Near the back of a vast warehouse, Drew Jones is straightening boards among stacks of lumber that nearly reach the ceiling. He’s close to the end of his shift at Hyde Park Lumber, where he works part-time as a warehouse organizer.
“If I see a board hanging off the stack, I put it on top of the other boards to make it even,” he said, adding that it took time to learn how to maneuver the boards but now he does it with ease. Jones, 21, also straightens up around the warehouse by picking up loose straps and other wood debris.
“Drew does his job and a lot more. He keeps the warehouse clean, which helps out everyone,” said owner Mike Judy. “He’s a ray of sunshine around here and a pleasure to have around.”
It’s his first job, and one he got with help from Laura Grimes, the supported employment manager at LADD, Inc. Nathan Beck, employment navigation supervisor for Hamilton County DD Services, shared the job lead after learning Hyde Park Lumber was looking to fill a vacancy when another employee went to college.
“Drew was my first thought for this job – he doesn’t live far and could handle all the requirements,” Grimes said. “It’s not your typical placement, but they take care of him. It just happened and was very natural.”
At first Jones spent time learning how to do his work as the various machines moved around the warehouse. He was also shy, but now spending time with his co-workers is his favorite part of the job. “They’re fun and funny,” he said, noting that they look out for him and, “I look out for them.”
Back in the break room, Jones, who has Down syndrome, shares high-fives and jokes with his co-workers as they pass through, including Pat Mullee, who runs the warehouse.
“Drew is awesome and respectful, and has a good rapport with the guys,” Mullee said. “You don’t have to constantly watch him – he knows what to do and does it. He’s always on time, takes care of his dedicated areas, and lets me know if something needs attention.”
Having this job makes him feel more independent, Jones said. He encouraged other people with developmental disabilities who want to work in the community to get out of their comfort zone, put in hard work and find something they enjoy.