Jordan Branscum of Batesville doesn’t think he did anything special to deserve being named one of the state’s Famous Arkansans, but his boss begs to differ.
Branscum, 25, was surprised with the honor at The Home Depot, where he has worked for more than two years. The award was presented by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office in partnership with the state Division of Developmental Disabilities Services. Branscum said he has a mild form of cerebral palsy.
“Honestly, it was a complete surprise and really, there was a part of me at first that really didn’t want to accept it. … I’ll take the recognition and everything, but at the same time, because I haven’t done anything extraordinary as of yet, part of me feels I haven’t earned it,” he said.
Calvin Wright, store manager for the Batesville Home Depot store, said Branscum is a parking-lot associate and gives his best day-in and day-out.
“He’s a hard worker, dedicated, very conscientious,” Wright said. “He is passionate about taking care of our customers and making sure they get what they need in our store before leaving.”
The award was given to 18 people in Arkansas, including Branscum.
“Someone nominated me out of the blue,” Branscum said.
That someone was Jerry White, his case manager through Network of Community Options Inc. in Batesville, which provides services to Branscum.
“Jordan is just an outstanding young man; he has a determination to succeed that I haven’t seen in a long time,” White said. “Not everything’s always been smooth for Jordan; he’s had road bumps, but he’s persisted.”
Branscum also credited his direct-support professional, Sally Petty, for supporting him.
Glenn Bolick, public information manager for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, said the idea was to bring awareness about people with developmental disabilities, and “we deemed them to be famous because they’re famous in their communities.
“Hiring people with disabilities is a big deal with the governor,” Bolick said.
In addition to receiving the Famous Arkansan award that day, Branscum was presented by Wright with the Home Depot Homer Award “for exemplifying the core values of Home Depot.”
“He was recognized for excellent customer service and building strong relationships, two of our eight,” Wright said.
Branscum said he started working at The Home Depot to earn money for college, as well as spending money, he said.
“The pay is pretty good, and the people are always nice, and they try their best to always help the customer, which I think is the most important thing in retail,” Branscum said.
Branscum said he cleans the parking lot, takes care of the carts and helps people load their vehicles.
Wright said Branscum has shown a lot of initiative.
“He started as a greeter. After being with us six months, he wanted to be more active and involved in the store,” Wright said.
He said Branscum’s physical disability hasn’t impeded him.
“He’s gotten stronger since working with us because, initially, he was in braces on his legs. Now he’s getting around without his braces,” Wright said.
“Whether you are handicapped or not, it doesn’t matter,” Branscum said. “You’ve got a standard that you are expected to meet as a member of society, and you either meet it or you don’t. It doesn’t matter if it holds me back — guess what? Handicapped or not, I’m going to try. If I can’t do it, I either get stronger to the point I can do it, or I try something else.”
Wright said Branscum has a good relationship with his fellow employees and “is always engaged in conversation with them.”
Branscum said that in his spare time, he likes to go bowling and has written a novel that he describes as “fantasy fiction about Christians.”
“Here’s the thing — I didn’t know it was something I was good at. It’s something that I started because I just felt like I needed to do it … my sophomore year of high school. Actually, it’s kinda weird. I was — you’re going to laugh when I say this — I was told to write by God. Very weird, I know. At first, I thought he wanted me to write songs because I was a singer at the time; I was in choir.”
But Branscum said he wasn’t satisfied with the songs he came up with, so he started writing fiction.
“I’ve recently focused on writing about a secret sect of Christianity that can bring fiction and fantasy to life by music, rhyme and a set of symbols in a mysterious ink,” he said.
Branscum also earned certification in medical billing and coding from the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville.
“I’m a coding and billing specialist,” he said, adding that’s his “backup plan” for his writing career.
He is a son of Norman and Gloria Branscum of Batesville, and he has a brother, Ryan, who is a student at UACCB, he said.
Wright said the ceremony presenting the Famous Arkansan honor to Branscum included Deborah Frazier, chancellor of UACCB, and Shelly Hendrix, membership director for the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce. Hendrix coordinated the day’s events. “If it’s anything to bring recognition to people in our community, we will be the first ones to say, ‘Yes, we’ll do it.’”
Branscum said everyone was “very nice, and they told me I could drop by the state Capitol anytime,” he said.
Branscum said he has some goals in place.
“I do know at some point in the future I will wind up going to Bible college out of state,” he said. “I just want to learn more about the Bible as a whole.
“If you follow a faith, you need to know about it and read the material,” he said. “I’m not against ministry, if that’s what the good Lord has called me to do.”
Branscum said he doesn’t consider himself a role model for others.
“I really hate to use the term ‘role model.’ I like to be an example for people in general because I feel like as a Christian, that’s what I’m supposed to be, an example.”
He attends Ramsey Heights Missionary Baptist Church in Batesville.
For now, Branscum wants to keep working at The Home Depot. Although he said he appreciates the recent honor, it won’t change how he works or lives.
“I just know I tried to do my job to the best of my ability, and I still do that. In my experience, if you do your job to the best of your ability, you’ll be rewarded for that. Do your job the best you can,” he said.
“That’s the key to life — you work to the best of your ability to achieve your goals, and you help others where you can,” Branscum said.
“Awards, I feel, are for people who do something extraordinary. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t done anything extraordinary — yet. I have plans to,” he said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.