A whopper of a career
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for the past 30 years, Amy Hannum has taken a series of buses from Milwaukie to Lake Oswego to work her shifts at the Burger King on McEwan Road.
From 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. three days a week, she keeps the front of the restaurant in order, cleaning tables, wiping down the windows, taking out the trash, returning trays to the kitchen and just about anything else needed to make sure customers have the best possible experience.
Amy has worked diligently in her role at the local franchise since she was 21 years old. Born with Down syndrome, her tenure is particularly extraordinary because of the way in which she's become a fixture over the years, delighting customers and co-workers alike with her attitude and commitment to her duties.
"Wednesday through Friday, I don't worry," says Tony Jimenez, the restaurant's general manager. "I know that Amy will take care of her job."
Jimenez has served as Amy's boss for the past four years, but in his eyes, she's really her own boss. She needs nearly zero instruction, he says, and once she's in the groove, she completes her duties better than most.
"She knows what to do. I don't really tell her what to do because she knows better than me," Jimenez says.
Amy was born and raised in Lake Oswego by her parents, Craig and Linda. When she turned 21, they decided to let Amy see how she would like living in a group home with other adults with special needs.
"We were a little worried at first," Linda says. "But that first week, we didn't even receive a call home. She loved it."
Craving an independent lifestyle, Amy thrived in the group home and continues to live in Milwaukie to this day.
Around the same time, Amy became involved with a grant program hosted by Portland Community College that helped connect adults with special needs to jobs. She trained in the cafeteria at Marylhurst University for several weeks before being placed at the Burger King on McEwan Road.
It was the perfect fit.
"Customers love her," Jimenez says. "Sometimes they come here and they thank me because other managers won't deal with special-needs people. They think it's a waste of labor. I feel that it's the opposite. She's an asset."
Jimenez remembers one of the first weeks after he took over as general manager. No one mentioned that Amy is very protective of her work space, and without that knowledge, he decided to help Amy by picking up some trays for her.
"She came over and said, 'No, no, no. This is my job, I'll handle it,'" he says. "I said OK, put them back and went to the kitchen. Some of the team members were there and said, 'Oh, we forgot to tell you. Don't cross that line with her.'"
From then on, Jimenez knew to give Amy her space and allow her to complete her job. It's important to her to fulfill the responsibilities she's been given, and he respects that.
Jimenez says the biggest thing to keep in mind with Amy is that you have to be a good listener, and her parents agree. One of her biggest struggles is communication, and despite years of speech pathology and other vocal training, it's still hard sometimes for her to say what's on her mind.
"You have to be a good listener. She tells me stories sometimes about things that happened with her friends or her parents. If I take the time to listen, she likes that. A lot of people will kind of brush her off, and she doesn't like that. She likes people to listen," Jimenez says.
Despite Amy's struggle with communication, Craig and Linda believe their daughter's best quality is a determination to never give up.
"If she really wants something, she can slow down, enunciate and even I can understand her, and I'm hard of hearing," Craig says.
Outside of work, Amy leads an active life. On Mondays, she's part of a group called PHAME, a community of adults with disabilities and their families who engage, learn and grow in an environment that is supportive and comfortable. She enjoys attending the dancing classes hosted at PHAME, as well as participating in plays the group puts on.
On Tuesdays, Amy volunteers her time at the Ledding City Library in Milwaukie, where she's in charge of organizing and collating the collection of DVDs and CDs.
Every summer for Amy's birthday, the Hannums host a birthday party on Oswego Lake, where you might just see her zipping around with her friends and family.
Over the past 30 years, Amy has not only earned herself a sterling reputation as an employee, but she's also built strong relationships with coworkers, supervisors and customers who have come to find her commitment and sense of responsibility is unparalleled. The most impressive part is that she shows no signs of slowing down.
"She's been here a long time, and she continues to do a wonderful job," Jimenez says.