Each October, the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) campaign aims to raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
Workers like Tom Allen. Tom has been proudly employed at the Port Clinton Kroger store for 23 years. According to his supervisor, Tom always shows up on time and is prepared for his day. He 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.
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. He added that he 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 helped Tom learn the art of socialization while being able to focus on his job at the same time. Through his job, Tom has also learned how to establish and maintain friendships and positive relationships with his supervisors.
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, he says.
He’s a bagger, cart wrangler and unofficial store weather man, but Tom will tell you the most important part of his job is, “I gotta smile.”
To learn more about NDEAM, visit www.dol.gov.odep/topics/ndeam.