STAR Helps Local People with Disabilities Build Fulfilling Careers in Darien
For the last six years, Charlie Sherman, Norwalk resident and client of STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way, commutes by train to and from work at the Whole Foods in Darien. At work, Charlie helps customers to their cars, brings in the carts and packs groceries. “I love working at Whole Foods. I feel like a part of the team there and I really like the independence I feel working and earning a paycheck,” says Charlie.
In addition to Charlie, there are six other STAR clients who currently have rewarding careers in Darien. Denise Sapione is a six-year employee at Andrew Stefanou Salon & Spa. The Tokeneke Club has employed Bobby Vento for six years. The new cars at BMW of Darien have been even shinier because of Stephen Grubiak’s seven years there. Likewise, Bjorn Swarting enjoys several years at Darien Sport Shop and Tom Gogolak has been at the Darien YMCA since 2001. Finally, if you have shopped at Stop and Shop in Noroton Heights in the last 21 years you surely have seen Adriano Gatto who proudly walks to work from his STAR-supported home on Edgerton Street. These job sites join a long list of Darien businesses who have a history of supporting STAR clients on the job including Nielsen’s Florist, Michael Joseph’s Fine Foods, Country Club of Darien, Wee Burn Country Club, Woodway Country Club, and more.
Current research indicates that only 15% of people with intellectual and development disabilities (I/DD) are employed. However, with the right supports, many people with I/DD can build a career alongside their peers without disabilities. Katie Banzhaf, Executive Director of STAR, proudly says, “We like to think that our job placement results and the richness of our other community-based opportunities for people impacted by I/DD not only teach life skills, but actually engage our participants in safe, happy, healthy and active lives that match their personal interests and goals.”
STAR is recognized as a leading agency in Connecticut in job placements, coaching, and hours worked competitively by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.