A Change for Billy

Adults with Down Syndrome, Advocate, Community Participation, Employment, Friends, Independent Living 5 Comments »
Photo of Billy Schulz standing in front of Food City in Colonial Heights

Billy Schulz Welcomes You to Food City, Colonial Heights!

Billy has worked at Food City for more than nine years. There are two stores, one on Eastman Road down town and one in Colonial Heights, where we live. Billy started at the Eastman Road store because that’s where he was placed and trained by Good Will. A few years ago, when they built a new store on Eastman Road, he worked at Colonial Heights during the building process. At that time I thought he might stay at Colonial Heights, but no, he wanted to be at the new store! And of course he wanted to work with his dear friend Jonathan.

This summer two things changed. The Colonial Heights store was enlarged and improved and, most meaningful, Jonathan moved away. Billy grieved when Jonathan left and felt a tremendous loss. He began to consider moving to the Colonial Heights store.

We talked with the  manager at Eastman Road, Ed Moore. If you have seen the interview with Ed on our website you know what a remarkable person he is. He agreed to allow Billy to relocate and we talked with the manager at Colonial Heights, who said he would have a place for Billy.

A very positive factor was the presence of Sue, an assistant manager at Colonial Heights, who had worked previously with Billy at Eastman Road, and had wanted Billy to join her. One day Billy said, “Mom, I ready to move to Colonial Heights.” I was delighted at the prospects of having him closer to home, about a five minute drive away, and just hoped he would not be lonely without the friends he had worked with for so long.

Sue and Billy Get Ready for the Day

One day last week, as I drove by to pick Billy up from his new store, one of the young women, a cashier, ran out of the store, calling “Hey, Billy, you forgot to hug me!”

Once again we have a happy man.

FULL PARTICIPATION – Disability Awareness Month

Advocate, Community Participation, Disability, Employment, Parents, People with Disabilities 1 Comment »

The designated month to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness is over today. The concept is a growing one and will continue to attract attention from employers, employees, parents, advocates and the community.

As Ed Moore stated, the community is vital to the acceptance of people with disabilities in the work place. In watching Billy at work for the past eight years, I have seen him and other employees with disabilities interact with the customers who frequent Food City. Since Billy’s disability is quite visible, people sometimes look at him with curiosity or even turn away. That has changed. Now you can hear “Hi, Billy!” as they enter the store, and frequently engage him in conversation. When he and I go to the mall and other places, we continue to hear such greetings addressed to him (I know fewer people than he does). This community acceptance is critical to the achievement of full participation.

Another vital component is the responsibility of parents and other advocates. If we want people with disabilities to be a part of the community, it is important that we help them acquire the skills necessary to do the job required. They have to be dependable, courteous, and willing to work hard. They also have to learn that all people will not treat them kindly; this happens to everyone. Several times customers have been rude to Billy. Sometimes he is deeply hurt and has been told by his supervisor to go outside for a while. I am convinced that as expectations and opportunities continue to develop, full participation will occur.

All of us are part of the process and the outcome.

OPPORTUNITY: Disability Employment Awareness

Advocate, Community Participation, Disability, Employment, People with Disabilities 1 Comment »

When we moved to Kingsport in 2001, an important task was finding a job for Billy. He had worked in a library for 21 years, valued and respected by his co-workers. Our first step was to visit the library in Kingsport, learning that his job was performed by volunteers. The next step was to Vocational Rehabilitation, then to Goodwill Industries, an agency that placed Billy in Food City. Food City is one of a large chain of grocery stores in Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Then we met Ed Moore, the manager of the largest Food City store in Kingsport. Ed gives people with disabilities the OPPORTUNITY to learn, to work, and to be respected. He does not patronize his employees who have disabilities – he requires from them the same skills and behavior that he demands from all of his employees.

After his training, Billy began working at Food City for three days a week. Early on in this position, he got fired for saying a bad word to a customer – an act totally out of character for Billy. Our investigation showed that he was in a situation similar to the episode of Lucy in the candy factory: he got extremely frustrated when he couldn’t keep up with the cashier. He got fired.

We met with Ed, who listened to the story and said one thing to Billy that made all the difference: “Billy, you can ask for help.”

Billy has been working at Food City for eight years. He knows that Ed expects him to be courteous to the customers and to work hard while he is there. He has made friends with the employees and has quite a following of customers. He says, “I love my store.”

There are a number of employees with disabilities at Food City. Some of the disabilities are obvious, some are not visible. You can see Ed walking about the store, greeting the customers, in turn praising and reprimanding the employees, and treating everyone with fairness and respect.

Ed Moore believes that having employees with disabilities is good for the community. He feels that his customers, as well as all his employees, have learned that people with disabilities can succeed if given an opportunity.

Ed Moore and Billy Schulz at Food City
Kingsport, TN

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