This letter brought a Publix employee to tears -- the happy kind

Owner of company that makes face coverings for the deaf did more than just provide a helpful mask

Asli Knowles, a Publix employee in Vero Beach, Florida, shows a specially designed mask for deaf people created by Brian Tavers, owner of Anchor Handmade Designs. Contributed photo (Asli Knowles)

Every time Asli Knowles looks at the letter, she gets goosebumps just as she did the first time she read it.

But more on that in a little bit.

A resident of Vero Beach, Florida, who is also an employee at a local Publix supermarket, Knowles initially found it to be a struggle to communicate with customers when employees started having to wear face coverings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Knowles said it was nearly impossible to communicate with customers who were deaf.

“I would have to take off my mask to have them read my lips,” Knowles said. “And I didn’t want to put anyone in danger.”

Then, Knowles found out about some special face coverings for the deaf made by Brian Travers, the founder of Anchor Handmade Designs.

Travers, who is deaf, designed a clear, see-through-window-type facial covering to help the deaf who depend on lip reading to communicate with others.

“I found him and sent a message to him,” Knowles said. “I told him smiling is a part of our uniform and I want to make my customers happy in these hard times. And we have deaf customers. They can read my lips with that.”

After receiving the specially designed mask, Knowles said the first day wearing it at work was “amazing.”

“I had two deaf customers in my line and one of them almost cried in happiness and asked information about the masks,” Knowles said. “All other customers are so happy to see my smile and (they’re) giving so many compliments.”

Now, back to the letter.

As happy as Knowles felt being able to better communicate with customers, it had nothing on what Travers wrote on her behalf to Publix management.

“Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to read hundreds of stories -- and one in particular stood out,” Travers said in the letter. “You have an employee, Asli Knowles, who ordered one mask from me. Asli texted, ‘I like to smile and I think this pandemic is making everyone upset and I want to make customers happy with my smile. I want this mask because of that.’ I just want you to know that Asli’s reason for wanting my clear see-through facial covering with a plastic window is the most selfless reason I have ever come across. She is clearly an asset to your organization, and she should be recognized for going above and beyond for the benefit of others.”

It’s easy to see why Knowles still has goosebumps when the topic of the letter comes up.

“When he sent me a copy of the letter, I started crying,” Knowles said. “Any time I look at the letter, I still have goosebumps because it is awesome.”

And no doubt, it has made Knowles’ smile for customers in these hard times even wider.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.