Art Dixon, CRS
Art Dixon came to the Community Re-entry Services (CRS) program in an unusual way. He came into the building to wash up, as he was homeless and living in the Emmanuel Baptist Shelter. Joseph Criscuolo, a CRS case manager, met with him and found he had served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was always very polite; addressing everyone as Mr. or Ms., and was very appreciative of any help. Art had an excellent attendance record in our Skills for Success class and after graduating, began working for the Transitional Employment Program (TEP). Throughout his time with the TEP team, he continued to be respectful and polite and made it a point to say hello to each staff member and update them with the positive changes he was making in his life.
Once Art had finished working with the TEP team, he found part-time employment at PERCO Landscaping. He is currently taking classes at CT Works for Computer Literacy and enjoys frequenting the local public library. In February 2013, he also celebrated one year of sobriety, of which he is extremely proud.
Courtney Hill, CES
Courtney Hill has been a member of the Community Employment Services program since 2008. Initially, Courtney had a difficult time maintaining regular attendance and was coming to work very sporadically. With the support of his mother and Easter Seals Goodwill Industries’ staff, he has shown tremendous growth, and is now coming to work on time every time he is scheduled to work. Courtney has a great work ethic and a positive attitude. He is always very focused and is proficient in tackling more challenging job tasks. Courtney, while quiet and relaxed, always inspires other to follow his respectful behavior. He often encourages fellow program participants to make positive choices and models that behavior in his daily interactions with others.
Courtney’s growth, humility and character have truly been an inspiration to us all!
Lilliam Maldonado, FLC
Lilliam is energetic and is never afraid to jump in during sports, Wii games and art activities. She has been a true role model for FLC parents and an excellent example to her daughter.
David May, CES/SPICE
When David May first joined Easter Seals Goodwill Industries in April 2010, he was very shy and did not socialize with many of his peers or staff. The staff have worked with David to encourage him to come out of his shell and now he is eager to participate in more group activities.
While at Community Employment Services (CES), David delivers the Advisor newspapers and fills in at various job sites as needed. He has a great attitude towards his work and his fellow coworkers. When David attends SPICE he enjoys participating in all of the activities offered. On Thursdays, he completes some light housekeeping duties such as sweeping, vacuuming and wiping down the counters with the other consumers at the Wallingford Emergency Shelter. He also volunteers at FISH helping to deliver food to individuals who are homebound. Whether David is dancing or helping the clean-up committee at SPICE, he always manages to have a smile on his face.
David is also extremely proud of his independent part-time job at Denny’s in West Haven, where he has been working for many years bussing tables and washing dishes.
Uniese Rivera, FFI
Uniese Rivera has been a part of the Family First Initiative (FFI) for some time and has the best attendance for our Multiple Family Group. She worked hard to find employment and at the end of 2012, she successfully began working part-time at Martha’s Place, a local homeless shelter for families. She continues to look for work to further increase her income. With the help of the FFI program, Uniese was able to enroll her daughter in LULAC Head Start which allows her to work.
Uniese’s commitment and persistence are a true testament to the values of the Family First Initiative program. Through her hard work, she was able to greatly improve her quality of life and that of her daughter. Through many trials and tribulations, Uniese has succeeded through the support of FFI and her own determination.
Cristofer Zunen, YAL
Cristofer Zunen is a 6th grade student on our Youth as Leaders (YAL) program. He currently has perfect attendance and is always an enthusiastic participant. He is diligent with his homework, creative with his writing prompts and involved with all YAL projects. Both staff and other YAL students are always pleased to see him. Cristofer is sweet, funny, sensitive and a good friend to other program participants. He works hard and is therefore very successful in his studies. Youth as Leaders allows Cristofer to explore his creativity and have the opportunity to be expressive and have his voice heard.
While this is only Cristofer’s first year in Youth as Leaders, he has actively taken advantage of all the projects and resources that YAL has to offer. Our first service project involved YAL students planning and implementing a Winterfest for the pre-school program. Cristofer was attentive to his assigned pre-schooler, making sure he had all the pizza, snacks, gifts and fun that were offered.
Valentin Klissourov, CES
Valentin Klissourov came to Easter Seals in November 2010 as a member of the Community Employment Services (CES) program. Although quiet and reserved, Valentin is a hard working, committed, and dedicated individual. A native of Bulgaria, Valentin is very proud of his Bulgarian heritage, and discussing his home country. When first arriving at Easter Seals, Valentin had to learn the English language; however he did not allow this barrier to hinder him from making friends, working, and establishing himself in the CES program. Valentin primarily works at the New Haven Goodwill, but is always willing and ready to work wherever he is needed.In addition to being a valued consumer and employee of Easter Seals Goodwill Industries, Valentin shares a home with his mother who he has a loving relationship with, and is an active participant in our after-hours REC program which he enjoys. Valentin is very proud of his most recent accomplishment: becoming a full-fledged American citizen!
Herman Keen, IDEA
One day in early 2010, I was looking for employment and ran into someone I knew who told me about a program that could provide me assistance. I went and found that the program was not for me. I was then referred to Easter Seals Goodwill Industries on Hamilton Street where I met Chave Lyons, an employment specialist. She gave me the basics of the program and what would be expected of me. Subsequently, I met with another employment specialist named Larry Evans. By this time, I had started reading the Bible and praying. Mr. Evans and I met on a regular basis, usually 3-4 times a week. I wrote out my goals: to find full-time employment and housing. I showed Mr. Evans how much I wanted to reach these goals and would take initiative and be persistent in order to reach them.I was introduced to Dana Gordino, the manager of the Hamden Goodwill Outlet. I was hired as a part-time material handler. I thanked the Lord for the beautiful people in my life who were helping me to reach my goals. I felt I was saved. I found that working hard builds character, both mentally and spiritually. I was transferred to the warehouse where I continue to work hard. I work with Jim Murray, the Director of Warehouse Operations and Joel Amato, Warehouse Manager as well as a host of fellow co-workers. We all look out for one another and work together to get the job done. It is an honor and pleasure to work for Goodwill and I would like to say thank you to everyone who has played a part in my success and helped me to accomplish my goals.
Marie Brosseau, SPICE
Marie Brosseau has been with Easter Seals Goodwill Industries since 1986. Marie began in our Vocational program, working at the sheltered workshops at Daggett and Hamilton Street. She then moved to our Individual Employment Services and was employed at Marshall’s stores and Stop and Shop. In 2002, Marie retired and joined our SPICE program.When Marie first joined SPICE, she opted not to participate in many of the planned recreational community and in-house activities that were offered to her. Over the past year, SPICE staff have seen a tremendous change in Marie’s participation and willingness to take part in the day-to-day activities of SPICE. She is now eager and willing to join in on various community activities. Marie attends two senior centers a week, goes on the special monthly events that are planned and participates in a variety of games, crafts and activities that are offered in-house. Marie will even initiate and suggest activities that she would like to participate in while in SPICE. In addition to being an active participant in SPICE, Marie is also a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with cancer in July 2012. Throughout her medical appointments and treatments, Marie was always positive and kept a smile on her face. Now, Marie has been cancer-free for over a year.
Andy Campion, Individual Employment Services
If you need sporting equipment, we hope you visit Modell’s in Hamden – not only because it’s a great store, but because you will get a chance to see a real champ, Andy Campion, at work in their shoe department!
Andy is a consumer in Easter Seals Goodwill Industries’ Individual Employment Services (IES) program. He has been employed by Modell’s since July 2009 as a part-time Associate, receiving periodic job coach support. Modell’s has been a great place for Andy’s personality to shine and for him to demonstrate just what a hard worker he is. His responsibilities include putting the customer first by delivering outstanding customer service, helping customers find what they need and pointing our sale items or items that may enhance their purchase. “If someone needs my help, I’m always there for them!” says Andy. As the manager says, “Andy brightens everyone’s day!”
Andy also does general maintenance tasks in the store, always helping to make the store look great. Proving that he is a natural when it comes to working with the public, he played a key part in Modell’s winning a district-wide contest for the greatest number of packages of socks sold. Andy has received numerous customer comment cards from happy customers praising him for the excellent customer service.
To quote Andy’s feeling about working at Modell’s, “I love this place. I love the support from everyone. It reminds me of home – I’m part of a team.”
Paula Douglas, Community Employment Services
When Paula Douglas first came to Easter Seals Goodwill Industries, she was very quiet and didn’t easily engage in conversation with others and rarely, if ever, smiled. Her job coaches tried many different ways to encourage Paula to join in activities and conversations. Oftentimes, Paula would become “stuck.” She would stand outside the van for 10 or 15 minutes before entering the vehicle. Paula needed extra time, for example, to process her actions and staff to support her participation.
Then Paula was assigned to work in the Rocky Hill Goodwill Store. Her job coach, Randy, was patient and gave her some space. Initially, she continued to keep to herself, be easily irritate and just seemed unhappy.
One day, everything changed. She started laughing, smiling, joking and in general seemed much happier. She became “unstuck” and became the “talker” of the crew!
Paula is proof positive that sometimes, all a person needs is a little time and space. Paula was able to find herself and the person that Randy always knew was there showed up. And what a fantastic surprise it was to see a quiet, withdrawn woman become the lively, outgoing person we all know now!
Jazlyn Rivera, Family Learning Center
Jazlyn Rivera is a sixth grade student in the Family Learning Center’s afterschool program. She has been in the program since she was in kindergarten. As a long-standing participant, she has grown in to a strong student and a responsible young lady. Her positive and enthusiastic attitude makes it such a pleasure to work with her. These characteristics and so many more allow her to be a great role model for her peers.
Jazlyn’s hard work and dedication to her academics has kept her on the honor roll every year. She doesn’t hesitate to ask for help and always shows her appreciation with a thank you. Mr. and Mrs. Rivera support her in all that she does, including regularly attending the FLC family engagement activities. With a playful spirit, Jazlyn accepts all tasks and challenges with a smile, ready to complete them successfully. Just this year, Jazlyn has been working hard to educate her fellow students and Martinez families about the negative effects of tobacco. She personally encouraged students to sign a pledge promising to stay tobacco-free. She has even assisted the program with recruiting by personally inviting students to join.
Jazlyn has been nothing less than an incredible student since day one. Polite, caring, joyful and intelligent are some of the words that best describe her personality. She is a wonderful representative of the Family Learning Center. She is an amazing student, working hard to reach success in her life.
Audrey Shreder, Community Re-entry Services
After attending the Skills for Success class, Audrey Shreder obtained employment at Nucor Steel of Connecticut in Wallingford. Since gaining employment, Audrey returns at least once a month to speak to current program participants in the Community Re-entry Services Middletown program. In telling her story, she inspires them to stay on the right path in spite of the difficulties they will face. She is a living testament to their struggles and has helped many of them gain employment at Nucor.
Several times a year, Nucor hires a group of employees. Each time, they open a testing session in search of new employees. Audrey calls us to set up a workshop for our current consumers to help them prepare and let them know what to expect so they can be as prepared as possible. Within Nucor, Audrey has become a go-to person when they are looking for employees.
When asked about her time at Easter Seals Goodwill Industries, Audrey says, “I was a person coming out of prison, trying to piece my life back together and looking for hope. I was looking to do something positive and give back to the community. Easter Seals Goodwill Industries gave me the tools I needed to find a job. Today, I am a well-balanced woman. I found a way to give back by talking to ex-offenders about staying positive and doing the right thing. Today, I am giving back. I am involved in Faith Behind Bards (FBB) and Community Coalition for Justice Reform (CCJR) and Easter Seals Goodwill Industries. I am so grateful about how my life is today.”
Michael DeMusis, Community Employment Services
My name is Michael DeMusis and at three months old, I was diagnosed with a traumatic meningitis brought on by controlled hydroencephalitis (excessive fluid build-up on the brain). I later developed cerebral palsy. I have been with Easter Seals Goodwill Industries since 1998 after a brief attempt with a state job where I counseled other people with disabilities. Unfortunately, I did not have the fine motor skills required to work with the computer and I joined the Easter Seals program helping at the front desk. After about a year, I was going up a steep hill at camp and I tipped backward in my wheelchair. I landed on my head which had already been operated on multiple times. This injury prevented me from continuing my work at the front desk as my short term memory began fading and it became increasingly difficult to remember names and matching extensions. I transitioned to the Community Employment Services (CES) department and arrived at the office each day willing to do whatever job was available to me. The staff is wonderful, encouraging and is always looking out for me. It’s more than a job, it’s like a second home.
I am now working at the Wallingford Goodwill store which has been excellent. One of my Job Coaches, Beth, is very supportive and is always willing to help me when I need it and I truly enjoy working there. I really like to project a positive attitude because I have seen people over the years who do not, and my motto is you have to look up, not down because if you don’t, you are doing yourself a tremendous disservice. I was brought up to believe in myself and what I can do, not what I can’t. I hope to set a good example for others with and without disabilities.
Leslie Carter, SPICE
Leslie Carter began the SPICE program in 1995. At age 79, she is currently the oldest and most active member in the SPICE program. She continues to stay active by participating in various community activities that are offered to her. Leslie is always up for going out in the community for activities such as senior centers, bowling, volunteering, baseball games, museums and other outings. Leslie is always willing to assist her fellow SPICE members at the bowling alley. While at the Woodbridge Senior Center, Leslie will join in with the other seniors by participating in the exercise group. Leslie volunteers at FISH, helping deliver groceries to those in need, as well as at the Milford animal Shelter. Leslie also stays active while in-house at SPICE by participating in arts & crafts, bingo, pokeno and the clean up committee. When we have our various parties and celebrations, Leslie always provides the entertainment by playing her harmonica for the group.While at home, Leslie us able to maintain her apartment with a limited amount of assistance from her staff. She is in on the Board of Deacons and hands out communion at her local church. She takes ceramic classes and piano lesions. She plays a variety of musical instruments including the harmonica, piano, kazoo, fife and recorder. She also loves to travel. Her favorite place to visit is New York City, where she enjoys being able to shop and see musicals.
Shaun Soresina is an eighth grader at Micro Society Magnet School in New Haven, CT. He’s been a participant of the Youth As Leaders program for two school years and one summer, participating in a large range of activities that the program has offered: the Experience mural on Crown Street, the Hill commUNITY mural on Minor Street (he was even on WTNH News 8 in connection with that event), the Minor Street Fables story-writing and illustration project, the YAL Cookbook and the Hill Vision photography project.Shaun brings irrepressible energy, original dance moves, unabashed enthusiasm and his ideas and opinions to the program every day. He has an amazing attitude and a fantastic mischievous grin that brightens a room – plus he’s amazing at Guitar Hero and wall ball. Throughout his time in the program, he has become a leader within the group, always ready to help and take on tasks, truly embodying what Youth As Leaders is all about. It has been a joy to have Shaun with us for the past two years and we look forward to all the amazing contributions he has yet to make to Youth As Leaders.
Kim, Taking Initiatives Center (T.I.C.)
T.I.C. has helped me out a lot. They help me to believe that I can do all things. I was introduced to the day center by two friends that I met at the shelter. I liked it and decided to find areas where they could help me achieve. I also got a job through Marrakech. This place has a lot to offer people if they want a change in life. They helped me to have a plan and I had to stick with the plan in order to succeed. The groups there are also sessions that can help you polish up your thoughts. I also learned how to accept things and mistakes for what they are today. Being homeless is always going to stay in my head. But I now know that if I have a plan and stick to it, I won’t have to be there anymore. Thank you to Krysi, Mrs. Linda and Mike for helping with my new thoughts and outlook on life.
Jenn, Taking Initiatives Center (T.I.C.)
I’ve been coming to T.I.C. for about five years. I have become close to the people that work here, especially Krisy. She has been a shoulder to cry on and has been able to keep me level-headed. They have seen me at my worst and not quite my best because I still have issues to work on. But I was never criticized or put down because of my mistakes, but always welcomed with open arms. This is a safe place that I could just be myself and work on things to help myself be a better person.
Sherman, Taking Initiatives Center (T.I.C.)
My journey through life has been a very hard one because of my decisions toward life. But my intake through the T.I.C. Program has turned my journey into a much better one now! The T.I.C. Program and its meetings have taught me what triggers my bad decisions and bad roads through life. I’ve become much better mentally and spiritually through this program and all the staff members are great with the clients. For me, the T.I.C. program has been an angel toward my life and I am very grateful for it. Bottom line – this program will help anyone that’s struggling through life in many ways.