ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — When you walk into the Rockford Public Library’s East Branch, at 6685 E State Street, you’re likely to be greeted by Steve Freeman, a man with Down syndrome who’s been making people smile for nearly 20 years.
Steve is showing others how hard he’s worked to have an independent, successful career, despite his handicap.
“When I was a kid, I loved books,” he said. “When I came to the library, I though, ‘This is where I belong.'”
Steve has been working as a page for 19 years, a job his mother, Evelyn, says means the world to him.
“[He] took a test to see if [he] could put the books in order and he took the test and he passed,” she remembered. “I’m very proud.”
Steve’s co-workers say his main job is to organize incoming and outgoing books, and making sure the customers feel special.
“He loves the interaction with people, and they love him. You’ll see them walk in and say, ‘Hey, Steve!'” said circulation manager, Donna Hopson.
Steve sorts dozens of books every week, and while he never asks for recognition, he loves the fact that his name is plastered all over the front room.
“The job means accuracy and speed and learning,”
“I know that Steve has a great attitude and when he wakes up in the morning, he chooses that attitude,” Hopson said.
His love for books comes from his parents. While Evelyn sharpened his reading skills, his sharp style came from his dad.
“My dad was a sharp dresser,” he said.
Steve says he wants to become a supervisor, saying he’ll work toward the next chapter of his career with the same smile he started with nearly 20 years ago.
“He’s made himself a part of the library,” Hopson said.
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