Each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
Workers just like Tom Allen. Tom has been proudly employed at the Port Clinton Kroger store for 23 years. Tom’s Supervisor commented that Tom always shows up on time and is prepared for his day. Tom even assists his fellow co-workers in planning for their day, by posting a copy of the day’s weather onto the break room bulletin board before he starts every shift.
With the assistance of Ottawa County Board of DD (OCBDD) and Erie County’s Low Incidence Program, Tom started working for Kroger in 1989 while still attending high school. He has been a dedicated employee ever since. Tom’s supervisor shared that she values Tom for his abilities like the way he models a strong work ethic to his peers as well as his ability to provide excellent customer service. Ask Tom about his favorite part about working at Kroger and he will quickly tell you, “the money!”, and that he likes getting paid because it helps him live the life he chooses. Tom also greatly enjoys being able to talk to the customers who chat him up while he’s bagging their groceries or outside wrangling the carts.
Being able to work in the community, especially in a job that puts him in contact with many customers and fellow employees, has also helped Tom learn the fine art of socialization. Through his job Tom has also learned how to establish and maintain friendships and positive relationships with his supervisors. He says he knows it’s important to listen to his supervisor and to bring any problems he might encounter to her. Skills obtained because of his job include many that he uses in his daily life, such as patience, organization, responsibility, money management and independence.
Tom coordinates his own transportation with OCTA, calling them every week to tell them when he needs rides. With a busy life outside of work that includes going places and doing things with family, Special Olympics softball, track, bowling and basketball, and involvement in self-advocacy programs, Tom has gotten good at scheduling, but he always makes work his number one priority. Fortunately for Tom, Kroger is willing to adjust Tom’s schedule when they can to allow him opportunities to participate in those other activities.
Bagger, cart wrangler, unofficial store weather man, Tom will tell you the most important part of his job is, “I gotta smile.” And that’s something he doesn’t have to work at. If you would like to learn more about NDEAM go to www.dol.gov.odep/topics/ndeam.