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CONTACT: Melanie Mowry Etters
Supermarket Success: Disability No Barrier to Job Success Early Bird
By Melanie Mowry Etters
OCALA, FL – Dustin Turpin’s alarm clock rings at 3 a.m. each work day so he has time to get to work to prepare the produce department at the Ocala Publix Supermarket on Maricamp Road for grocery shoppers. This early bird helps unload produce from the delivery truck every morning. Turpin then makes sure the shelves are stocked with fresh tomatoes, peaches, apples, bananas and other produce by 7 a.m. when the store opens its doors.
Turpin said, “Publix was my first job after I graduated from high school. I spent three months as a bagger. I worked hard. I asked if I could move up to produce and I got the promotion.”
Turpin receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is highlighting the workplace achievements of people with developmental disabilities and the employers that hire them.
Turpin moved to Florida when he was 7 years old when his maternal grandfather and his wife became his guardians. He received a variety of therapies to help him progress. The years of diligent work paid off and he was able to graduate with a regular high school diploma and quickly land a job.
When Publix opened the new store on Maricamp Road four years ago, Produce Manager Bob Trottier asked if Turpin could move with him to help open the store. “We needed quality help and I asked for him. I knew him and what he was capable of. I wanted someone who knew the way I liked things. He knew the routine and what needed to be done,” said Trottier.
Turpin was a quiet 18 year old when he started his job. Trottier says he has seen him grow and become more outgoing over the past eight years. In 2011, Turpin was made a full-time Publix employee with insurance, sick leave, stocks, and vacation time. Turpin said, “I get all the good stuff.”
Trottier said, “Dustin does well and is a good associate. He takes pride in his work. He takes ownership of his job. He is on time, responsible, and very reliable.”
Turpin replaced his old van with a newer model car in 2012 to make sure he had dependable transportation to get to his early morning job. He moved into his own apartment in 2014 just two miles from work.
Turpin was recognized after five years of work with a gift of a coffee maker during a nice employee banquet. He says he is looking forward to hitting his 20 year mark because Publix rewards employees with a night in a hotel as an anniversary gift. He is also hoping to advance in his career at Publix and eventually move into management.
When he is not busy answering shopper’s produce questions, Turpin visits his grandparents and his sister who live nearby.
APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).