Another story of a successful employee. Oh yeah. He rocks his extra chromosome.
Disabled worker makes an impact at his job
Henry James Barbecue employee Ronnie Miller stands at the dish-washing station in the restaurant. Miller has Down syndrome but that does not stop him from performing his various duties at Henry James.
Donnie Roberts/The Dispatch
BY REBEKAH CANSLER MCGEE The Dispatch
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 5:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 5:18 p.m.
That smile is contagious.
Every Wednesday afternoon, like clockwork, Ronnie Miller, 42, arrives at Henry James on Talbert Boulevard. That might not be noteworthy except for the fact Miller has Down syndrome.
No one can quite pinpoint when he began employment with the restaurant, but everyone knows it has been more than five years. His boss and coworkers know the family-style restaurant wouldn't be the same without Miller and his infectious attitude.
Miller comes to the restaurant, always wearing his Henry James shirt, puts on his apron and goes to work doing whatever is needed.
“I like it here. I like working the dishwasher and cleaning tables,” Miller said.
His duties range from washing dishes and busing tables to sweeping the floor and helping the wait staff.
“He'll do anything we ask him to do. Sometimes he cleans my tables for me and brings me my tips,” said Andrea Smith, a waitress. “He's really friendly and speaks to everyone. I like working with Ronnie.”
Tim Fritts, owner of Henry James, said he hired Ronnie after an individual approached him from The Workshop of Davidson County, an organization that trains the mentally and physically disabled citizens. Fritts said while over the years being a part of Miller's employment has been a bright spot for him, it is more about how the job makes Miller feel.
“This job is really good for him. It gives him a sense of belonging and accomplishment. He is just a great guy, and everyone just kind of falls in love with him,” Fritts said.
Miller works through The Workshop of Davidson County during the week, leaving early on Wednesdays to go to Henry James. Loretta Crockett, direct support professional for the Arc of Davidson County, said Miller is one of six individuals she oversees. On the morning Miller is scheduled to work at the restaurant, he puts on two shirts: his Henry James T-shirt and then another shirt over top, to keep the first one clean for his job.
“He doesn't even have to be going to work. We can pass Henry James in the bus and Ronnie will yell out ‘Henry James, I love you!'” Crockett said.
Fritts said when he hired Miller, it wasn't about hiring an employee; it was about helping him.
“It doesn't cost a lot of money for me to have him working one day a week. There are some limitations on what he can do, but he knows his job and comes in here and does it. I would love to see more business owners hiring (disabled employees),” Fritts said.
October has been proclaimed National Disability Employment Awareness month by President Barack Obama. “Because America's workforce should reflect the diversity of its people — including people with disabilities — my Administration remains committed to helping our businesses, schools, and communities support our entire workforce,” stated the proclamation from the president's office. “This month, let us rededicate ourselves to bringing down barriers and raising up aspirations for all our people, regardless of disability, so we may share in a brighter future together.”
Miller will keep coming to Henry James for his job; that much is certain. The mere thought of not being at the restaurant on Wednesday afternoon made Miller frown.
“The employees and the customers love him. I think his attitude and the cheerfulness he always has is contagious,” Fritts said. “He seems to really look forward to being here.”
Between all of the duties with his job, Miller loves his coworkers as much as they adore him, and one of the best parts about his job is “making other people smile,” he said.