An inspiring McDonald’s employee with Down’s Syndrome has retired after 32 years of service.
50-year-old Russell O’Grady started working at the Northmead McDonald’s, in Sydney in 1986, at a time when there were few people with disabilities in the workplace.
Trailblazing Russell was just 18-years-old at the start of his career, beginning his work at McDonalds with a stint of work experience.
However, staff were impressed by the young man’s strong work ethic, and Russell quickly earned himself a job packing McDonald’s party boxes. He then tried out various other tasks, including working in the kitchen.
As reported by The Daily Telegraph, Russell has been described as the ‘best-known person in Northmead’, with many customers visiting the restaurant just to see him.
He’s often cleaning tables, sweeping up, and greeting diners while on his shift, and many regulars will be saddened to see him go.
McDonald’s supervisor Courtney Purcell revealed how Russell had become a local icon during his decades of service:
We’ve got regular customers who come in to see Russell on Thursday and Friday, and the staff look after him, so we’re going to miss him.
Russell’s younger brother Lindsey, spoke of how proud the family are of Russell, praising him for his commitment to his job:
He’s kind of blase about it but loves his work very much. He’s pretty cheeky sometimes. He’s my big brother and he keeps me in line.
Russell was given an opportunity for further training and gainful employment through JobSupport, a service which places those with moderate intellectual disabilities in open employment throughout the areas of Sydney and north Melbourne.
According to the JobSupport website:
[Our mission is to] place, train and maintain as many people with a significant intellectual disability as possible into quality jobs in the regular workforce that meet both their employment needs and the needs of the employer.
As reported by the Huffington Post, in 2016, his colleagues threw him a party with balloons and a cake to celebrate his 30 years of employment.
Russell’s father Geoff O’Grady, gave the following statement of thanks to McDonald’s and JobSupport:
Without that initiative, lots of people like Russell wouldn’t have the jobs they do today and they wouldn’t have the reward that that gives them, which is pride, a boost of their self-esteem, and feeling important and belonging in society,
It gives them a reason to be.
After consideration, Russell decided to retire for the sake of his health. A keen tenpin bowler, Russell will reportedly spend his new free time at Northmead Bowling Club.
Here’s to a well-deserved and happy retirement!
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.