BENTON, Ark. – Bernard Holland Park in Benton is kept clean, thanks to the Benton Parks and Recreation staff, but especially one employee in particular by the name of Mark Allinson. 

Mark is 25 years old with autism. He started working for BPR in 2020, a job he says he is grateful to have for one reason. 

“It’s good being around people that want to be around you,” said Allinson. 

Despite his challenges with autism, Mark always shows up to work at the Benton Parks and Recreation with a big bright smile on his face. 

Mark’s manager, Russell Johnson says during Mark’s interview, “he was quiet as a church mouse.” But it didn’t take long for him to open up, and when he did, the staff was introduced to the real Mark. 

Johnson says Mark is “never in a bad mood or in a bad spirit. When you see him, he’s always smiling.”

That smile and passion Mark has for picking up trash to make sure Benton Parks are in tip-top shape is a lesson that Parks Director Stephanie Jones says Mark doesn’t know he’s even teaching

We’re able to teach him a few things but more importantly, he’s taught us about compassion and patients.” 

Working side by side with Mark the majority of the time, Austin Jenkins says he is grateful to have Mark on the BPR team.  Jenkins added that he’s watched Mark overcome lots of adversity on the job, with tasks that may seem simple like pulling trash bags. 

“Don’t get discouraged, just work hard,” said Mark as he offered advice to those who are in his shoes. 

Jenkins says that was hard to see but he learned from Mark’s experience, and it made him a better person. 

Throughout the entire BPR family, overall, Mark has sparked a way of thinking as they look for new ways to continue to make a work environment for all. 

Stephanie Jones says a question that is asked often is “how do we look at what people look at as a disability and change that to ability.”

Benton Parks and Rec say they’ve been working with both Benton and Bryant High schools to offer a transitional program so CBI students can experience work life before heading into the workforce.