National Disability Employment Awareness Month is observed every October. Emory Valley Center hopes the occasion will bring attention to the important contributions people with disabilities make in our workforce.

At the Papa John’s in Oak Ridge, you’ll get much more than delicious pizza when you pick up or order in your meal.

“Hello, welcome!” said Loren Storch, an employee at Papa John’s.

Storch works at the pizza shop three days out of the week, and every time a customer comes through the door, he greets them.

“I enjoy giving a smile to all my customers,” said Storch.

Dereke Solomon, the assistant manager at Papa John’s adds, “That one little smile, it gave me a little bit more to smile for the day.”

Papa John’s hired Storch a year ago after being matched up through the Workforce Development Program by Emory Valley Center.

“Most people see someone with a disability and they count them out. But we saw Loren, we said, ‘Hey, let’s give him a chance,'” said Solomon.

Conya Mull, the Workforce Development Director at Emory Valley Center said, “I believe there’s something out there for everyone. Everybody can do something, no matter how big or how small. “

Twelve months later, Storch continues to prove that he’s a true asset to the team.

“I fold boxes, glue and paste and stack them up. Sometimes, every once and a while, sweep,” said Storch. “It’s one of my favorite routines.”

But for many adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it’s tough to find employment like this.

“This is a workforce that’s not really tapped into as much as it should be. These individuals with disabilities, they want to work, they want to be given that opportunity to work. It boosts their self esteem and confidence,” said Mull.

Loren’s talents and abilities are valued at Papa John’s, all because he was given an opportunity.

“They’re very kind and generous,” said Storch.

His manager says he feels like a part of the family. Loren plans to continue working at Papa John’s for many years to come.

Emory Valley Center is a non-profit agency that assists people with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities throughout Anderson, Morgan and Knox Counties. The organization says there are several good reasons to consider hiring people with disabilities. Other than workers having a positive attitude and worth ethic, there are also federal tax incentives for hiring individuals with disabilities.