By Tim Brown
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses needed to keep the workplace safe for both customers and employees. One of those frontline workers was Devontaye Hicks, who works at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Quincy, Florida. Hicks’ duties included sanitizing the entire store during the pandemic, and he continues to help keep it clean today.
“What I like best is sanitizing the doors in the store,” Hicks said. “I also block items, which means I them forward and straighten them on the shelves.”
Hicks also places returned products back on store shelves and takes empty cardboard boxes out to be recycled. He was initially hired under an internship program funded by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ Employment Enhancement Program. After successful completion of the internship, Hicks was permanently hired and now works two days a week.
Hicks has a developmental disability. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is highlighting the workplace achievements of people with disabilities and the employers that hire them.
Piggly Wiggly Manager Mike Ready says the store takes pride in serving the community and hires employees of all abilities. “Sometimes people just need a chance and people want to work,” Ready said. “Devontaye gets along well with coworkers and is very friendly and helpful to customers. He’s a good employee, successful at his job, and is a positive young man.”
“Devontaye is a hard worker and likes to keep busy,” said Janie Strzalka, Hicks’ job coach. “He shows up on time and if he is going to be out, Devontaye lets his supervisor know ahead of time.”
Hicks lives with his grandparents and uses Big Bend Transit to get to work. At home, he helps by cleaning the house, taking out the trash, and cooking meals.
Hicks is also continuing his education through Tallahassee Community College’s Eagle Connections. The program provides a course of study to students with disabilities that includes academic enrichment, socialization, and career development designed to promote employment and independence.
“I like getting out of the house and meeting people,” Hicks said. “I like contributing to the community.”
In his spare time, Hicks enjoys four wheeling, participating in the Special Olympics, listening to music, and camping with his family.
APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 55,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).