Larry Summey has worked at Tacoma Boys for five years, spending his one-hour shift six days a week sweeping the parking lot, washing floors, cleaning the glass windows, packaging bulk items and doing what generally needs doing as he does at the handful of jobs he works. But he has made an impression at each location as the years passed.
“Everybody knows Larry,” said Vadis’ Tacoma Coordinator Linda Gibbons. “He’s really a character.”
Tacoma Boys Manager Alex Erickson smiled when he talks about Summey, with a vision of him riding his bike to work in the mornings with a few dollars’ worth of discount toys and trinkets he had bought along the way in hopes of selling the items … with an appropriate mark up, of course.
“He’s got a little enterprise going,” Erickson said.
Vadis recently recognized Erickson in this, his fifth year of employing Summey, and for his commitment to helping people with disabilities find solid employment.
One day Summey was late for work, and Erickson grew a little concerned. Summey is never late, his boss said. Then Summey appeared across the parking lot, walking with his eyes toward the road. Someone had stolen his bicycle.
“That is his transportation,” Erickson said. “So when he came in, it was like a kid lost his puppy.”
Rather than give Summey the standard “dude, that sucks” talk, Erickson went out later that day and spent his own money to buy him a bike from a retailer down the street.
“I guess I could have asked the owners and used store money,” he said. “I didn’t really think much about it. I just did it.”
The Tacoma Boys location in Puyallup has also partnered with Vadis to hire another developmentally disabled worker.
“They have really stepped up and been very supportive,” Gibbons said.
The group formed in 1979 by serving just 25 people in the early years and has grown to now serve 350 people per year by assisting businesses recruit, train and retain employees with disabilities.