Kindness and a can-do attitude define longtime employee

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published March 1, 2019

 For 30 years, St. Clair Shores resident Jeff Maci, right, has worked at the Harper Woods Taco Bell. Maci, who has Down syndrome, recently received a commendation from his manager, James Cherry, for his long career.

For 30 years, St. Clair Shores resident Jeff Maci, right, has worked at the Harper Woods Taco Bell. Maci, who has Down syndrome, recently received a commendation from his manager, James Cherry, for his long career.

Photo provided by Geri Maci

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HARPER WOODS — Fifty-year-old St. Clair Shores resident Jeff Maci has been a reliable fixture at the Taco Bell at Vernier Road and Harper Avenue for decades.

For 30 years, Maci, who has Down syndrome, has worked at the restaurant and has provided service and kindness to each person he meets.

“I’ve known him since I was a little kid. He comes in regardless of who’s here and starts by giving everyone a hug,” said James Cherry, the restaurant’s manager. “He always makes sure the cups are all set and we’re all set to go. He’s a sweetheart. He may be limited in what he can do, but he does everything he can to help.”

Maci stocks cups, cleans the dining room, wipes the counters, opens the doors for customers, collects trays, refills drinks and scrubs windows.

“Jeff is very calm, very easygoing and listens to everybody,” said his mother, Geri Maci. “I have gotten so many compliments about Jeff in the last 30 years — and even before that, people were impressed with how well he is able to work with people.”

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that can result in intellectual disability, which can include difficulty speaking, as it does with Jeff. Jeff faces his challenges every day with kindness toward others and a can-do attitude.

“It’s a challenge, but you handle it by getting them involved in stuff and making sure they are taken care of the right way,” said Geri. “If someone comes up to him and is acceptable and knowledgeable about his condition, he can be fine. He has to do his best with those who aren’t. A lot of people don’t accept handicapped people and the challenges they face.”

In addition to his employment at Taco Bell, Jeff competed in the Michigan Special Olympics for many years and still enjoys staying active.

“We no longer do the Special Olympics,” said his mother, “but he did the relay and butterfly in swimming at the Special Olympics. He was an athlete from middle school until he had to stop because of asthma (20 years later). He still enjoys bowling and baseball though.”

While his condition makes many things difficult, that hasn’t stopped Jeff.

“It’s difficult because he can’t speak to the guests, but he still finds ways to make them feel welcome and have a good experience,” said Cherry. “We love Jeff so much here, and we know he loves us back. He treats us all like family.”

Geri said the keys to caring for someone with Down syndrome are to accept them and to always give them opportunities to go out and live the life they want.

“Accept them for who they are. You can’t change them, but you can get involved and befriend and teach them. You have to take people like Jeff into your heart, and they will do the same for you. As long as you do that, it will be an easy road,” Geri said.

Cherry recently recognized Maci for his longtime service to the restaurant and hailed him as one of the best people he has ever had the pleasure of meeting.

“I can be having a bad day, but I never mind going to work when Jeff’s there because he makes it a good day. He’s an amazing guy,” said Cherry. “He’s so genuine. He will not leave unless he hugs everybody. You know how if you get a hug from your mom and you know it’s real? Every hug he gives is like that.”

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