Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 2, 2002

New hardware store employee has a smile for everyone

By Julie Yurek

One of the smiling faces at Boger's True Value Hardware Store in Winsted now includes William Gunnary, 22, who began working there two months ago.

Gunnary has Fragile X syndrome, which means he is at a third grade learning level ­ but this is no reflection on his ability to smile or work hard.

Gunnary stocks shelves and the pop cooler, vacuums and cleans, bags customers' purchases, answers the phone sometimes, and has gone to the bank a few times, said owner Barb Boger. "He'll try everything."

"He just loves to greet customers, which we weren't expecting," Boger said.

His favorite job is to run the cash register, she said.

Boger works with Gunnary, and other residents, at a group home for men with disabilities, run by AME Community Services Home in Cokato.

Boger wanted Gunnary to come work at the hardware store to get him more socialized, she said.

His other jobs don't incorporate as much social interaction with the public as the store does, she said.

The goal for Gunnary is for him to be at the store more often, Boger said. "We want to train him in on almost everything so he can be here more often."

"It just made sense for me to bring Will here," she said.

Gunnary likes sports, the Oak Ridge Boys, and is also a fan of the Holy Trinity sports teams, Boger said.

She took Gunnary and the other men to many Holy Trinity baseball games, she said. They also attend basketball games, plays, concerts, movies, and the church bazaar at Holy Trinity.

"The students have been really accepting of Will," Boger said. "It's been really great for the men too."

Besides working, attending concerts and athletic games, and going to the movies, Gunnary is learning to bake, Boger said. Each man has his own program he works on once a week, and right now Gunnary is baking.

He and an assistant go to the grocery store where he buys the ingredients.

"First, it started out with boxed brownies. Now, it's making chocolate chip cookies from scratch," Boger said. "He just loves to bake."

"Will has come so far," Boger said. "He used to have a lot of anxiety, but he's getting a lot better."

Gunnary has lived at Ame for three years with three other residents. Gunnary is the most independent one of the group, Boger said.

"He walks to his job in Cokato, which is quite a distance, and he can do many chores by himself that the others can't," she said. The other men he lives with are at about a first-grade learning level, she said.

Besides working at True Value, Gunnary also works full time at Right Connections in Cokato, and two nights a week he does some cleaning for another company. He gets paid for all his jobs, Boger said.

"He's bought himself a bed set, a recliner, and he's gone on vacations," she said. Two years ago Gunnary and an assistant went to Graceland.

Boger is hoping to take Gunnary and two other men on a Disney cruise, she said.

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