ARCANUM — Matt Strickland was recently recognized by Sutton’s Foods in Arcanum for his 20 years of service.
The 39-year-old has worked there since he graduated from high school at Tri-Village.
Sheila Sutton, wife of Josh Sutton, presented Strickland with a plaque and a sash for this achievement in a special ceremony in front of his peers at the supermarket.
Strickland, who has Down Syndrome, said he has worked in the produce department all those years.
“I check to see if the produce is good or bad and, if it’s bad, it goes in the trash,” he said. “It’s not a hard job and it wasn’t hard to learn.”
He works at Sutton’s on Wednesdays and Fridays. In addition, he will start working at Beauty Supply on Monday and will work there every Monday on a part-time basis as well.
The son of Debbie (Mrs. Dale) Clark and Alton “Junior” Strickland, who died this past November, Matt resides with his mother and stepfather in the Arcanum area.
Because he cannot drive, his mother and stepfather take him where he needs to go, whether it be work or at his other hangout, Your Happy Place.
“He goes to Happy Place twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday,” his mother said. “Your Happy Place provides adult day services. They go on outings in the community and surrounding areas.”
Matt and his girlfriend, Lauren Warner, daughter of Pat and Shelly Warner, have been dating for five years. On their anniversary this year, they went out to eat and he presented her with flowers and a card.
The couple met at Wayne Industries and fell in love.
“I saw her smile,” said Matt, who used to work at GTI. “I still try to get her to laugh.”
“He asked me out for our first date,” she recalled. “I feel blessed to get to go out with Matt. He is an amazing guy.”
Lauren, who will turn 27 on July 31, works part-time at Beauty Supply.
They are with each other about all of the time, as they are also both clients of Your Happy Place. The couple is also seen every time A Night in Hollywood is presented at Greenville High School each March. They usually perform a dance.
“We’re dance partners,” they echoed.
“We also like Christian songs, Christmas music, Disney music and the Jonas Brothers,” she said. “For us, God comes first and then family and friends. And, we like Bible study a lot. He goes to church with me at the EUM in Greenville.”
“I love my job,” Matt said. “And I work on a budget with the help of my mom.”
“He also loves to clean house,” Lauren offered.
“Matt has dreams and determination to reach his goals in life,” said Mom Debbie. “He one day would like to get married to his girlfriend Lauren and eventually work more days at Sutton’s or Beauty Supply. Matt has a great personality and he doesn’t know a stranger. He is very polite and has a good sense of humor, he can be a prankster at times. I am a very proud parent. He is wonderful!”