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Allies Celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the Success of Dan Nilson at ShopRite

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a month that celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities and highlights the importance of inclusive employment policies and practices.

The benefits of having a job go far beyond having a paycheck. Meaningful work provides a sense of fulfillment and purpose. It makes an individual feel like a part of something larger than themselves and more connected to their community. As they complete each task before them they become motivated to do more and inspired to be the best they can be.

One example of this can be seen in the accomplishments of Dan Nilson. Dan, a participant at Allies’ Shore Day Habilitation Program, expressed that he was interested in obtaining a job. To learn more about Dan’s motivation for wanting a job, the staff asked him why he wanted one. Dan rubbed his fingers together and said, “I like having my own money. I want to save it and I also want to spend it on things I like, like my video games.” Allies’ Supported Employment Team quickly went to work to help Dan achieve his goal.

As a first step, Dan received a job skills assessment so that the team could determine his current skillset. Next Dan was assigned to work with Allies’ Employment Specialist Tim Fox. Employment Specialists provide support and guidance to people with disabilities so that they can obtain employment best suited to them. In this vital role they:

  • Develop community relationships that foster new job opportunities for those we serve
  • Assist individuals with job placement
  • Coach them as they learn their new job
  • Provide them with the skills and knowledge necessary to work proficiently and independently

Tim worked closely with Dan to identify the type of work he was interested in doing and what types of jobs matched his skills and personality. With support from Tim, Dan found employment within a couple of weeks.

Over Labor Day Weekend Dan started his career at the ShopRite in Manahawkin, New Jersey as a Parking Lot Attendant. At this super busy store, Dan is responsible for assisting customers in loading groceries, gathering and organizing shopping carts, maintaining the cleanliness of the carts and the parking lot, as well as assisting customers upon special request. Dan really loves driving the battery-powered carts from the parking lot back into the store. If you are lucky enough to see Dan in action, you would agree that he is an expert driver and it’s no easy task! But no matter how busy Dan is with the tasks at hand, he always stops to help a customer in need.

Tim said, “One of Dan’s favorite things about working at ShopRite is being able to help customers. He loves when he gets the chance to help them put groceries in their car and when they chat with him. He gets a big smile on his face when someone approaches him and asks for assistance. It’s a great thing to see.”

We also have to share that Dan has said that another favorite thing about work is having Tim as his job coach. The two connect very well together and share a special bond. They are both football fans. Dan roots for the Philadelphia Eagles while Tim is a New York Giants fan. They tease each other often about who is going to win. Another thing they have in common is their love of helping others. Tim said, “Since high school I’ve held positions that were customer service related. I like the opportunity to help people and so does Dan.”

Dan’s strong work ethic and friendly demeanor quickly earned him the praise of his co-workers and management team, as well ShopRite customers. Throughout the summer he worked hard to meet the high demands of his store, which is just outside the famous New Jersey tourist destination of Long Beach Island.

Tim said, “Dan’s co-workers are very supportive. They will help him when he needs a little focus, and they really respect him and his great work performance. His direct manager at ShopRite as well as their Human Resources Manager think the world of him and love him too.”

Dan’s father is also extremely supportive of him. Tim said, “Dan’s dad has told me many times how much Dan loves his job. When you know your child loves his job, that means so much.”

Allies is proud to announce that Dan has completed his 60-day probationary period at ShopRite and achieved permanent employee status there. He’s also surpassed 90 days of job retention, and we’re sure that he’ll continue to do an amazing job.

In reflecting on Dan and his work at ShopRite, it’s clear that Dan’s job gives him so much more than money to buy things he likes. Tim said, “The driving force behind Dan’s love for his job, and being in the Shore Day Program, is that it satisfies his desire and need to be social and connected with others. He really enjoys being around people and helping them. Being out in the world with his friends and co-workers is what he loves, and they all just love Dan right back.”

When he’s not working at ShopRite, Dan enjoys playing video games, traveling with his family (his “best ever” trip was to Florida), and watching sports. In addition to cheering on the Eagles, he’s a big fan of the Phillies baseball team. He’s super excited that the Phillies are playing for a chance to be in the World Series and at the time of this article the Eagles are flying at 5-0. While we can’t guarantee his teams will continue to do well, we have no doubt that Dan will continue to fly high. He’s a definite fan favorite of all who meets him.

To learn more about Allies’ Supported Employment Program, or becoming an Employment Specialist, please contact Luke J. Washack, Senior Director of Vocational Services, at 609-218-0513 or lwashack@alliesnj.org.

Dan Nilson, Parking Lot Attendant at ShopRite

Dan Nilson always greets customers with a smile in his Parking Lot Attendant
position at ShopRite.

Tim Fox Employment Specialist and Dan Nilson of Shore Day Program

Tim Fox, Allies’ Employment Specialist (left), and Dan Nilson, Parking Lot Attendant at ShopRite (right).

Dan Nilson at ShopRite

Gathering and organizing shopping carts is one of Dan’s many duties at ShopRite.

Allies, Inc. is a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing housing, healthcare, meaningful employment and recreational activities to people with special needs in the communities of their choice. To learn more, visit www.alliesnj.org.

Contact: Nicole Zamerovsky, Director of Communications, Allies, Inc.
Cell: 609-508-6181
Email: nzamerovsky@alliesnj.org

 

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