David Storey has a story, and it’s two decades in the making.
If you ask David what he likes about working at the Lowe’s grocery store in Belen, he’ll tell you “mostly everything.” For 20 years through Adelante’s EmployAbility program, David has been a constant in this neighborhood supermarket, even as the store’s ownership and name have changed. “He loves his job. He lives for the job,” says Sylvia, David’s mom.
That history means a lot to David, and he’s personally invested in the well-being of the store. “He’s very watchful, and very protective, also,” says Linda, the Assistant Manager. She says his instinct is to protect the store, and that she has to prevent him from chasing down the occasional shoplifter.
David cares about the customers, too, and the feelings are mutual. “Everybody knows him,” Linda says. “He’s really good with everybody,” says Charlotte, a frequent and longtime shopper whose rapport with David is obvious. “He’s one of the guys—he’s just another person who works here. He’s not treated any differently or anything, you know? I razz him just the same as I do Steve in produce.”
Steve in produce is one of several employees who is happy to tell you good things about David. “I really like working with him a lot,” he says, ”‘cause there’s times where I’m having a stressful morning or something…and [he] cheers me up, gets me going again.” Adelicia, a cashier, adds, “He’s a good person, really, all the way through. I love working with him – always have.”
David worked at the grocery store during high school for about an hour and a half a week, Sylvia says, adding that getting a job coach through Adelante is what helped him grow his hours and responsibilities. “I realize the importance of job coaching. That has helped him when bosses change and he has to change. We call that ‘the C-word.’”
Erma, David’s job coach, has been with him for six years, and he knows she’s there to guide him as well as advocate for him. “He trusts me, and I trust him, and he can come and talk to me if he has any problems,” she says. In addition to helping David adapt to changes in management or policy, Erma acts as a liaison between him and his co-workers or bosses when he’s having trouble communicating his needs and wants. “Erma’s been a really good advocate,” Sylvia says.
During high school, David was bagging groceries and helping customers carry their purchases out to their cars, but Adelante’s job coaching has helped him expand his responsibilities over the last 20 years. Today, David’s job includes collecting shopping carts, running the commercial vacuum/sweeper, and cleaning the break area and restrooms. Over time, David has also gained more independence on the job. While some workers who take part in Adelante’s EmployAbility supported employment program require support throughout their entire shift, David only requires three 15-minute visits during his 20-hour week.
Adelante’s EmployAbility program benefits people with disabilities and their co-workers, and it’s good for business, too. Sylvia’s neighbors say “The reason we shop at Lowe’s is because they hire a person with a disability. We know David, and we know he does a good job, and that’s why we shop there.”
As much as David enjoys his job, he has a host of extracurricular activities including bowling (for which he has numerous Special Olympics medals spanning decades), playing keyboard and cymbals in Special Orchestra, dining out, and buying shirts and memorabilia of his favorite sports teams.
Sports may be David’s number one obsession outside of work. “You can ask him anything about sports,” Linda says. “You can ask him pro or college teams. He knows everything. I always think he’s smarter than all of us put together.” Sylvia says David spends a lot of time on the internet researching teams, players, and coaches, which she feels strengthens his writing and organizational skills. David enjoys creating detailed game schedules to give to friends and co-workers to help them keep up with their favorite teams.
Adelante has been working on reducing the unemployment rates for people with disabilities for nearly 40 years, yet more than 70% of people with disabilities are not participating in the workforce in our country. We presume that people want to work, and Adelante believes there should be a full range of options available to ensure that everyone has opportunities to enter the workforce in the manner they choose.
If you’d like to hire a person with a disability, or would like Adelante’s support in finding a job in the community, please contact Melinda Garcia at MGarcia@GoAdelante.org or (505) 341-7124.
If you’d like a rewarding role supporting jobs for people with disabilities like one of Adelante’s job coaches or working at one of our Enterprise business locations, click here to view Adelante’s job openings. The link to apply is at the bottom right of every job description.