Kimberton Whole Foods Offers an Inclusive Workplace
Danny Atkinson is standing in front of his place of employment, Kimberton Whole Foods. // Photo by Sydney Kerelo
For 19 years, Danny Atkinson has worked for Kimberton Whole Foods in Phoenixville through KenCrest’s Employment program.
By Sydney Kerelo
Pulling up to the Kimberton Whole Foods in Phoenixville, customers are met with a charming store. There’s an old-time enchantment about the sunflower embellishment on their sign and flowers displayed out front of the former hardware store, in Kimberton Village.
But the real magic happens once you enter those sliding doors. Beaming with pride in the store’s front room stands Danny Atkinson, a KenCrest-supported employee who works at Kimberton Whole Foods. He works at the grocery four days a week, greeting every customer who walks through those front doors with a brilliant smile, cheerful disposition, and incredible kindness.
He has worked at Kimberton Whole Foods for 19 years and is known for his incredible stories and ability to bring joy to every patron. “I think he’s one of the oldest and longest-working employees there,” laughs Nancy Atkinson, Danny’s mother.
Born with severe conjunctivitis so bad he had no tear ducts, Danny struggled with many things growing up. He had trouble eating, walking, and talking, so he was taught at various Pennsylvania schools that offered the proper support for him, like the Child Development Centers, K.D. Markley Elementary School, and West Brandywine School before high school.
“Cat Pickering (Technical College High School Pickering Campus) was where he graduated from high school, and he did really well,” says Atkinson. “Cat Pickering had a worker’s program where they would transport him to work during the day. That’s how he got to Kimberton Whole Foods, and in 2004 when he graduated, we went to KenCrest to get paid for his work.”
Danny joined KenCrest’s Employment program to access the proper support he needed to work.
Starting in 1984, the Employment program-built employer partnerships and connected the people we support with paid employment throughout Pennsylvania’s various communities. Now, 39 years later, the Employment program focuses on people’s skills and preferences, letting them find work they want and enjoy, which is what Danny found.
He works at Kimberton four days a week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for 12 hours total because, as Danny says, “I need a day off!” During his shift, he sorts the recycling into the proper bins, helps restock shelves, and, his favorite part of the job, greets the customers.
When at work, Danny is the light in the dark; he is constantly chatting with customers, making them smile and laugh with his charming jokes. He is always around to lend an extra hand to any team member and truly loves doing the work.
“He’s like one of the greatest assets to our company,” says Grocery team member Brian Cahill. “I feel like everybody knows when Danny’s here; it’s a better day.”
“Having an employee like Danny shows the rest of the team and our community how much we care; it gives us a different perspective on the workplace and teaches us how to communicate differently,” adds Cahill.
Kimberton Whole Foods has been the pillar of its community since 1994 when the store opened its doors. Since then, it’s grown to include a garden and gift shop, the Kimberton Café, and an endless supply of organic produce, raw dairy, humanely raised meats, gourmet foods, baked goods, household items, and so much more.
According to their website, Kimberton’s mission is to “serve as a community market with a passionate commitment to integrity, sustainable agriculture, and fair trade.” Since its opening, the store has abided by its values to care for the earth by promoting organic and biodynamic farming methods, building cooperative solid ties within the community, supporting each person’s quest to learn about conscious, healthy living solutions, and honoring each customer with outstanding service—something Danny actively achieves daily.
“We live in this community, and Danny knows more people than I do,” laughs Nancy. “All the customers know him now; whenever we go into the post office or a local store, everyone’s like ‘Hi Dan!”