“He’s dependable. He’s content. He doesn’t complain about the work that’s put in front of him. I would complain about pulling weeds for three hours a week, but not Chris. He does his job and he does it well. He constantly tries to improve himself and that’s really all you can look for in any employee,” said Clint Wilkie, production manager at Swafford’s Nursery.
Stamey, 22, is a high-achieving student at Trousdale School who has found his niche in life.
Swafford’s Nursery, located at 1138 Harris Creek Road, is a wholesale supply company of shrubs and trees. The company is owned by Aaron Swafford.
“I just pull weeds and I get to be outside. I like it,” said Stamey.
Trousdale School is a post-secondary school committed to providing an environment that promotes maximum educational, physical, social and spiritual growth to high functioning adults with mental disabilities.
Trousdale School has implemented a unique work placement program. Students are assessed on their skill sets and are partnered with local businesses that have positions in need of these skill sets.
According to Wilkie, Trousdale Principal Brian Gentry visited Swafford’s Nursery to tell the business of Stamey’s talent — cleaning up weeds.
“My understanding is Chris got involved in a cleanup project at the school one day. There was a particular flower bed that was very overgrown with weeds and Chris set out to weed it out and make it look nice,” said Wilkie.
According to Catherine Patten, work program coordinator at Trousdale, Chris has developed his eye for gardening and weeding from his mother, who is an avid gardener.
“When Brian told us the story about Chris, Aaron’s thoughts were we always have weeds, and we never have a shortage of weeds that needed pulling. So we decided to give it a try. It has really worked out well,” said Wilkie.
For the past two years, Stamey works every Monday and Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
“He loves working,” said Patten, who escorts Trousdale students to and from their jobs.
“When I pick him up to take him to work, he’s got his gloves and supplies. He really enjoys it. He loves his paychecks too,” said Patten.
“Chris is ahead of a lot of people in that, this early in life, he has found something he actually enjoys doing,” said Wilkie.
In addition to working at Swafford’s, Stamey is also involved in community service. Every week he volunteers his time at the Caring Place. He also contributes his time helping deliver meals for the Meals on Wheels program and reads to students at Prospect Elementary School.
When asked the importance of partnering with Trousdale and the school’s student-work program, Wilkie said, “We often get requests for charitable donations and you want to donate to each and every one, but you just can’t. This was a way to do more than just give a one-time donation for a one-time fundraiser. This was a way to be involved in what the school was doing, and hopefully make an impact on Chris. I would definitely say he makes an impact around here.”
Stamey is the youngest of four boys. He describes his brothers as supportive and “nice.”
At Trousdale, Stamey’s favorite subject is math. He participates in basketball and the school’s musicals. He also recently received special honors in a bowling tournament at the Special Olympics. In his spare time, he enjoys playing video games, listening to pop-music and watching the popular TV show “Hannah Montana.”