Ask him about his childhood or his time in school, and Eddie Pope is tight-lipped. He remembers very little of his childhood, and in his own guarded words, “School was school.” But ask him about Easterseals, and bursts of laughter punctuate his stories.
Eddie exemplifies the path to employment for many young people with disabilities. After graduating high school, he was attracted to the structure and training offered in Easter Seals’ packaging facility, and he enjoyed the variety of tasks and the people there. After three years, Eddie was ready for the next challenge. With his energetic personality and experience, he was offered a position in Easter Seals’ Work and Grow program, a blend of paid work and recreational activities in a community setting.
Eddie was assigned to the YMCA, where he performed facility maintenance and inventory. He worked there for five years and laughs as he declares, “I ruled that place. That place was my kingdom.”
With eight years experience in increasingly responsible positions, Eddie was ready to pursue community employment. He was hired as a Courtesy Clerk at a local Kroger in November of 2015, just before the Thanksgiving rush. “It was chaos,” he says, “but it’s really awesome.”
It’s been a great fit—the coworkers, the environment, and seeing room for advancement. When he began as a Courtesy Clerk, he already had his eye on becoming a Cashier. Sure enough, in late 2017 he achieved that goal! He was promoted to Cashier, and splits his shifts between Kroger and the in-store Starbucks.
“I felt great, I was so happy I got the position, I was so happy,” gleefully exclaimed Eddie.
As if all this wasn't enough, he is working on two novels and a book of poetry. “I love it,” he smiles. “I just love working.”