East Tennessee center trains people with disabilities in the workplace

James Gray has been the host at the Duck Donuts in Knoxville for several months now.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – It can be a struggle for people with intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities. One organization hopes to improve their chances. The Emory Valley Center provides skills so people can get employment.

An opportunity at a popular doughnut shop turned into a dream job for one man. Filling a box of delicious goods is the reason why so many people flock to Duck Donuts, but they also make stop by to see a familiar face.

“Hi, I’m James. Welcome to Duck Donuts,” said James Gray.

Miranda Witt, the shift leader at Duck Donuts said, “James is very happy. He’s just always thrilled to be here. He comes in with a big smile on his face.”

Gray has been the host at the Duck Donuts in Knoxville for several months now.

“I make people smile when they come in and I enjoy doing that,” said Gray.

Training at the Emory Valley Center is what helped Gray land his perfect job. The non-profit provides employment services to people who have intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities.

“It’s great to have a job,” said Gray.

Cedric Jackson is the Workforce Development Coordinator at the Emory Valley Center. He adds, “It broadens his circle. He gets to meet new people, he gets to improve his work skills, which makes him more marketable for any future endeavors or promotions here at Duck Donuts.”

People with disabilities want to work, earn money and increase their independence.

Gray said, “It’s very good because people like me need to know that they can go and find a job, work and be out in public.”

There may have been some challenges along the way, but Gray’s determination is why he strives everyday to be the best worker he can be.

“It takes a while, a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it,” said Gray.

Gray greets customers, stocks the shelves, and tidies up around the shop. His fellow coworkers say having around has been beneficial to the whole team.

“It’s been I think a learning experience, not only for him but for me. Getting to work with a wide variety of people and learning everyone has needs they’re going to learn in a different way,” said Witt.

Gray’s favorite doughnut happens to be maple bacon at Duck Donuts.

The Emory Valley Center will be holding its annual spring fundraiser on April 28. The event will take place at New Hope Center, and features keynote speaker Dr. Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics Chairman. VIP reception for the event will be from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. followed directly by the speaking event.

All proceeds from the event will assist Emory Valley Center as it continues to support people with disabilities achieve life goals and dreams. VIP tickets include hors d’oeuvres, wine and beer, a photo with Dr. Shriver, and an autographed copy of his book. Event tickets include hors d’oeuvres, and drinks will be available for purchase.

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit http://www.emoryvalleycenter.org.

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