Viewers respond, hire previously laid off man with Down Syndrome - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Viewers respond, hire previously laid off man with Down Syndrome

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JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) - Just weeks after we brought you the story of a handful of people with disabilities who were caught in the middle of a contract dispute between the VA and Dawn of Hope, and abruptly lost their jobs as a result, one of them has a new job thanks to our viewers.

52-year-old Allan Cole, who has Down Syndrome, started his new job this week.

When a door closed for Cole last month he and his family didn't know if and when a new one would open. Then the owners of Which Wich heard the story of the 52 year-old with Down Syndrome.

Cole and five others abruptly lost their part-time jobs at the Mountain Home VA cafeteria several weeks ago after a contract dispute between the VA and Dawn of Hope.

Today Cole has a new job.

"The owners of the store saw the news, the VA story, and they felt they wanted to help in some way that they could," Which Wich Manager Will Thacker said. "We met with him and his mother and really got to know him and to know what a big heart he has for serving people."

Cole, dressed in a matching Which Wich shirt and visor, started working at the sandwich shop Monday. He'll work there Monday through Friday from 1-6 pm everyday.

"His whole lifestyle has been built around being independent," his mother Judith Cole said. "He's always wanted to have a place of his own instead of a group home. This will allow him to keep that lifestyle. It gives him the ability to pay rent and utilities and buy his own food."

Thacker says that was part of the restaurant's goal in hiring Cole.

"He's going to be working four to five hours a day, five days a week, so that should help pay for his bills and so he doesn't lose his house or anything like that," Thacker said. "We'll have him stamping, anything that he feels comfortable with, that his skill level is okay with, we're just going to run with that."

Although Cole has the intellect of a fourth grader, he was the ability of a high school student and the heart of a saint. His job duties will be simple and repetitive so he can excel.

"Job is easy," Allan said. "It's something I think I can handle. It's a great job. I can do the job perfectly."

Cole's mom couldn't be prouder of her son or more grateful for Which Wich's kindness.

"I just was flabbergasted, absolutely flabbergasted," Cole said. "This is a unique atmosphere in this particular business and I think that that stems from the owners of this business and they are just remarkable."

The mother knows Allan is lucky. His former co-workers, according to the Dawn of Hope, remain in either temporary jobs or layoff status.

"He misses his friends, because that's where they interacted was at work, because none of them have transportation," Cole said. "I hope that the community will reach out to the others who don't have that kind of employment. Surely to goodness we can absorb these people into our workforce."

While those people wait for a helping hand, Allan isn't going to waste his opportunity. He's already starting to make new friends. You can bet he'll work hard and keep smiling too. Lucky for Which Wich customers, his smile is contagious.

"We're excited to have him," Thacker said. "He's going to bring joy to all of us, everyday. We just want to see him grow and help him out any way we can and he's going to help us. The whole staff is excited."

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