Kroger worker breaks down barriers for those with Down Syndrome
It's an untapped labor force more employers are discovering every day. People with disabilities are breaking down barriers on the job.
Should you ever find yourself in the checkout line at the Kroger on Rangeline Road in Carmel, if you don't know the name of one man there bagging groceries, you will when you're done.
"My names Justin. Nice to meet you," says Justin Graves to each customer that comes through his line.
The 38-year-old has been working here as a grocery bagger for eight years now and to the regulars, Justin's become something of a minor celebrity.
"Would you like to sign my autograph?" Justin asks one woman.
"I do want your autograph," she tells him, laughing.
"People come in here to see Justin go through the line that he's bagging at so he can bag their groceries," explains Justin's supervisor, Dee Scott.
It might be because Justin's figured out the secret to customer service.
"I've never met a stranger before," says Justin.
"He makes them feel special and that's what people want to feel - special," says Scott.
How could you help not feeling special when you've got someone saying this to you.
"That's my favorite customer," says Justin, pointing to one woman coming through his line.
"I bet you say that to everyone," she says laughing.
"I do," Justin replies, laughing back. "They always love me here."
"I know. Everybody loves you," the customer tells him.
Justin's not just speaking out of turn. He's got the customer service awards to prove it.
"I got 30," he says.
He's wearing every single one of them.
"I've got two," says Scott, Justin's boss. "He's our star, I guess you could say."
"I'm a people person," Justin explains.
More than that, though, with each bag of groceries Justin bags, he's breaking down barriers for people with Down Syndrome.
"I love my job. I really do," says Justin.
"To me, he's just a normal guy that comes to work," adds Scott.
"I got the right job for me," says Justin. "I'm happy here. I'm proud of myself here."
Justin's also proud of the paycheck he earns.
"I feel good with money," explains Justin.
More than the money, though, Justin's job gives him something money can't buy - a purpose.
"I love this job," says Justin.
"It's another day in paradise," he adds, gesturing to everyone around him.
Not to mention, something everyone deserves, no matter who they are - respect.
"I love it, because they're proud of me," says Justin. "I needed that."
The non-profit group Noble of Indiana placed Justin in his job at Kroger and they've done the same thing for thousands of people with disabilities right here in central Indiana.