For Jhaqueil Reagan, life was a struggle. Hit hard by the death of his mother in 2011 and with two younger siblings to take care of, the teen had needed to drop out of school. However, despite that he had completed his General Educational Development (GED) qualification at the same time as caring for his family. And following that, getting a job was next on the agenda.
On that note, Reagan had secured a job interview in February 2013 for a minimum-wage position at a local thrift store in Indianapolis, Indiana. However, it was around ten miles away from where Reagan was staying at that time, and with no money for transport, a long walk was on the cards for the teen. Furthermore, the chilly weather only made matters worse.
Yet Reagan’s home circumstances meant that he was a little short of options. His brother and sister had since moved in with their grandmother and the youngster had found himself homeless, staying with friends. And it was from such an abode that he had set off that morning.
But the ten-mile distance to the interview didn’t deter Reagan, who needed a job and was determined to get one. So off he set through the suburbs of Indianapolis in the hope of securing the position. For a young man with few qualifications, a job was a job, as Reagan knew only too well.
Meanwhile, for someone looking to walk to their destination, the weather conditions couldn’t have been less accommodating. And on this particular Friday morning, snow and ice lay on the roads and sidewalks, making progress slow.
At the same time, Art Bouvier was busy salting down the car park of his restaurant, Papa Roux. And it’s there that he came across a lone figure trudging through the snow. Yet there Reagan was, passing by the car park of the restaurant in the middle of his journey.
Bouvier recalled his conversation with Reagan in an interview with Fox59 in February 2013. He said the latter asked him, “‘Excuse me, can you tell me how far it is to 10th and Sherman?’ I looked at the ground, it’s all ice, and I said, ‘10th and Sherman? That’s about six or seven miles away. You’re not going to get there anytime soon in this weather. You’ll probably need to take a bus, and he said, ‘Okay, thank you sir.’ And he just kept going.”
What Bouvier couldn’t have known at the time was that Reagan was actually living at 42nd and Post, meaning the journey from beginning to end was nearly ten miles in total. But on Reagan trudged, determined to get to his destination, while Bouvier continued on with the task at hand.
And so the chance encounter ended, and their paths may never have crossed again, but fortunately for Reagan, that wasn’t to be the case. Because 20 minutes later, Bouvier was driving down 10th with his wife when he spotted the now familiar form of Reagan once again. Not only was the street icy, there were patches without a sidewalk, making progress dangerous as well as slow.
Bouvier then continued the story in his interview with Fox59. He told Reagan, “‘Well how come you’re not on the bus?’ He said, ‘I can’t afford the bus until I get a job.’” The teen then explained that he was on the way to a job interview. The full realization of the mission Reagan was on then dawned upon the startled Bouvier.
Bouvier recalled, “I’m thinking to myself, ‘here’s a kid walking almost ten miles in the ice and slush and snow for the hope of a job at minimum wage’. That’s the kind of story your parents used to tell, my parents used to tell, up both ways in the snow.”
Meanwhile, the restaurant owner was further impressed by Reagan’s timekeeping. Bouvier continued, “He had actually planned his time well and the interview was still two hours away.” So far Reagan had displayed good punctuality, dedication to succeed and a commitment to fulfilling his objective. Indeed, these are all qualities of a good employee – and Bouvier thought so too.
So, it was at this moment that an idea began to take shape in Bouvier’s mind. He gave Reagan a ride to the interview and told the intrepid teen that he would try to find him a job in the kitchen of his restaurant if he still needed one after his interview in the thrift store. He then asked for the teenager’s phone number so that he could contact him.
Bouvier went away and thought about the youngster, impressed by his dedication to getting a job. The restaurant owner described himself as a “chronic over-sharer” on Facebook, and online was his next destination. Having been inspired by his encounter with Reagan, Bouvier penned a lengthy message on the social media platform, recalling the tale of his fleeting interlude with the job-seeking teen.
From there, things quickly went viral. According to Bouvier himself, within a few hours he had more than 7,000 likes. But the praise kept on coming, and as of writing that popular post has received around 6,400 shares and 26,000 likes.
But why had the story garnered so much interest? It seems to some extent people were inspired by Reagan’s work ethic and refusal to beg for help. As Bouvier wrote in his Facebook post, “He could have asked me for money for a bus. In fact, I quite expected him to. He didn’t. He just started walking.”
However, the story had another twist. Indeed, part of its appeal was the details of Bouvier’s kindness at the time to the young man, which was certainly heart-warming. The post continued, “I also asked him if he had eaten today, and he said he hadn’t. I gave him money for lunch and dropped him at the 10th and Sherman Dairy Queen. I think he was in shock.”
This was all well and good, but the ultimate attraction of the story was the last thing Bouvier was to say on his post. But first, what of Reagan and his interview? Had he managed to impress the thrift store owners in the same way that he had gained the admiration of the owner of the Papa Roux restaurant?
At that time, Bouvier was not to know that Reagan had been unsuccessful in his quest to land the job he had set out that morning to secure. Indeed, the position had actually been filled before the young man had arrived at his destination. And as hard luck stories go, it was a classic.
But this is a story with a happy ending. So let’s return to Bouvier’s Facebook post – how had the restaurant owner finished the tale? He continued, “So, [Reagan] doesn’t know it yet, but he starts with us on Monday. It’s been a while since I’ve met someone so young with a work ethic like that!”
That’s right, Bouvier had already made up his mind to offer Reagan a job. No matter what happened at the thrift store that day, the young man was going to end up with work. Of course, he did not know it then, so how did Bouvier break the news of the teen’s new role in his restaurant?
In fact, Bouvier called Reagan that night to relay the good news. What’s more, the owner even offered to pick the teenager up for his first shift. But what was it about the teen that had compelled Bouvier to act in such a generous manner? Why had he decided to offer him a job with no proof of credentials?
“It was his work ethic that got me,” Bouvier explained to Today in February 2013. He continued, “You don’t get a feel for that on an application or a resume, but when you see that in a person, you don’t pass it up. He’ll definitely get here for a shift if he’ll do that much for an interview.”
Reagan then gave his reaction to the news that he had landed a new job in Papa Roux. He told Fox59, “I’m lucky I met him. I’m really lucky I met him. It’s crazy. I don’t even know. It’s really crazy. My heart’s just racing right now. I’m just too excited, just excited to start.”
It is already a remarkable and inspiring tale, but it was far from ending there for Reagan and his new employer. As previously mentioned, the story was gaining traction on social channels, and other media outlets began to get wind of the feel-good events occurring in the Indianapolis suburbs.
First came the TV news networks. A number of stations from the Indianapolis area broadcast the story of Reagan and Bouvier’s encounter. And the coverage helped to provoke even more interest in the story, both locally and from around the country.
In a follow-up interview with the main protagonists, Reagan revealed to WISH-TV in February 2013, “It’s gonna help me put a roof over the head. It’s just gonna help me tremendously.” And Bouvier added in the same broadcast, “It’s been nothing but an outpouring of support for [Reagan]. Heart-felt responses, well wishes and it’s changed lives.”
So within the space of a few days, Reagan had a new job and a degree of public interest he couldn’t have imagined. His face was on local TV and there was the social media reaction too. And it wasn’t just interest either. Some people wanted to get involved in helping the teen as well, perhaps inspired by Bouvier’s lead. And it started with the young man’s difficult transport situation.
Paula Haskin, from IndyGo, the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation, had a further surprise for Reagan. That gift was a year’s worth of bus passes that Reagan could use to get to and from work. Indeed, this meant no more walking to work for the teen who had set out on foot just a few days previously in such harsh conditions to get to an interview.
For her part, Haskin elaborated on what inspired IndyGo to make the donation. She told WISH-TV, “You don’t see that type of determination in young people, you really don’t, and to see that, I just felt compelled [to help],” And that same news segment revealed that Reagan was also going to receive a Sprint phone from a customer at Papa Roux who had also been inspired to help.
Things were not to end there either. In an appearance on the Steve Harvey show in April 2013, Reagan received one of his biggest surprises yet – a car donated from a local auto group. Asked about the gift, Reagan responded, “I was completely caught off guard, it was a great thing, so thank you so much.”
Asked why the company had felt compelled to give the teen a car, a representative of Ray Skillman Automotive Group, the benefactors, said, “You know what, it’s not often that you hear a story of somebody who’s willing go out of their way to look for work in a day where so many people want to sit at home. We’ve all been blessed at the Auto Group to have received a lot of blessings so we’d like to turn it around and be able to give back.”
And Reagan is not the only one who benefited. According to Today, the Papa Roux restaurant enjoyed a spike in customers and Bouvier was also contacted by people looking to invest in the business. Indeed, it seems doing a good deed for another had a positive impact for him too. And at the same time, Reagan planned to set up a non-profit foundation using some cash donations he had received to help those in similar situations to his.
And it was a great start for Reagan at his new place of work. Having secured the job on the Friday, by the following Tuesday he was able to report that he was very happy with his new surroundings, his colleagues, and of course his boss. Reagan told Today, “I do appreciate him a lot. He’s helped me out so much already.”
So Reagan quickly got into his new role, busing tables and serving drinks. Meanwhile, Bouvier’s wife Colleen told TheBlaze in April 2013 that unconventional recruitment systems weren’t unusual for the restaurant. She said, “The normal application process did not work out for us.”
So, the way in which Reagan nabbed the job was perhaps a little less conventional that most new-hire arrivals at Papa Roux, but the restaurant regularly used word of mouth as a means to pick up suitable new staff. Indeed, even dedicated customers had crossed the line to instead become employees.
Meanwhile, one of the team members, Kristin Erato-Alosinac, told TheBlaze that Papa Roux workers are “different than the people just dropping off an application everywhere. They know what the business is about. They show they have the personality and the work ethic to get in.” Indeed, it seems that Reagan fit the profile to a tee.
But sadly for the Bouviers, the business struggled. And unfortunately, since the story about Reagan originally broke, economic pressures have led to the closure of Papa Roux, as detailed in an emotional Facebook post from the restaurant’s official account in September 2018. Yet this should not be a sad ending, this should be a story of hope.
Indeed, Bouvier’s words about Reagan, given soon after he began working at Papa Roux back in 2013, offer a message we can all relate to. He told Today, “My hope is that every time [Reagan’s] story airs, someone is moved to do something good for someone else in their community.”
And the final words belong to Reagan himself, the young man whose actions inspired these proceedings. He told WISH-TV, “Don’t give up and, you know, go out there and try. I mean, truly, really all it’s about is trying, you know, it’s all you can do.” Indeed, these are important words for us all to take heed of.