October 2, 2008
Businesses recognized for hiring disabled
Cortland Press, Tops given 2008 National Disability Employment Awareness Month award
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Tops employee Chris Magee pushes carts back inside the store during his shift Wednesday afternoon. Magee, who has a learning disability, has worked at the supermarket the last 10 years
When Chris Magee left his job at the J.M. Murray Center 10 years ago to work at a Cortlandville supermarket, some people told him he would not be able to handle his new job.
“They were like, ‘You’ll be back in a year,’” Magee said.
People said this because Magee has a learning disability.
Since then, Magee, 29, from Cortland, has impressed his managers at Tops supermarket at 3932 State Route 281 by going out of his way to help customers and covering extra shifts when he is not scheduled.
“He’s very friendly, he’s very talkative with the customers … I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a smile,” Manager Tim Delgado said Wednesday.
A couple of weeks ago, Magee nominated Tops for an award to recognize businesses that employ people with disabilities.
At a ceremony Wednesday at the Ramada Cortland, Tops received the 2008 National Disability Employment Awareness Month Large Business Recognition Award. The award is given by a group of seven local and state and organizations.
Cortland Press and Carbon Copies store at 87 Main St. in Cortland received the Small Business Recognition Award. It was nominated by Loree Bishop, a case worker with the J.M. Murray Center.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
While in high school, Magee had a job stripping the cushions from old furniture inside the J.M. Murray Center. He also worked as a cashier at a café there.
“It was OK, but I really wanted to get outside of the Murray Center,” Magee said.
The J.M. Murray Center is a nonprofit organization that provides vocational, habilitation and other services to people with disabilities. It is located on 823 Route 13 in Cortland.
The organization creates jobs for people with disabilities and helps them to attain jobs at local businesses.
Magee said the people who doubted his ability to work at the supermarket were other clients with disabilities who worked at the center or used its services.
An employment specialist from the Murray Center helped him to find a job as a cart associate at Tops.
“I haven’t looked back since,” Magee said.
At Tops, Magee pushes carts, takes out the trash and takes groceries to customers’ cars.
When Magee decided to leave his job at the J.M. Murray Center, Tops was the first store to which he applied.
“This might sound crazy but this was a childhood dream to work here,” Magee said. “I don’t know why but it just always seemed like it would be interesting to work for Tops.”
Magee said his disability has never interfered with his job.
“I don’t consider it a learning disability,” he said. “I consider myself just as normal as anyone else, honestly.”
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