RICHMOND, Va. -- Many parents of children with special needs know it can be difficult for their child to find a job, but one Richmond restaurant is opening its doors to give a hardworking teen with autism a chance.
`Seventeen-year-old JP Mines is the newest host at Southern Kitchen in downtown Richmond, and he's already making a difference on the restaurant and its staff. His mom, Pam Mines, couldn't be more proud.
“This is just invaluable for us," said Mines. "We never thought he would work, and this is a real job."
JP has autism, ADHD and intellectual disabilities, but Southern Kitchen owner Shane Roberts-Thomas didn’t let that stop her from bringing him on to her team. The successful business owner has been a supporter of the JP Jumpers Foundation, which provides awareness and financial support for those with special needs.
“We give him small tasks to make sure he gets one thing at a time," Roberts-Thomas explained. "We don’t multitask. We give him one or two things a day and add on as we go along."
While JP is only on his second day of training, he's quickly become one of the hardest-working employees.
"JP comes in here and whatever you ask him, he does it," said Roberts-Thomas. "I've got employees I ask to do stuff all the time, and they don’t do nothing," she laughed.
Roberts-Thomas hopes other business owners will see JP's success and consider giving a special needs employee a chance.
“My plea to the restaurant world that I’m involved in is that we all get involved in some sort of special needs," she explained. "We all say we need employees, well put your money where your mouth is."
This job is boosting JP’s confidence and teaching him skills he will be able to use for years to come.
If he’s not here forever, he can go somewhere else and do the exact same thing, so I think my biggest emotion is grateful, I’m grateful," Mines tearfully expressed.
Mines is urging parents of teens with special needs to reach out to their favorite businesses and see if they’ll give your child a chance.
"Maybe JP won’t do everything that the other hostesses or waiters or waitresses are doing, but he can do something that will be an asset to the business," she noted.
JP says his favorite part of the job is taking customers to their table, and he plans to use the money he makes at Southern Kitchen to start a savings account and purchase some new video games.