Kelsey Hargrove likes to make people smile.
This is one of the reasons why her job as an associate at Burger King, where she greets customers, is an excellent job match.
"I like making people smile," she shared. "I like taking breaks at work with my friends."
Kelsey, 26, has worked at the Burger King in Klamath Falls for about three years. She had work experience in in her transition program in Klamath but this is her first paid job.
In addition to greeting customers, Kelsey also cleans tables, lines trays, and fills kid's meals with toys.
Tera Brown, job coach with Mentor Oregon, said she loves supporting Kelsey at her job.
"Her capabilities are absolutely astonishing and her will to succeed is contagious," she said. "I am a constant witness to the positive reactions that her customers, and the community, have when they are greeted and spoken to by Kelsey. She is uplifting and inspires people every day by just being herself, and that's what I love most about working with her."
Kelsey uses an iPad to communicate. One of her favorite aspects of working is getting ready for work. Her mother helps her with her makeup. Kelsey loves watching YouTube videos, including ones on makeup tutorials.
"Never leave the house without your makeup on," Kelsey shared.
Kelsey currently is traveling to local schools and telling students about the importance of community employment. She visits local schools, speaking about her experience getting a job in the community and how important it is to save money by working. She gives speeches as an example of being successful and gaining independence. Kelsey was also interviewed in the Herald and News as well as being invited to speak on the air with Wynne Broadcasting.
Kelsey worked at the local Third Thursday events in Klamath Falls and other community events throughout Klamath County to promote scholarships, providing marketing materials for scholarship purposes as well as integrating and building relationships in Klamath County.
Kelsey also took part in the Ross Ragland silent Auction event, promoting more funding for scholarships. She has raised more than $2,500 for aspiring students through donations and raffles within the community. Burger King and Mentor Oregon donated $3,000 for scholarships. This allowed Kelsey to provide more than $5,000 in scholarships for students to Klamath Community College and Oregon Institute of Technology. She presented the scholarships to students with Mentor Oregon during the 2017 and 2018 Graduation Sensations and the Klamath Community College Scholarship awards ceremony.
Dan Zakour is the owner of the Klamath Falls Burger King. He said having supports in place for Kelsey made him less nervous about hiring an employee with disabilities.
"At first there is very little risk or cost to the business due to the supports in place, and if it works out long term you have a great employee and ambassador for your business, and you can't put a price on that," he said. "Kelsey really enjoys coming to work and I can't honestly say that is true for everyone nowadays."
Stephanie Machado, employment director with Mentor Oregon, said Kelsey always challenges herself and finds new opportunities to expand her scope of work.
"Kelsey has been an inspiration to many and has such grace when facing barriers to employment and life," Stephanie said. "She has overcome what might have thought to be impossible. Time and time again, Kelsey has proven that having a disability doesn't mean you can't – it means you will find a different way to achieve and be successful."
Kelsey wants to spread the message that anyone, including people with significant disabilities, can work and achieve their goals.
"I like earning money, and I like being independent," she shared, adding that she is saving her money for a vacation to go to the locations where the movie "Twilight" was filmed.
"Always try and never give up – anything is possible."
Kelsey's employment team includes: Aubrey Ford, personal agent at Southern Oregon Regional Brokerage; Tera Brown, job coach with Mentor Oregon; Latricia Balkwill, VR counselor; and Stephanie Machado, Southern Oregon employment development/director with Mentor Oregon.
View a slideshow of Kelsey at work.