If you’ve stopped into the Newton Walgreens recently to pick up a prescription or grab a quick snack, you may have noticed a new friendly face behind the counter — that of Jason Mills.
Mills, who has worked with Progress Industries’ Supported Employment Program since 1994, had planned to return to the Iowa Speedway for another summer of seasonal work when Walgreens offered him employment.
“I was actually looking for a job and it worked out that Walgreens called at the last minute before I was going back to the Speedway,” Mills said.
Mills had been working with Employment Consultant Debbie Mettler at Progress Industries when the opportunity with Walgreens became a reality.
“Jason and I applied online for the job, and then we came down here and talked. It just happened to work out that he got a call for an interview and got the job — it was great,” Mettler said.
Mills has been a cashier and stocker with Walgreens since May, an experience he says has been positive thus far.
“Everyone was so nice, so that’s been a real bonus,” Mills said. “I really like working here.”
Mills is one of three people employed with Walgreens through P.I. in the past three months, something which Mettler attributes to the store’s manager, Jay Porter.
“[Jay] has opened a lot of doors for us here,” Mettler said. “In the past three months, he’s employed three of our people and he always listens to our suggestions about our people. He’s very willing to work with us and give our individuals a shot. He has a very positive attitude.”
Porter sees his work with P.I. as a two-way street, benefitting not only the employees, but his Walgreens store as well.
“The folks we get from [P.I.] are a lot more engaged and thankful, and they appreciate their jobs more than some other people might,” Porter said. “They take more pride in them than other people, and I see that they, over time, really kind of come out of their shells and transform their self-worth.”
“That’s another one of the situations where they’re not just here for the paycheck, they’re here to do the work,” Mettler added.
For Mills, transitioning into the job built upon the confidence he already had in his abilities.
“My confidence was there, but I noticed a big change after I started,” he said. “I was nervous at first with all the cashiering I was doing, but I kind of got to the point where I’m used to it now and I understand everything a lot better.”
The key to P.I.’s success with Walgreens, according to Mettler, is the patience and understanding exhibited by management within the store.
“One thing we’ve noticed with Walgreens is the patience they have with our people — they give them the chance to learn the job,” she said.
“They definitely didn’t just throw me into the job,” Mills added. “They made sure that I understood the job completely before they put me up there by myself.”
Mettler credits Porter’s management style as one of the biggest factors contributing to the success of the people she coaches toward employment.
“This is a very fast paced store, there is something going on all the time — they’re taking down displays, putting displays up, switching aisles around and Jay is so willing to take two minutes to answer questions to help out whenever he can,” Mettler said.
“This builds their self-confidence and makes them feel like they’re contributing, and I expect the same things out of them as I do anybody else. Their success is my success, ultimately,” Porter said.
Nicole Wiegand can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.