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Inspiration, behind the curtain
Greg Jorgensen loves playing softball, watching cop movies and enjoys the free popcorn he gets as an employee of North Bend Theatre.
The fact that Greg, 21, has Down’s Syndrome, doesn’t make much of a difference in his work as handyman at the downtown theater. If anything, it makes his presence more inspiring at the theatre, which hosts monthly special needs matinees for families whose children face the same kinds of challenges that he does.
“Contributing makes everybody better,” said Theatre owner Cindy Walker. “It brings a little hope and it brings energy to him.”
When Walker’s daughter was in soccer a few years ago, fellow student Greg was a regular, spirited presence, rooting on the Mount Si team that was coached by his mother, Bev. Both mother and son touched many lives.
“Greg was always out there, cheering people on, really just a part of that whole scene,” Walker said.
Greg wasn’t able to graduate with his class. He became ill in 2006 and almost died. He recovered, however, and Jorgensen approached Wilson a few months ago, asking the theater owner if there was any work for her son. Wilson found him the job.
“He knows what he needs to do,” Walker said. “He gets the place clean, he’s meticulous about it, and I think we’ll expand what he’s doing.”
Greg typically works during off hours, but Walker is thinking about having him come in to help work the counter during special needs matinees. That way, families with special needs children can see how their youngsters can grow up to contribute and be part of a business.
Greg enjoys Mariners baseball and takes part in Special Olympics softball games, playing center field.
He’s been a fixture for years at Mount Si soccer games, cheering on boys and girls teams and acting as an unofficial assistant manager.
In high school, Greg played on the soccer team and has always enjoyed hanging out with sports teams.
“He didn’t miss a game last fall,” said Bev Jorgensen, a former freshman coach who hosts a turkey dinner every autumn for the girls team.
“Those are his girls, his team and that’s his dinner.”
At home, Greg is learning more responsibility by taking care of his brother’s dog, a chocolate Labrador retreiver named Sparky.
He is scared of loud noises, but so is Sparky. Instead of seeking comfort in storms, Greg works to calm his dog down.
“It’s beneficial for both of them,” Jorgensen said. “We all need to have somebody that needs us.”
Greg also helps Bev on her PartyLite business, a home-based direct sales enterprise. His duties include helping his mother with mailing and taking part in shows.
In this economy, it’s hard for young people to find a job, Jorgensen said. It’s even harder for a person with special needs to find a job, she added.
Jorgensen said she couldn’t ask for a better employer than Walker.
“She wants Greg to be productive,” she said.
As a parent, it’s satisfying for her to see Greg build his independence and confidence.
“When you have a child with special needs, you know things are not going to be normal,” Jorgensen said. “Any parent wants their child to be successful, to be a citizen.”
Working at the theater helps Greg be a citizen.
“It’s very rewarding to see him go in and fulfill that,” she said.