In 1986, Sydney native Russell O’Grady was no different to any other 18-year-old, starting the daunting process of looking for his first job. The job hunt is one of the most important landmarks in a young person’s life, an experience that will kickstart their career and promises to enter them into a completely different stage in their lives filled with commitment, responsibility and independence.
Some people are lucky enough to instantly click with their new employer, giving them stability in a flourishing, working relationship. This is exactly what happened to young Russell, who was born with Down Syndrome, in Northmead, Sydney West. Russell instantly became a valued employee at McDonald’s and has stayed there for over 30 years. His work with McDonald’s began after he was given work experience through an organization named JobSupport. The organization was funded by the Australian government to help people who have intellectual disabilities find paid employment.
Soon after starting his job at McDonald’s, Russell’s managers realized how special and hard-working he was in cleaning trays, sweeping floors and interacting with all of the customers. Due to Russell being their longest-running employee, he has become a legend in the local community with a recognizable face and kind personality. Russell’s father Geoff told the Daily Mail “People stop him on the street and shake his hand. He’s very affectionate, dearly loved and appreciated, to such an extent that we just don’t believe it.”
On Russell’s 30th anniversary working at the fast-food joint, his co-workers through him a party celebrating his success and achievements in his 30 years of working. Not only has Russell helped in the restaurant, but they have also returned the favor. Jobsupport representatives stated that “It really helps him, he gets a lot of social interaction and makes him feel like part of the community,” Russell’s responsibilities at work have given him a different outlook on life and he now considers himself no different from anyone else.
Despite Russell’s plans to retire in a couple of years, he will always be remembered by his customers and employees. His co-workers stated that they loved having him around and he was a “really sweet gentlemen”.