Port Angeles Safeway flourishes with special needs staff

KING 5's Eric Wilkinson reports.

You won't find many places where the people love their jobs more than this Port Angeles Safeway.
 
38-year-old Ryan Brooke has worked here for 14 years. He greets every task with a smile and often an exuberant hoot.
 
"I love the people. It's awesome, great and awesome!" he exclaims. "And I like to make the kids smile!"
 
But it isn't just Ryan. It's Juan, Violet, Jeremiah and nine other people with developmental disabilities, as well. That's a total of 13 people with disabilities working at one grocery store. It's nearly 10 percent of the store's entire personnel.
 
They're all happy, productive members of the workforce. As Jeremiah eloquently puts it, "We're actually shining our light toward other people, and I just want people to understand that because I'm different, it doesn't mean I'm not normal. Nobody's normal. We all have different challenges."
 
The Safeway, located on 3rd Street in Port Angeles, employs so many disabled workers that the store has been nominated for a Governor's Award... again. It was recently honored by Clallam County. Organizations that help find jobs for the disabled say the store has helped push the employment rate to over 50% for the disabled in Clallam County who choose to work.
 
Store director Mike Lagrange started the hiring 13 years ago when stores might have had one or two disabled employees.
He says he's in the business of selling groceries, but the bottom line is building a better community.
 
"They can go home with their heads held high and know they made a difference. They took care of their customers today."
 
For Ryan, Juan, Violet, Jeremiah and all the others, it's about shining their light.
 
"My last, final thing I always tell my customers is: Remember you're always special. You always have gifts and you're always welcome to come back anytime and ask for me."
 

 

© 2017 KING-TV


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