This article was originally printed in the December 2015 State Farm Reflector Magazine
The birthday cards fly out of Kelly Ruby’s office every Monday and Friday. They are handwritten, heart-filled and sent to customers in and around Eureka, MO. “Happy birthday, Joe! Happy birthday, Jane! We hope you have a special day. Sincerely, all of us at the Kelly Ruby State Farm Office.” A sticker inside each card gives a little more of the story of the person who took the time to prepare it. It reads: “This card was created for you by Megan (Layton), an employee of our office. Megan joined us through an employment initiative with the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. She is a self-advocate and so proud to create this card just for you on your special day!”
Spurred by compassion, justice or plain human decency, Kelly’s office is helping Megan become Megan. In return, Megan offers a mirror to their goodness. “Not a week goes by that she doesn’t get at least one call from a customer thanking her for sending the card,” says Kelly, a former elementary school teacher. “I love that they tell her, instead of telling me.” Megan has been working in Kelly’s office since March. She works four hours each Monday and Friday and sits up front with the team. She greets walk-in customers, scans files, attends community events with the team and -everyone’s favorite -creates the birthday cards. Kelly’s husband, Dave, is board president for the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis. The organization started an employment summit, encouraging employers to hire willing and able adult self-advocates with Down syndrome.
Kelly partnered with the organization to find candidates to interview. She interviewed several candidates and kept coming back to Megan during the decision-making process. “She is so warm and positive and really wanted to work for us. She made that very clear,” says Kelly, who opened her office in August 2014. “It was a mutual decision.” “Our office was the first to hire within the initiative. I offered Megan a chance to work in a professional, office environment where she impacts customers, community and my team,” she adds.
Megan lives independently and, according to her coworkers, has a busy social calendar, including attending the prom hosted by the Albert Pujols Family foundation, the professional baseball player’s St. Louis-based organization that helps those living with Down syndrome. Team Member Heather Seiler, who herself has a sibling with special needs, said she is inspired every day by Megan. “She attends our team meetings and tells us to ask for referrals,” Heather says, “She’s always encouraging us to let people know who we are. She reminds us to be brave. She has changed the way we view ourselves.” Says Kelly, “Megan is a happy, positive person and helps make our office a great workplace. We have so much to be thankful for every day.”