You know that moment when you wake up in the morning and you never know what the day’s going to bring? Brian Jensen, one of the eight delivery employees with White Way Cleaners, does. Brian, who was born with Down Syndrome (and what seems like an eternally positive attitude), loves his job at White Way Cleaners. He considers himself the professional in his line of work, and he’s right.
Today Brian is dressed in nice black pants, polished black shoes and a burgundy White Way jacket embroidered with his name. He is proud to work for White Way, and believes he’s one of the luckiest men alive to be able to deliver his customers’ garments to them.
On the day I meet him, he seems more interested in interviewing me, than answering the questions I have for him. He’s excited to meet another new person, “I love meeting new people! I know all the firemen and policemen.” One of the first questions he asks me is, “Do you know any fireman?” He mentions he’s proud of them, and proud to know them. When I ask him what his favorite part about his job is, he mentions he’s proud of his co-workers, and his boss, Amy. Amy is one of the delivery drivers for White Way Cleaners, but actually works in an affiliate program through Merrick, Inc.
Merrick offers mentally handicapped individuals opportunities for community inclusion and participation, social relationships, skill building, and personal futures. Each individual is assessed based on their unique passions, values, gifts, interests, skills and preferences so they are placed within a job that aligns with their needs. At White Way | St Croix Cleaners, about 8 individuals from Merrick help with the delivery services, including Brian.
Twelve years ago, White Way | St Croix Cleaners began talks to work with Merrick Inc. to offer mentally disabled employees a chance to be a part of the community through White Way’s delivery routes. White Way employees check the clothes in, clean, press and package, and then it is up to the Merrick team to deliver the garments back to the customers.
During the delivery routes, Brian and his co-workers have their own customers to drop off and pick up garments from.
“Each person has their own individual delivery stops and customers.” Amy Jacobsen, one of the managers and home delivery drivers for White Way and Merrick, explains. In the morning, four days a week, the crew packs up finished garments at White Way’s main plant on West 7th Street in St Paul. They will then deliver the garments to apartments, condos, office buildings and residential areas, while picking up new bags to be checked in and cleaned for the next available delivery date.
Brian has been considered an important part of the St Paul community for years. He is an honorary firefighter, and has attended several banquets for them. He was even given the opportunity to speak at one of their special events. To this day, it seems that every fireman and policeman in the city of St Paul knows who he is.
John Miller is the Store Lead at White Way’s location on West 7th St in St Paul and mentions how proud he is of Brian, “I’m always impressed with how hard he works. I never have to ask for help with bringing clothes out to a customer, I just turn around and hear Brian shout, ‘I’ll get it John!’ Before you know it, you have too much help!”
When Brian isn’t working, he is an avid to movie watcher. He enjoys hanging out on the weekends with his girlfriend and listen to 80’s music as well. He tells me he’d love to be a comedian, and even tells me a few jokes. “What do you call Batman and Robin when they get run over by a steam roller?” “Flatman and Ribbon!”
Brian is proud of the work he does for his regular customers at White Way Cleaners, whom he has known since he started working on the delivery truck 12 years ago. There is nothing else he’d rather be doing, and not even any tasks he wishes he didn’t have to do. “I like it here,” he says.
“A lot of customers have cards, treats and even Christmas presents for Brian and the others,” Amy says. The relationship between White Way/St Croix Cleaners and Merrick has been extremely beneficial for everyone involved, and is expected to continue for years to come. “It gets [these individuals] out into the community. They’re not just people with disabilities anymore.”
Be sure to stay tuned for the second part of our Merrick Employee Spotlight, when we’ll feature Brian’s fellow employee Matt!