Tyrone has worked as SmART! Supplies since its opening in 2014. He’s a thirty something guy, who happens to have an intellectual disability. He’s vivacious, full of energy, and is quick to call you “friend.” Tyrone doesn’t just walk into a room, he bounds into it.
“He’s the first to say ‘Hello, good morning,’” shared Kyle Graden, Outreach and Marketing Manager of SmART!. “He boosts morale and sets the tone in the store. It’s easy to care about Tyrone.”
Since starting at SmART! in 2014, Tyrone has grown into his position. His previous experience consisted of wiping down tables in dining facilities, which was a great first start, but those roles lacked the opportunity for growth that SmART! has provided. At SmART!, he has many different responsibilities and is always improving. He collects boxes of donations from customers as they come in the door, greeting them happily and getting them a tax form if need be. He sorts donations in the back and stocks shelves. He helps with projects like making gift tags out of old greeting cards, which are sold at the store. And most remembered by visitors is his exceptional customer service.
“Tyrone is always eager to show people around and give them tours, but not in a ‘know-it-all’ kind of way. He’s excited and proud that he can do it,” shared Laurel Sprague, Retail Manager of SmART!. “He’s so much more able to speak with strangers now; he’s more prepared for interviews. It’s my hope that one day he’ll be able to use what he’s learned here in his life regardless of where he is.”
It’s important to stay flexible when working with someone with an intellectual disability. Just like all of us, Tyrone has good days and bad days. If Tyrone is super-focused on a certain task or what’s going on in the moment, staff flex to his needs and align tasks to better fit where he’s at.
Kim Poole is a Job Coach and supports employees at SmART! to be successful in their roles. “Tyrone is one of those people that is an all-around good person. He can adapt so well to anything thrown his way. He brings smiles and happiness to the team dynamic. He’s also very witty and loves to joke.” She shared that one of his favorite jokes is, ‘What’s the number for 911? I don’t know.’
Tyrone shared that he likes his coworkers, and that he does a good job. He also shared that he likes “talking to people and greeting customers.”
Tyrone’s success is a team effort. Staff has helped him improve his professionalism like not interrupting conversations or shouting across the room. There are differences between working and being at home, and he’s just about mastered them over the last 5 years.
If you happen to stop into SmART! Supplies to peruse arts and crafts materials for sale, or to drop off a donation, look for the guy with a bounce in his step. If he takes your donation before you hardly get in the door, or if he’s quick to direct you to what you’re looking for, it’s probably Tyrone. And if he calls you “friend,” it’s definitely him.
SmART! Supplies sells donated arts and crafts materials while supporting people with intellectual disabilities through employment and job training. As a social enterprise, store proceeds fund programs of non-profit organization Progress. For more information about SmART! Supplies, visit www.SmartSupplies.org
Lily Wojcik, PR/Events Manager