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Flowers: Dominick's closing to impact workers with disabilities

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 8:50 a.m. CDT
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Bruce Flowers, marketing coordinator for NEDSRA

Grocery baggers or customer service representatives, as they are titled in some grocery stores, are invisible workers doing a small convenience for you. They work diligently for about four hours a day, and some would like to work more. However, their hours are limited by the corporations who hire people with disabilities for part-time work only. It is a thankless, tedious job not many people are willing to do. But for some, this is their only job and income. The announced closing of all Illinois Dominick’s stores will likely have an impact on a few of them.

I know some of these baggers, Ted, Nicole, Bobbie, Amy, and Matt, because I have been their coach for the past couple of years at NEDSRA. NEDSRA is a special recreation association that provides programs for youths and adults with disabilities. NEDSRA organizes the regular season games of sports like basketball, volleyball and floor hockey. Special Olympics (SO) organizes the area and state tournaments where participants can win medals. Ted has won over 23 medals for his power-lifting events. Bobbie, Amy, Matt, and Nicole just won gold medals for winning the SO area tourney in volleyball. When they win a medal they can’t stop talking about it and usually will carry it with them wherever they go.

The sports programs are not free. Participants must pay to play. If there is a financial need, it is addressed on a case-by-case basis and scholarships are available. The bagger income they earn pays for these sports programs. With the loss of their bagging duties, many of them will not be able to afford the activities they love. Let’s hope the Dominick’s closings are limited in scope or that the new owner will keep all current employees.

So next time you’re in the checkout line, ask your customer service rep. if he or she plays any sports. If they do, ask to see their Special Olympics medal. Then see how their face lights up as they tell you about how they won the medal.

Bruce Flowers is the marketing coordinator for NEDSRA.

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