Robert Marchant for Hearst Media
Updated 10:42 pm, Friday, October 17, 2014
Adam Worrell cleans equipment in the Material Maintenance Department at Greenwich Hospital, in Greenwich, Conn. Oct. 16, 2014. Worrell works at the hospital in co-ordination with Abilis, and will be honored for his work during the annual Abilis Walk in the Park fundraiser this weekend. Photo: Ned Gerard / Connecticut Post
For the past year, Adam Worrell, 22, has woken up in the morning, made himself cereal and fruit for breakfast, put on khakis and a polo shirt, taken a bus from his home in Stamford and reported for work. He spends weekdays as a transporter at Greenwich Hospital, cleaning and moving equipment.
It may sound like an ordinary morning and commute to work, but Worrell's work day is something different. As a young man with developmental disabilities, Worrell is at the forefront of a movement, spurred by advocates and a federal court case, to mainstream people like him into the workplace.
His is the face that the Greenwich social-service agency, Abilis, hopes will become norm for the developmentally disabled. The aim is to get Worrell and others with disabilities into the labor force where they will work and engage in the wider world.
"People should have the choice to be part of the community, instead of being locked in a segregated environment," said Monica Smyth, the director of family service at Abilis, which provides housing, employment and other support to people with mental disabilities.
Placed by Abilis as part of the hospital's large volunteer workforce, Worrell is poised to take the next step. He will be put on staff at the hospital later this month in a salaried position -- a first for an Abilis client there.
"Keeping it real!" he says with a grin, about earning a paycheck.
His supervisor, Jerry Laureano, said Worrell is a model employee.
"He handles himself very well, he's very independent," Laureano said.
Getting people into the workforce has become a renewed focus at Abilis and other social-service agencies in part due to a new campaign by the Justice Department beginning in 2009 to enforce a Supreme Court decision, Olmstead vs. L.C., that mandates community integration for the developmentally disabled.
"A completely full life," said Smyth, is the goal. "There are so many jobs people with disabilities can do, but getting your foot in the door is huge. This is how you change the world. It becomes the norm, not the exception."
For his part, Worrell likes his job and looks forward to the interaction with co-workers and visitors at the hospital.
"I enjoy new experiences, and supporting people," said Worrell, who has an easy smile and likes going to the gym in his spare time. If he wasn't working at the hospital, he said, he would spend his days "hanging out downtown" in Stamford. Instead, he has the sense of accomplishment that a job provides and the camaraderie of the workplace.
Another worker at the hospital with a developmental disability, May Sanchez, 25, says the work program has given her something to look forward to. She stacks items and puts on pricing labels at the hospital's thrift shop on Hamilton Avenue. "It's a great place to work," said Sanchez, who likes to dance, draw and play sports.
The two Abilis workers will be spotlighted at the non-profit organization's annual community event and fund-raiser, Walk in the Park, at Greenwich Point Park Sunday morning.
Worrell's mother, Arlinda, said her son has developed a new focus since he started working in the hospital. "I'm thrilled," she said, "He's got positive role models there, he's growing."
The hospital has 750 volunteers, including a number who have developmental disabilities. Stacey Green, the volunteer director, said people of different backgrounds can succeed if given a chance, and the hospital hopes to spread that message.
"Greenwich Hospital feels it's important to educate the community, and to do community outreach," she said.
Having a special-needs member of the family can be a big challenge, and Linda Worrell said she initially felt like she was "on my own" with Adam when he was youngster. But support from Abilis and the larger community has made a major difference. Seeing her son head out for a job every day, she said, was "icing on the cake." She plans to make her son a big pancake breakfast later this month, to celebrate his success, and give him the energy he needs for a day's work.
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