Pizza restaurant owner reacts to criticism of special needs employees in the most perfect way

Amanda Cartagine is the owner of Pizza Inn in Greenville, S.C., where 63 percent of employees have special needs. Recently, a customer had a problem with that and complained to Cartagine, suggesting she hang a sign outside to warn customers of her special needs staffers. So she did.

The sign, which has now gone viral on social media, reads, “We are proud to be an equal opportunity employer and hire ALL of God’s children!” It’s hung prominently on the front door of the restaurant to greet incoming customers.

The sign reflects Cartagine’s attitude perfectly. She told local news station WYFF,If you have the patience to let them take their time and learn at their pace, when the light bulb comes on, they are unstoppable.” All of her employees have a strong work ethic and a positive demeanor, she boasted. 

The incident started when a customer approached one of Pizza Inn’s special needs workers, a highly functioning autistic boy, and asked him to refill a lettuce bowl at the salad bar. “My manager explained the situation privately and said, ‘Look, it’s just, the staff member, that’s not his job, and we’ve trained him to do [something else], and there are special circumstances.” That’s when the customer got upset and suggested the sign, which backfired in the best possible way.

Cartagine said the suggestion made her angry at first. “These are like my kids,” she said of the employees. She said her goal was to do something that was not rude but get her point across. Angie Mosley, whose son Ryan has Down syndrome and is a Pizza Inn worker, said she hopes the sign encourages people to be more open-minded.

“People with disabilities are educable, and they’re employable, and it just requires a little bit of outside-the-box thinking and patience.” Mosley said. She reported that her son loves his job and especially loves the fact that it allows him to afford to buy his own video games. “We parents with special needs (children) are always faced with breaking down barriers, stigmas, teaching other people that our children are more like them than different,” Mosley added.

Cartagine shares Mosley’s sentiments, saying she hopes the sign is a lesson to all to be more accepting of people who are different from themselves. And if it isn’t, that’s fine too. She says if customers are not OK with the sign, she’s OK with them not coming back: “That’s a dollar that I don’t need.”

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