Restaurant owner Art Bouvier was so impressed by Jhaqueil Reagan's demeanor and persistence that he offered him a better-paying job.
Jhaqueil Reagan has a new job — one that he doesn't have to trek 10 miles in snow, ice and slush to get to.
The 18-year-old Indianapolis youth was hired by a sympathetic restaurant owner who crossed paths with the teen as he was trudging nearly 10 miles in inclement weather to get to an interview last week for another job that paid minimum wage.
"I said, 'Well, how come you're not on the bus?' He said, 'I can't afford the bus until I get a job,'" Art Bouvier, owner of Papa Roux in Indianapolis, told Fox 59.
Teen lands job after 10 mile trek in the snow
"I'm thinking to myself, here's a kid walking almost 10 miles in ice and slush and snow for the hope of a job at minimum wage. That's like the kind of story your parents used to tell, my parents used to tell, uphill both ways in the snow."
Bouvier later phoned Reagan with a job offer at his Cajun restaurant — at above minimum wage, which in Indiana is $7.25 an hour. Reagan started his new job on Monday, helping load and unload food products, busing tables and washing dishes.
"Jhaqueil is one of the hardest-working new hires I've had in a long time," Bouvier told MSN News by telephone on Tuesday morning, as he juggled calls from media outlets near and far.
"The kid broke a sweat and never stopped and probably outlasted me."
Bouvier recounted last week's chance encounter with Reagan in a post Friday on Papa Roux's Facebook page, and soon the story went viral. By Tuesday, the post had more than 15,000 "likes."
Aside from his new job, Reagan has since been flooded with offers of donations and generosity from strangers touched by his selfless determination and his down-on-luck past.
"I'm lucky I met him," Reagan told Fox 59. "I'm really lucky I met him."
According to the TV station, Reagan had to drop out of school two years ago when his mother died. He completed his GED while staying home to care for his siblings.
"It’s going to help me provide. It’s going to help me put a roof over their head," said Reagan told WISH-TV on Monday. "It will help me tremendously."
Bouvier said he was outside putting down some ice melt when Reagan walked past him. The teen asked how far it was to 10th and Sherman. He had already walked about three miles, and Bouvier told him it was another six or seven miles.
"I suggested that he would be far better off on the bus than on foot, especially in all this ice and slush. He thanked me and continued on," Bouvier recalled in his Facebook post.
About 15 minutes later, as Bouvier and his wife Colleen were driving down 10th Street, they came upon Reagan again, still walking. They gave him a ride and soon found out what the teen was up to.
"Jhaqueil was waking from 42nd and Post to an interview at 10th and Sherman. For a potential (but not guaranteed) minimum-wage job. In this weather. Walking, because he couldn't afford the bus. He had actually planned his time well and the interview was still 2 hours away."
Bouvier said he gave the teen some money for lunch, got his phone number and dropped him off for his interview for a cashier's position at a thrift store. And it was then that Bouvier thought the kid deserved more, so he called him later with a job offer.
Reagan wound up with a better-paying job miles closer to home — and he won't even have to walk to work.
IndyGo, Indianapolis' public transportation agency, gave the teen a free one-year bus pass.
On Facebook, strangers also offered their generosity. One woman said she had bought a $50 Visa gift card for Reagan and she and her friends were buying more gift cards to drop off at the restaurant. Another woman asked if he needed furniture or clothing.
Kudos also poured in for Bouvier and his establishment.
"What a wonderful story. I've also heard nothing but great things about the food at Papa Roux. I'll definitely be eating there as soon as I can get out of my still iced over driveway. Thank you for maintaining a warm heart in an oftentimes coldhearted world," one woman wrote.
"And I thought that when I used to walk almost two miles it was quite a feat," another man said. "God Bless Papa Roux. Next time in Indy, I AM Stopping in."
And how does Bouvier feel about all the media attention?
"I think it's absurd — but it's absurd in a good way," he told MSN News.
"I never sought the publicity but if it's going to be used to make other people come forward and do good things, I'm all for it."
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