Publix turns to special mentors

- Andy Gipson is almost as big of a staple at Publix as the grocery store's green aprons. 

"I bag groceries, help customers out, bring in shopping carts," he said.  "That's all."

Tuesday was a special day for Special Olympians like Andy and his with special needs.  They moved from employee to mentor, helping other athletes learn the different jobs and opportunities at Publix.

"My goodness, they have skills like other people do and some are really good at training and they want to train. And they really care about each other.  So it's been great to watch them and grow and share that with other special athletes," offered divisional vice president Thomas McLaughlin.

The hope is that these trainees will find jobs at the grocery chain in the future.

"They're wonderful associates," McLaughlin continued.  "They work hard.  They're so eager to please.  They smile the whole time, which is really cool, and they give great service, and that's what we stand for.  It's really amazing to see them grow.  And once we get 'em, they never leave."

Publix's relationship with Special Olympics goes all the way back to 1972, when company founder George Jenkins helped Florida athletes get to the national games in Los Angeles.  And events like this, they hope, will solidify their relationship for years to come.

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