As the last bag is placed in the customer’s shopping cart, Matthew Wheeler glances at the other open checkout lanes and heads over to talk to a manager.
“Everyone has a bagger,” he says, “should I go collect the carts?”
The manager gives him the go-ahead and Wheeler runs off to get his gear. He’s out in the parking lot within a minute. Bagging groceries, gathering carts and putting items back on the shelves is part of his typical shift at the Spring Grove Village Kroger, where he works an average of 20 hours per week.
And that brief exchange is also typical of Wheeler’s work ethic, said Katie Gnagey, assistant customer service manager. “Matthew is a great guy and a good worker. He’s always smiling and doing what he needs to be doing,” she said. “What I’ve seen from Matthew is great work – he’s fast and efficient.”
Wheeler started working at Kroger in March 2016, a job he found with help from Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and Goodwill. He has a job coach but is fairly independent at work.
“I can do my job on my own, but they help me anytime I want,” he said. “You have to be focused and on time, and you have to be a good employee.”
Vickie McAvoy, a cashier at the same Kroger, said she likes working with Wheeler and he quickly learned how to properly separate the groceries, such as not putting meat in the same bag as fresh produce.
“At first I wasn’t sure how well he’d do, but wow!” McAvoy said. “Now that he knows what to do, he’s really good.”
His family gives him a ride to work or he takes Metro Access to make sure he’s on time for his shift. Wheeler said he wasn’t nervous about getting a job in the community because working at Franks Adult Center, where he also completed a Cafeteria Prep Program, helped him build his skills.
“I like talking with customers and co-workers, and making some money,” he said. “It feels good to have a job. I’m proud of myself.”