Lionel's Story

Finding the perfect job

Every weekday at 2 a.m., Lionel McMullen’s phone alarm buzzes and he readies himself for the workday. 

Lionel wakes up early because public transportation doesn’t run by the time his 6 a.m. shift at the Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building in downtown Memphis begins. The early start gives him enough time to eat breakfast, take a shower and make the two-mile walk from his apartment to the Federal Building. He leaves promptly at 4:20 a.m. and arrives at work 40 minutes later. He’s there at least an hour before he is scheduled to clock in. 

It’s a routine Lionel has been following for nearly six years. He says he doesn’t mind the commute or the early morning wakeup alarms. He’s grateful to have a job he enjoys. 

Lionel is one of hundreds of people supported through SRVS’ Employment Services. Through SRVS, individuals with disabilities are able to achieve employment, find mentorships and explore career achievements. SRVS’ employment program currently partners with more than 100 area businesses and supports more than 300 people annually. 

In 2016, Lionel was hired by a SRVS community business partner, who then placed him with a job at the Federal Building. At the Federal Building, Lionel is in charge of maintaining and cleaning the sixth floor, which includes 60 offices, multiple bathrooms and common areas. 

Getting the job done in only four hours can be difficult, Lionel said, but he’s always up to the challenge. Listening to some of his favorite music – bands like Nickleback, Stained, Switchfoot and 30 Seconds to Mars being on his current playlist – helps him keep up with the job’s frenetic pace.

“To get everything done, it’s like being in an action movie,” he explained. 

But having a job is more than just collecting a paycheck, he said. Over the years, Lionel has bonded with many of his co-workers, and, together, they’ve built a support system that they can lean on whenever they need it most.

“I’ve built a good rapport with my co-workers,” Lionel said. “We’re all growing and working with each other. The knowledge they share with you and that I share with them, we all have a common goal to become better individuals.”

Prior to his job at the Federal Building, Lionel worked at another downtown Memphis business, but he decided to leave because his work schedule was continuously changing. 

“Lionel needed the consistency of a set schedule,” said Deb Nichols, SRVS Employment Sales and Marketing Coordinator. 

At the Federal Building, Lionel has thrived. In the past six years, his hourly pay has doubled compared to his previous job, and he’s contributing to his 401K retirement fund. He remains upbeat about his future.

“You might think the odds against you, but you are stacked against the odds,” Lionel said. “That’s how great you are.”