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Jerry’s Walmart Vest is a Symbol of Independence

The Walmart vest that Jerry Payne wears during his work shift is quite the conversation starter.

On the back of his vest, spelled out in large white letters, it reads, “I AM DEAF. Please Tap Me on my shoulder. I’ll Be Glad To Help You!”For Jerry, the vest is a symbol of his hard-earned independence.

Jerry started working as a stocker at a Walmart in Jackson, Tennessee in June of 2020, amid a pandemic. He quickly proved his work ethic and gained the respect of his team members.

When Jerry first started working at Walmart, he wore a plain vest and had to be paired with a hearing team member so that they could alert him if a customer had a question since Jerry is deaf.

Jerry, who is very active in the Deaf community, saw a friend from Lowe’s wearing a vest welcoming people to tap him on the shoulder if they needed help.

Jerry immediately went to his manager, Melonie, and asked if he could have a similar vest that would let Walmart customers know that he is deaf. Sure enough…“The next day, I got it!” Jerry said.

Now, he doesn’t have to be paired with someone else during his shift. He communicates with people mostly through signing and texting.

“I talked with the interim manager and he said that Jerry is doing very well on the job and everyone loves working with him,” said Ray Holder, the manager of employment services at The STAR Center.

Ray and the job placement team helped Jerry apply for the opening at Walmart North in Jackson, Tennessee.

Jerry previously worked at The Jackson Sun. Vocational Rehabilitation initially referred Jerry to The STAR Center for job placement services. “I decided to ask Ray to help find me a new job because I had experience at a Walmart in Nebraska for three years,” he said. Shortly after, Jerry landed an interview.

He will never forget that day.

Jerry will never forget the day that he received the job offer. Earlier that day, Jerry said he visited his father’s grave and asked him to send him a sign about the Walmart job that he just interviewed for. Later on, “I got the call and I got the job!” Jerry said.

He received the job offer on June 10, 2020, which was also his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. He took that as the ultimate sign of approval.

“I like focusing on my work and making good friends at work,” Jerry said. Working at Walmart makes him “very happy.”

Jerry originally moved to Tennessee about 15 years ago to help his parents, who were sick at that time. Jerry hopes to inspire more people from the Deaf community to apply for jobs in the community and advocate for themselves on the job like he did at Walmart.

Jerry is a former secretary of Jackson Tennessee Association for the Deaf and he also serves on the Jackson Area Center for Independent Living board.

Thank you, Jerry, for continuing to #CrushTheNo and lighting the path for so many behind you.

For more information on our disability employment services, click here.

Photo of Jerry and Ray holding sign in front office of The STAR Center: Got the Job #CrushingTheNo

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