By Cindy Adams


Bread, chips, bananas and berries are bagged separately from other grocery items because, as Ben Wensley explained, "they are delicate!" Also, batteries are set to the side during the bagging process because "they are not food!"

Ben, a student in enCircle's post-grad program at Roanoke Minnick Vocational School, works as a courtesy clerk at Cave Spring Corners Kroger in Roanoke, is mindful of store policy. He is meticulous and efficient in what he does. But don’t be surprised — on the side, he is a notorious joke teller!

Ben smiles at the camera while he punches out on the work clock

"He loves sharing jokes with his co-workers during downtime," said Megan Belcher, Ben’s job coach through Career Support Systems. "He is very proud of his job and he rocks it out consistently. He helps me see the value of my own work."

Ben and Megan are quite a team, quietly bantering about bagging choices and conversation starters for customers working their way through checkout and toward them at the end of the aisle.

"My favorite part of the job is talking to people,” Ben said. "I really like helping people and doing my best."

Ben’s least favorite part? Frustrated customers. Naturally, that part can be unsettling, especially for someone who strives to make others happy and, according to his dad, Ben is very relational.

"Ben is great at sensing people," explained his dad, "he loves cheering people up and making sure they leave better than they came. That is why we knew that any job where he could be an encouragement to others would be a perfect fit."

Ben bagging groceries

Ben came to live with his parents, Dan and Julie Wensely, in foster care at age 10 and was adopted at 12. He is open about his diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome, autism, and intellectual disability. He is learning to appreciate his unique gifts and differences.

His parents enjoy his fun personality and watching his compassion and care for others grow.  

"Ben surprises us every day," his parents explained. "A person's IQ is such a small part of who they are. Why should we focus on limitations, when each of us is filled with incredible possibilities? One of Ben's greatest gifts is bringing out the best in others. He will make you smile."

Ben’s co-workers, customers and managers can attest to that. They have witnessed it first-hand for a little over a year now. Ben’s first day on the job was New Year’s Day 2021. While Ben said he was “super nervous” at his interview, he was hired on the spot. And it’s no wonder. Ben understands the most important measure of work success and he articulated it beautifully — "I smile and tell people to have a great day!"

Ben puts his apron away in a locker room