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Utah County Sheriff’s Office employee defies odds, honored for his 20-plus years of work in the jail kitchen

May 6, 2019 GMT

Matt Grant wasn’t expected to live very long, but at the age of 43, he is still loving life and sharing his happiness with others. In April, he was awarded the Utah County Employee of the Month, an honor that brought a smile to his face and to those of his coworkers.

Matt Grant was born with a rare chromosomal abnormality.

“The doctors told me he wouldn’t live very long and he has lived 43 years,” his mother, Carol Grant, said. “They first said that he would live only a couple of years.”

He lives in a group home, but visits his parents often on weekends and holidays. While he does need some direction, Carol Grant said, he enjoys being independent, staying active playing basketball, bowling and other games. He loves to be around people and enjoys riding his adult tricycle and going four-wheeling with his family.

While he is not able to speak, he does understand everything that is spoken to him and is able to communicate well with others by using hand gestures and some sign language, according to Carol Grant.

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With his chromosomal abnormality, some health problems occur. He does have congestive heart failure, but no one would know that because he stays so active and busy, Carol Grant said.

Part of his active life has been participating in the Special Olympics for 10 years; Matt Grant ran the torch with police officers for the first few years, according to Carol Grant. While his favorite Olympic sport was bowling, he has also competed in running, swimming and received his first gold medal in skiing.

Brightening lives at the Sheriff’s Office

Over 20 years ago, Matt Grant began accompanying his mom to work in the kitchen at the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, where he was trained before being integrated into the workforce.

“He went with me for three or four years while I worked in the kitchen,” Carol Grant said. “I quit because I couldn’t separate supervisor versus mother.” But, he continued and is still there today. In fact, he has worked for the Sheriff’s Office for 21 years, a job he loves.

As a cook assistant, Mattie — as he is fondly referred to around the Sheriff’s Office, works in the kitchen to help prepare meals for the jail, for Meals on Wheels and for the Code 7 Café. He helps move food trays along and arranges the food carts for the housing units each day.

“He’s the start of the line. He’s the one that controls the pace,” said deputy Jason Heidel, food service administrator. Matt Grant works with the inmates, as well as Sheriff’s Office employees.

At the Code 7 Café, named because Code 7 traditionally means “out to lunch” with law enforcement, about 100-140 employees of the Sheriff’s Office come for lunch each day. Because on-duty jail staff members are asked to not leave the building during their shifts, they need a place to eat. About 30 inmates work at the café, where they are trained in the culinary arts.

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“The inmate workers are very protective of him,” Heidel said.

“The guy doesn’t forget a face. He has been here over 20 years and he can literally remember every inmate worker who has been here and all of the staff,” Heidel said. As deputies, firefighters and administrators come in to eat each day, Matt Grant moves from table to table, interacting with each of them.

“He likes to walk around and keep everyone in line. He’ll hand out work assignments to the other guys,” Heidel said.

Deputy Chris Nielson, food service manager, said that Matt Grant takes his job very seriously. When they go outside to break down the cardboard boxes, he keeps a close eye on the inmate workers. “He loves watching to make sure nobody’s wandering off.”

The inmate workers also keep a close eye on him, Nielson said, ensuring that everyone is treating him with respect.

“He brings compassion out of the inmate workers,” Nielson said. “They go out of their way to prepare food how he likes it.” There have been one or two attempts by new inmates to make fun of Matt Grant, but those quickly got stopped by other inmates.

“He loves the job. He loves the inmates. He interacts with them big time,” Carol Grant said. “When we’re out and about in the community, and he sees former inmates that he has worked with or other friends, he always remembers them and hugs them.”

He also loves the deputies and other employees at the Sheriff’s Office. “He has his favorites,” Carol Grant said. “At home, he calls them ‘the fuzz.’”

On the day that Matt Grant was going to receive the “Employee of the Month” award from the Utah County Commission, he had no idea.

“I brought him laundered clothes that day. He kept looking at me like he wondered what was going on,” Carol Grant said. “When they announced it, he jumped up, everybody clapped and ‘yayed.’ He had a ball.”

Fellow employees nominated him as Employee of the Month and wrote comments about why they thought he should be given the honor. These included his ability to put a smile on everyone’s face when he walks into the room, his talent as a lunch greeter and his strong work ethic.

“If we were all half as happy as he is, everybody would be much better off,” Heidel said.