Not giving up, 20-year participant makes jump to job market

Ed Hubley, foreground, stocks shelves at the Dollar Tree store in Cottage Grove and is appreciated by Store Manager Tracy Arett, left, and ProAct Designated Coordinator Charlotte Eastin.

Using a wheelchair as backup and coordinating limited use of his hands, Hubley gets staging help with boxes from a direct support professional (DSP) at Dollar Tree in Cottage Grove. He stocks here two days a week and works at ProAct packing cereal bars for the other three.

Moving in and out of a wheelchair, Hubley crouches to place items low and extends upward to cover the top shelves.

It took more than six interviews, a determined ProAct job developer and a job tryout at a sister store in Hastings before this opportunity came to bear.

“He works so hard, and everybody see it,” said Hubley’s designated coordinator at ProAct, Charlotte Eastin. “He’s the one who reminded us, ‘Don’t give up on me.”

After getting hired, Hubley needed some help with opening, staging and breaking down shipping boxes. No one else was available, so his 80-year-old mother did the work in the earlier months.

“They were a great team, too,” said Store Manager Tracy Arett. “He’s always smiling and raring to work when he comes in.”

Flipping Cracker Jack boxes for a display and recalling childhood experiences with the product, Hubley said he likes the retail store’s quiet. “I liked the prizes and tattoos, but not anymore.”

His DSP allows Hubley to be as independent as possible, showing respect by giving him space and not “hovering.” When they cross paths, there’s friendly banter and coordination.

A regular customer takes notice. “When he’s working, he’s one of the hardest workers you’ve ever seen,” said Ernie Ginn. “He’s a guy who is trying to make something of his life. That’s nice.”

Eastin said it’s important for service providers to not presume certain things and make assumptions, but instead, to keep trying. “Everyone is pretty amazed that he got this job,” she said.

And, the extra wages are a welcomed reward. “He loves getting two paychecks,” said Eastin. “That’s big money.”