The Denton Big Lots is receiving an award for its training program for students and adults with disabilities.
The local store is the recipient of the state’s 2012 Lex Frieden Employment Award in the small employer category.
There have been local celebrations for the retail store, but the awards will be formally presented Oct. 24 in Houston.
The awards, given by the Governor’s Committee on People With Disabilities, recognize the efforts of employers that hire and retain employees with disabilities. They also recognize the best practices for employees with disabilities in the workplace.
Awards are given in several categories, including the Governor’s Trophy, the Entrepreneurship Award, Employer Awards and the Martha Arbuckle Award.
The retailer was chosen because “managers openly support the needs, diversity and opportunities for all employees and applicants,” according to the governor’s website.
Susan Shelton, an assistant manager at the store at 2249 S. Loop 288, said Big Lots has had its training program for three years.
Local store officials decided to implement the program after hearing about similar programs and realizing that with Denton’s large student population, the store should have its own program.
Big Lots works with the Denton school district’s high school special education department and the University of North Texas’ summer youth program.
The training program shows students how to price merchandise, work the cash register and put merchandise on the sales floor, Shelton said.
“We have them do a little bit of everything so they get used to being in a retail environment,” she said.
There are other stores within the school district that offer similar programs, she said.
The Big Lots store is small enough and its employees are friendly and patient, she said, which creates a welcoming environment for people with disabilities to learn about retail.
“It’s not difficult when they go into the actual work environment,” she said.
Shelton said the award is a stepping stone to get other stores to implement a similar training program.
“It makes us really proud that we were nominated,” she said.
The store was nominated by Yvonne Raffini, a member of the Denton Mayor’s Committee on People With Disabilities.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .