'Condiment specialist' honored at Bellingham Red Robin

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 12, 2013 

Steve Jacobson

Steve Jacobson, who has Down syndrome, works at Red Robin in Bellingham, where his co-workers hosted a party Oct. 21, 2013 to celebrate his 24th anniversary with the business. Jacobson, 49, is a "condiment specialist" known for his friendliness and his sense of responsibility.

MATT MCDONALD — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Steve Jacobson's life is all about making connections with people.

Jacobson, 49, who has Down syndrome, was recognized with a party Oct. 21 at the Bellingham Red Robin, in honor of his 24th anniversary working at the restaurant.

The Ferndale resident proudly wears a shirt embroidered with his name and his title - "condiment specialist." Now he just as proudly wears a new Red Robin jacket, a gift from his co-workers.

His big sister, Sharon Allen, 55, a Windermere real estate broker, said the party was particularly fitting because October was Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Question: Steve, you don't look your age at all.

Steve: Thank you!

Sharon: A checker at Haggen called me Steve's mother!

Q: Steve, what did you love doing as a young man?

Steve: I was a student manager for the football team at Ferndale High School (he graduated when he was 21 out of a special program). The boys on the team were great to me.

Sharon: We grew up in Everett and my parents (Dick and Carol Jacobson) moved our family to Ferndale not long before Steve entered high school.

Our parents chose to raise Steve with me and my younger brother, Rich. All of our lives have been so much richer as a result.

Q: Steve, did you have any special challenges when you were younger?

Steve: Cancer and a stroke when I was younger.

Sharon: When Steve was a senior at Ferndale he was diagnosed with cancer, but he beat that with surgery and did not have to undergo chemotherapy. It was amazing how the house seemed like a revolving door of friends always coming and going to wish him well and make sure he was OK.

Then, after he had worked full time for a year or so at Red Robin, Steve suffered a stroke and then had to fight a blood clot. But he was back at work within a month and he's been OK ever since.

Q: Steve, you seem very proud to be working.

Steve: I really love my job and the people at Red Robin.

Sharon: Steve takes great pride in the responsibility of a job, in earning his own way and having his own earnings to spend. When the family plans a vacation, Steve would rather stay home and work at the Red Robin.

Q: Steve, do you have any hobbies?

Steve: God has blessed me with so many friends.

Sharon: He has a long, long list of the telephone numbers of friends. He contacts about 10 people each day to keep up with them and make sure they're OK.

He serves as an usher at St. Joseph Catholic Church. And he always enjoys the annual Buddy Walk at the Village Green (part of Down Syndrome Awareness Month).

I especially love how parents of children with Down syndrome can talk with Steve and me, and see more possibilities of how their children can live fulfilling lives. He's like an elder statesman for them.

Q: Who helps you with your living arrangements, Steve?

Steve: I have my own apartment with Steve and Stephanie Pratt.

Sharon: Steve and Stephanie are absolutely wonderful, such a big part of Steve's life. They're like a second set of parents for him.

Q: Sharon, how did Red Robin come up with Steve's special party?

Sharon: We showed up as a family the previous Friday to celebrate Steve's employment anniversary, and he had forgotten to tell manager Sean McFall. So, on Monday, the staff had a big party to celebrate with Steve before the restaurant opened for lunch.

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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