Friday, May 15, 2009

An Intrepid Volunteer

Today's guest post is by Rebecca Malinsky, Assistant Manager, Corporate Volunteer Programs, in YAI/NIPD's Employment Initiatives Department.

Carlos (second from right), a man with a disability, attends a YAI employment training program and works closely with Monique Wolkoff (left), an employment training specialist. One day, Carlos brought Monique a volunteer brochure from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum and explained that this kind of work was truly his dream. Monique wasn’t going to let the rough economy get in the way of Carlos’ passion. She called the Intrepid -- and kept calling -- until Carlos was granted an interview, in which he excelled.

“I was impressed with his drive and passion for the Intrepid,” said William Suarez (second from left), Manager of the Intrepid Volunteer Program.

Today, Carlos says that he is “on cloud nine.” He is a volunteer usher at the Intrepid’s theater, greeting visitors and answering questions. Carlos credits Monique for providing “pep talks” and reminding him to stay positive. He remains optimistic about finding a job. “I didn’t feel I ever could work in a place like this,” Carlos says. “Monique showed me I was wrong.”

But the story doesn't end there.

On April 29, Carlos, Monique and I attended the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum's Volunteer Banquet. During the dinner cruise along the Hudson, Carlos was presented with an award for his outstanding volunteerism. According to William, "Carlos is an inspiration to his fellow volunteers." This came as no surprise to me, because I have come to know Carlos as a very dedicated, caring, talented and motivated individual.

However, what was most striking to me were the energetic hoots and hollers that came from the audience as Carlos was presented with his award. Additionally, following the presentation, several of Carlos' fellow volunteers came up to congratulate him, even asking to take photos with him. As a member of our Employment Initiatives Department, it is, of course, always important to me that we find employment opportunities for our participants, where our guys have the chance to work in the community, earn a pay check and contribute to society; but what really personally motivates me in my job is to see one of our consumers completely accepted, integrated and respected by his or her co-workers. Monique and I are extremely grateful that Carlos is volunteering somewhere where his co-workers eat lunch with him, ask him about his weekend, pat him on the back for encouragement and really make him feel like part of the team.

When you support the Central Park Challenge, you are helping people like Carlos achieve their dreams. Inspired by Carlos' story? Support his program's fundraising efforts.

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