eventually have 5 percent of its jobs filled by non-violent ex-offenders.

These job placements have been made possible through partnerships with Best Buddies, Minuteman Arc, Eastern Middlesex Arc, Road to Responsibility, Vinfen, the May Institute, Brockton Area Multiservices Inc. and the Charles River Center.

How did you get interested in providing jobs for the disabled?

We had a friend who worked at the Cardinal Cushing School in Hanover and they had an individual there who they wanted to get a job. We started with that, and it worked well, and we were asked if we would consider doing it at another location.

Our store managers and frontline people worked really well with these individuals because, after time, managers see that these individuals can do a good job, and that they’re a part of the fabric of the culture of the store.

Do you provide non-discrimination training when you hire a new manager?

You don’t become a store manager in our company unless you start out as a frontline associate or assistant manager, so they understand the culture right off the bat, and they understand who we work with.

Now we have another program where we are bringing in re-entry individuals. For that one we’ve allowed our managers to decide whether they want to participate, because that’s more of a challenge.

How did you decide to incorporate a re-entry program?

I’m a Catholic, and my church, Holy Family in Duxbury, has a ministry where they go to the Plymouth (County) House of Correction.

We would go down and be there for an hour and a half, and there would be prisoners who want to come and join with us to talk about scripture.

With that, I got more exposed to it, and I understand the challenges they had, the personal problems they had, and saw that we could be a resource to that.

What are the biggest challenges these employees face in the job market?