People with disabilities work as frontline heroes in Chattanooga

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May 13, 2020 |

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Grocery stores during COVID-19 mimic the Black Friday rush.

Cash registers dinging and baggers moving.

“I’m not that fast, I’m still kind of slow at it,” said Christopher Walker, a Food City employee.

But the hustle never steals Walker’s or Mark Johnson's smiles.

“I am special needs and I have a job. I make money and I love my job,” said Johnson.

Walker and Johnson both live with disabilities. In the current pandemic, they’re working harder than ever at Food City in Chattanooga. They both have kept coming to work, committed to clocking in.

“What’s your favorite part of your day here? Getting associate of the month,” said Johnson.

Johnson grins ear to ear showing off his employee of the month sign.

“I’m extremely proud. The staff have definitely been educating them on safety and been carrying through at Food City,” said Kimberly Wilson, Executive Director at Community Options in Chattanooga.

Community Options supports people with disabilities in the community. The organization connects their residents with jobs and provides some with a home for their physical and emotional needs.

Elizabeth Woods is an employment coach at Community Options. She helps Walker and Wilson on the job and ensures they’re following best hygiene practices at work by wearing a mask and gloves.

But one lesson they’ve nailed on their own is kindness.

“I think about the customers and what they need so when I come in, I know I’m helping them out on their hard days,” said Walker.

Smiling through the hard days as they work on the frontlines.

Community Options is looking for job openings for their residents so they can integrate in the community. If you believe your business could be a good fit, please call Kimberly Wilson at 423-892-0022.