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One of our individuals was spotlighted on WBIR for his amazing job skills! 
 

If you pop in Menchie's for a sweet treat you can't miss Jessie Atkins.

He greets customers and runs the cash register counting money at the store off Northshore in West Knoxville.

Jessie is one of several employees with special needs who work at the store.

It's an initiative that started roughly three years ago.Jessie's at the point now he knows how to open the store almost entirely by himself on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Coming to work is one thing he says he likes almost as much as yogurt.

"I love to take machines apart, and I love to make noise with the chairs. I love to eat yogurt," he said.

Atkins and his fellow employees were especially busy on Tuesday because February 6 is National Frozen Yogurt Day.

Atkins said his favorite flavor is vanilla snow.

© 2018 WBIR
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Watch the below video on one of the interns at Project Search excelling! 
http://www.wate.com/news/local-news/woman-with-autism-plays-crucial-role-at-ut-medical-center/953039922

 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - ABC's hit series "The Good Doctor" is based on a brilliant young surgeon with autism.The fictional storyline is aimed at shedding skepticism when it comes to recognizing someone's abilities, despite the odds.

Meanwhile, a real-life success story is playing out at UT Medical Center: a young woman with autism who landed a job there. 

Kezia Cox, 29, is a hard worker. She makes sure essential items like gloves, gowns and cleaning supplies are ready to go for nurses and other staff on the busy surgical floor at UT Medical Center.

Similar to the lead character in "The Good Doctor," Cox is on the high end of the autism spectrum.

The show inspires her to keep pushing to reach her potential.

"It's given me a will to fight for what I want," Kezia says. "A will to fight for my independence, you know, and if he can do it, why can't everybody else?"

Kezia got her foot in the door at the hospital through the Project Search program which provides internships for people with disabilities, hoping their experience will lead to full-time jobs down the road. The hospital believes having an inclusive workforce benefits everyone.

Danny Matthews with Project Search says during her internship, Kezia was a very quick learner.

"We had her doing a lot of very sophisticated tasks. She was in med records doing chart prep, she did a lot of computer data entry, but she also really liked getting in there and going really intense jobs, cleaning and stocking materials," Matthews said.

Her work ethic and personality got the attention of Nurse Manager Julie Daniels.

"I asked her if she would be willing to come back and work with us," Daniels said.

Cox is grateful for her job and is already jumping into the role of advocate for others with disabilities, encouraging employers in our area to take a second look, give someone else like her a chance.

"I feel like if you could just look at them, and say 'ok, what do you have, what do you bring to the table? We can work with you," said Cox. "You are a person and you can do this. Maybe not in the same way, but you can do this.'"

If your company is interested in hiring someone who has gained on-the-job experience through Project Search, contact Autism Breakthrough of Knoxville at info@breakthroughknoxville.com or call them at (865) 247-0065.

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Knoxville Community Gives Adults With Autism Hope
 

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A community in South Knoxville is helping adults with autism. New homes were recently built for families unable to take care of their loved ones.

Eleven years ago, parents who had adult children with Autism formed a not-for-profit organization called Breakthrough Corporation to help meet their needs.

The focus on Autism is often children, but for many it's is a life long battle.

Breakthrough Corporation was able to start services for adults with autism five years ago.

One of its biggest accomplishments was building four homes that could permanently house adults with Autism. The community is in South Knoxville off of Maryville Pike.

One of the residents is Luke Koksal, 23. He can't communicate easily, but has a talent for using the computer. He can type faster than most people his age.

"One big misconception is that someone can't communicate very well, that they might not be very intelligent," said Breakthrough Executive Director, Thomas Beeson. "Many adults with Autism are very intelligent. They just have a difficult time sharing it."

Each year, Breakthrough Corporation helps 40 to 50 adults with autism. "We have residential services. We are standing in one of the residential homes. We have a day-service program, and we also have in-home services for families," Beeson said.

Breakthrough Corporation just received HUD money to built three additional homes in its South Knoxville location. It also rents four other homes in different parts of the city.

Officials hope more families will learn their services are in Knoxville. "It would give them some relief that they know that somebody out there that could help their child," said board member Terry Ray.

Case in point, Luke Koksal is able to live a relatively normal life although he has Autism.

All the Knoxville residents living at Breakthrough now have Medicaid waivers, but for families who don't there are payment plans.

There's currently a waiting list for people needing Breakthrough's services.