Taking on life’s challenges, David Sandidge of Canton is known as a hard-working, inspirational employee at the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services based in Madison.
Handling about 1,000 letters daily for the agency’s Disability Determination Services, fixing cranky machines or handling phone calls, he’s beloved by his MDRS colleagues at the state’s agency’s Madison headquarters.
Diagnosed with a disability at six months old (cause unknown) and living with mental and physical impairments for decades, Sandidge, 43, appreciates having a job with a steady paycheck. He typically arrives by 7am and gets the coffee (which the employees chip in and pay for) brewing, much to the delight of his co-workers.
In short, David makes it his business to brighten the atmosphere within DDS.
His co-workers appreciate David for his ability to master all the machines, especially when problems arise. He makes all the labels for outgoing mail and takes care of putting postage on packages. He’s the reliable guy who enjoys getting to know his colleagues from one floor to the next level.
“David is very kindhearted and loves everyone,’’ says team leader Ellena Tankesly at the DDS office. “He loves his job and helping his co-workers out – that’s what he does best! He is one I can really rely on and is always ready to help in any way he can.’’
His value as a faithful worker becomes apparent when he’s not there. And that was the case early during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when many employees worked from home. When he’s away, mailroom machines and copiers seem to slow down, Ellena says. “Nothing seems to work right without him. He’s our problem solver here,’’ she said. “He’s a wiz on all the machines in the DDS mailroom.’’
In his gray cubicle -steps away from the coffee machine and microwave- are four of the awards he’s received. The Social Security Administration honored the Mississippian with its Exceptional Customer Service Award in June 2008. A more recent award salutes David for his outstanding performance, dedication and service to the citizens of Mississippi, the Social Security Administration as well as DDS programs.
In a world turned upside down during the COVID-19 pandemic with so many issues facing people daily, David Sandidge stays upbeat from one week to the next. His positive attitude and refusal to let roadblocks stand in his way spills over to co-workers.
“David is such a ray of sunshine and has overcome lots of obstacles,’’ says Jo Ann Summers, director of MDRS’ Disability Determination Services.
A Vancouver, Washington native, David moved to Salem, Oregon, then relocated to Canton, in 1999. He came to Mississippi after working three years with Mental Health and Disability Determinations Services in Oregon.
An MDRS work coach helped him every day for several weeks to ensure he was ready to do the job. He never received a regular school curriculum diploma, but did earn a special education certificate.
David “functions quite well socially,’’ says his father, Tommy Sandidge, a retiree who once operated a typewriter machine shop. “With the aid of new technology, namely the IPhone, he can communicate and keep in touch with friends and relatives.’’
Growing up in Washington State, David was introduced to special education classes at a young age and that helped him get through the many programs and therapies of his youth. “Early intervention was an important factor in what he can do now,’’ Tommy Sandidge says.
David lives independently, but his dad is located a few houses away. He does not drive, so he relies on others and his father for daily transportation to work.
When he’s away from the office, David enjoys time with family. He’s proud of his brother, Brian, an Air Force retiree who lives in Huntsville. He loves visiting his niece and nephew in Alabama. He likes watching videos on YouTube and keeping up with friends on Facebook. David cheers for the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Ole Miss Rebels. He’s a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church and never encounters a stranger.
Getting to know co-workers as he goes about his business on multiple floors, David believes, is pretty valuable.
David makes sure all clearance letters are folded, stuffed and ready to go. He mails out any paper cases to Social Security Offices through the US Postal Service and UPS.
But what co-workers really appreciate about David, is the joy he brings to the office and of course, Ellena adds, “he makes great coffee!.’’