Daniel was diagnosed with autism as a young child. He grew up with his mom, sister and grandmother until he was in 7th grade, when his grandmother – who was very special to him – passed away. Ten years later, when his mother passed away, Daniel went to live with his aunt and uncle. He likes living with them. His uncle, who oversees his finances, has been teaching Daniel about the importance of “paying the bills first and then saving.”
Daniel began working with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) a few years ago. DVR referred him to Easter Seals of Southwest Florida for vocational training. The training included working at a number of different organizations, including Goodwill Manasota. He loved working at the Goodwill site so much that he decided he wanted a job there once he completed his training. When the time came, he applied. He had to wait for a while but, as Daniel says, “Goodwill was worth the wait.”
He works as a sales floor associate and donor greeter at Goodwill’s Cortez store. Daniel enjoys working there and really likes his store manager. Daniel says she really cares about everyone. Daniel also likes having a GoodPartner Coach. When his coach asked what he loves most about his job, Daniel said, “Getting along with everyone and helping them out, and they help me out, too.”
His coach saw how much Daniel cares about his co-workers recently when the mother of one of his team members passed away. Daniel was genuinely concerned for his friend. He knows firsthand how painful it is when someone you love passes away. He believes that working at Goodwill means sharing in each other’s lives, in good and difficult times.
In his spare time, for the past four years, Daniel has participated in Special Olympics basketball, volleyball and bowling. He has gone to state competitions twice in volleyball, which is his favorite sport. Daniel is an athlete leader. He participates in fundraising events for Special Olympics at Culver’s and Publix, which he enjoys. With the impact of COVID-19, his teams still meet on Zoom. Even though they are physically distancing, he is happy they can still “see” each other.
Daniel says that having a disability like autism has given him opportunities to be more involved in his community. He likes to help others understand his strengths as well as his challenges, and also to motivate others with disabilities to “be brave, to be yourself, be more involved in your community, get along with everyone!”
As someone whose light shines very bright – even with the challenges and losses life has thrown at him – Daniel is looked up to as a leader who openly shares and is proud of who he is. Daniel is grateful to be working at a place like Goodwill, which hired and values him for his many abilities. But Daniel isn’t the only one with a lot to be thankful for – those of us who work at Goodwill are grateful, too, to have a friend and leader like Daniel on our team.