GALENA, Illinois – Walmart announced last week it would phase out it’s blue vested greeters at stores nationwide. After serious concerns on how it would impact the disabled the company said this week it would make every effort to find a new role for those with disabilities.
For greeter, Ashley Powell, of the Galena Walmart that opportunity isn’t possible.
Everyday for the past 14 years Powell was the smiling face you saw when you walked through the doors of the Galena Walmart.
“I know people who look for her when they come into Walmart,” says Lynell Beyer, a friend of Powell’s.
“I’m always there to help others I’m the happy to help associate,” comments Powell.
Powell was diagnosed with a brain trauma at birth and has been the Galena greeter for the past 14 years. Everyone in the community knows her for passing out fruit snacks to kids and lending a hand to whoever crosses her path.
“Just those things that Ashley did out of pure kindness like the once a stranger always a friend kind of mentality,” Beyer says.
Now, the job she loved all these years is coming to an end after Walmart decided to get rid of the greeter position across the country, which is usually held by disabled workers.
“I’m very sad and very heartbroken,” Powell emphasizes.
Powell is now more confused than ever.
“When I got evaluations for my job, I got 'solid performer' all the way straight down,” Powell says.
“Ashley has been left by the side of the road and it was our job as a community to pick her up, dust her off, and help her out in any way we could,” Beyer explains.
Since the news, Walmart has offered greeters other jobs at its stores, but they involve tasks Powell is incapable of doing.
“When I was offered that job, I was told because of my disability I wasn’t going to be able to perform the tasks of that job,” Powell says.
“The position she was offered she was expected to lift more than 25 pounds, climb ladders, clean and stock shelves,” explains Chet Marzalek, Powell’s stepfather. “People who are disabled or mentally delayed should not climb ladder and she has a bad back so she cannot lift.”
Her friends think this is not the Walmart store they once knew.
“I’m sure Mr. Walton is rolling around in his grave with what’s going on,” Beyer says.
For now, Powell looks for a new beginning because as one door closes another one may hopefully open.
“I don’t know at this point where I am going to go,” says Powell. “I’m going to leave it up to God’s guidelines.”
To celebrate Ashley’s last day the community will be holding a parade in the parking lot of the Galena Walmart on April 26th.
Powell is looking for a new job right now, one that will cater to her disability.