STRIDE participant celebrates anniversary at McDonald’s

In 2013, Charlie Rose told the world about his dream.

STRIDE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing therapeutic recreation for individuals with disabilities, released a promotional video, and in it, Rose said he had dreamed of working at McDonald’s.

On Wednesday, the 45-year-old celebrated his five-year anniversary of his dream coming true.

Rose, a participant in STRIDE’s day program for about 15 years, celebrated among family and friends. Together, they shared cake, laughter and hugs.

Rose’s dream came true five years ago, when his community living support worker, Todd Plummer, saw the video, making it a personal goal to help him achieve his dream.

Now, Rose works at McDonald’s part-time, greeting customers with a “Hey, buddy,” while sweeping floors and doing whatever else needs to be done.

Plummer said Rose’s path toward employment was longer than that of the average potential employee, taking nearly a year.

“We started working on his behavior in public, how to be around the public, communicate and interact with people,” Plummer said.

He started by bringing Rose to the restaurant for breakfast a few days a week. Eventually, Rose started building relationships with the managers and the staff.

When he was finally used to the environment, Rose went through the same process all other potential McDonald’s employees would.

Darren Diguette, executive director of STRIDE, said Rose is proud to work at McDonald’s. He never once complains about putting on the uniform.

“He’s proud of working here,” Diguette said. “… He absolutely understands his accomplishment.”

Rose spent much of the party mingling with friends and family as if he never sees them, Plummer joked, but Rose paused for a minute when Diguette asked Rose what his favorite part about working at McDonald’s was.

“Cleaning,” Rose quickly replied, turning back to his friend, laughing.

Diguette said Rose often gets stopped when out in public because people recognize him from seeing him at McDonald’s.

“It’s always such a positive thing,” Diguette said.

Rose loves getting paid; it’s just a pride factor.

“We all need that sense we are contributing,” Diguette said.

Gail Ross, Rose’s sister, said she is proud of Rose, too. She’s seen so much growth in Rose since he started working at McDonald’s.

“He’s always been really friendly with everybody, but he’s better with his boundaries now,” Ross said. “… He’s actually helped my older brother … be more outgoing, too, because we’ve got him more involved.”

Ross said it’s obvious Rose loves his job, especially when it comes to earning a paycheck all on his own.

“That first day he made his own paycheck,” Ross said, tearing up. “It was great … He’s a little bit more independent.”

Kelly Healy, the owner of Winchester’s McDonald’s, said everyone loves Rose, and everyone at McDonald’s is thrilled to have him, adding he hopes Rose will be working there for another five, 10, even 20 years.

Donnie Debord, an area supervisor at McDonald’s, said he’s worked with Rose for the past five years, and it’s been a humbling experience.

“He can brighten your spirits the minute you walk in the door,” Debord said. “He makes my day every day I see him.”

And after five years, Rose is well-known at the restaurant. Many customers look forward to seeing him.

“The customers, they expect Charlie now,” Debord said. “He’s just as much a part of McDonald’s as the arches are.”