Teamwork Leads to an All-Star Worker

Ryan Gardner photo

Port Orange, FL – Ryan Gardner pushes his cleaning cart with passion, pride and purpose. The 28 year-old from Volusia County wakes up every morning at 5:30 a.m., eagerly anticipating his work at Countryside Lakes Assisted Living Facility. "I love my job," says Ryan, who has Down syndrome and a Bilateral Hearing Impairment.

Ryan may describe his job as a janitorial worker with a few words, but the animated grin on his face says much more. "His job is what gives meaning to his life," explains his mother, Patricia Gardner-Gucciardo.

The people living at Countryside Lakes love Ryan. He keeps a consistent schedule of different hallways to clean each day of the week. Since Ryan cleans most of the main areas, he has gotten to know many people who live in the building. "The people are great," says Ryan happily.

Teamwork between the Volusia County School System, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), and Ryan's extended services job coach, employer, and family has provided the foundation for his successful six-year career at Countryside Lakes.

Ryan's success began with the Volusia County School System. "He was very unsure of himself, but very determined," says Cathy Galotti, a Competitive Employment Supervisor with Volusia County Schools. Cathy says Ryan's success wouldn't be possible without the efforts two Employment Specialists, Vickie Parnell and Lisa Roper. They placed Ryan in his part-time position with Countryside Lakes and assisted him with job training, which continued the first few months of his employment. Cathy says her office has a very close relationship with VR. "I can't say anything but praise for VR, because we work hand-in-hand."

Ryan took advantage of VR's School to Work Transition services. VR provided Ryan with uniforms and help with VoTran Gold – a transportation service that takes him to and from work everyday. Ryan's VR Counselor, Phyllis Heath, says VR is about more than helping a person with disabilities find a job; it is about giving them the tools to maintain his or her position in the workforce. "I felt Ryan was such a success story because he was there after six years… still successfully working." VR also placed Ryan with an extended services job coach, Tina Horne. Tina checks in with Ryan on a monthly basis.

Some of Ryan's highest praise comes from his supervisor at Countryside Lakes, Celia Laureano. "Ryan is a gentleman. He follows the rules. He does a good job," she says. In fact, Celia is so pleased with Ryan's work ethic, she would welcome another VR customer. "In the future, we would like to hire someone like Ryan."

Patricia is forever thankful for the teamwork between all of the counselors and job coaches throughout Ryan's career. Without their concerted effort, Ryan's life would be vastly different. His career adds balance in her son's world. "There isn't a day that goes by that I haven't thanked God that he has this job. It gives him a life."

Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America's workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 3,874 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org.