After hours, when the lights are shut off and tools are at rest, one Home Depot break room in East Meadow, New York is bustling with chatter and excitement. There’s a high-stakes game of Home Depot Jeopardy at hand.
Why? These associates are a part of Ken’s Krew, an organization that provides vocational training and job placement services to individuals with developmental disabilities. The game’s high stakes? The chance to refine skills many of these workers find challenging in their day-to-day jobs.
Established in 1997, Ken’s Krew was created by parents seeking a post-high school path to employment for their kids with special needs. Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone became an early supporter, and the program was named in his honor.
The program has worked with nearly 370 young adults and is operating in 103 stores nation-wide, with presence in 72 Home Depot stores in six states. Store #1201 in East Meadow has the largest number of participants in a single store, with nine Ken’s Krew associates on their roster.
Back in the break room, these nine associates are being lead through store scenario training by their vocational coach through games like Jeopardy. These meetings, called The Krew, are a part of the ongoing training and support these young adults receive from Ken’s Krew coaches throughout the program.
“Our Ken’s Krew associates have the same duties as all associates, and we have the same expectations for them,” said John Gobel, store manager at store #1201. “It’s the dedicated one-on-one training they receive from their coach that drives their development forward and ensures these associates are able to grow to their full potential.”
Coaches work one-on-one with Kens’ Krew associates to help each individual get acclimated to The Home Depot environment and develop skills specific to their job. But, the dedication of these coaches and other associates around the store go beyond job task training. Their vested interest in the personal development of each individual helps these young adults cultivate social skills and feel a part of The Home Depot store family.
Lori Burke, a décor associate at the store, knows the impact store associates can have on Ken’s Krew participants, and vice versa. A tenured associate of more than 21 years, Lori does everything from teaching Ken’s Krew associates how to lay tile to attending their band performances and dance recitals outside of work. She’s an active participant in Krew Connected meetings and aims to get the group involved in a lot more than just coming to work every day.
“These associates are all hard workers who go out of their way to help their colleagues and customers. They’re so excited for the opportunity to come to work every day,” said Burke. “In return, we try to go out of our way to make an impact on their lives and help these special people be the best they can be.”
For more information on Ken’s Krew, visit kenskrew.org.