All of us have some kind of special need. In most cases, the special need isn’t visible or obvious, nor does it limit us to any great degree. In other cases, the special need is visible, but that doesn’t mean it has to define you or limit you.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020 the Arc Nature Coast held its annual Job-a-Palooza for people with special needs at its center in Spring Hill. The event was sponsored by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Florida Department of Education and The Arc of Florida. Hamburgers and hotdogs were provided by The Arc Nature Coast and grilled by volunteer Ron Calub. Chick-fil-A provided 100 chicken sandwiches, as well, for the hungry participants.
Forty-two young people ages 14-21 were able to get an idea of what jobs are available to people who may have some type of challenge. At Job-a-Palooza, students had the opportunity to try out tasks that are part of various occupations. Volunteers and peer mentors assisted the students in choosing which activities they wanted to participate in and helped them in other ways, but it was up to the students to complete the tasks.
Some folded towels into swans and other shapes for a local hotel. Other tasks included folding pizza boxes for Papa Joes Italian Restaurant and folding and bagging newspapers for The Hernando Sun.
Alexis Giarratana, with Papa Joes, stated, “Our restaurant gains a lot from working with The Arc Nature Coast. They do a great job at working with people with varying disabilities and we gain the knowledge of just what they do and how we can help in that situation.”
For one, young man – Joseph – who worked on bagging groceries, the event gave him an immediate job offer from Publix Supermarkets. He is twenty-one years old and a student at Pasco Hernando State College. Joseph eventually wants to get into Cyber Security.
Sixteen year-old Julia Mercado wants to have her own hair and nail salon when she gets older. She got to try her hand at applying color using hanks of artificial hair at the table set up by Allure Family Salon.
“My other dream is to help the homeless out with free haircuts and help people who can’t afford to do their nails and do low prices. I also want to give discounts for girls for proms, Quinceañera and Sweet Sixteen parties. I want to get into Benes Beauty School one day.”
Natasha Beauty, owner of Allure Family Salon in Spring Hill, stated “Job-a-palooza gave my company the opportunity to engage with the community and the satisfaction I received from putting smiles on the student’s faces.”
At the table manned by volunteers from the Hernando County YMCA, students learned how to disinfect toys properly.
Joanie Scarangella, the Membership Director for that organization, remarked, “Our YMCA loves to give back to the community. [At Job-a-Palooza] we get an opportunity to meet new people and help in any way we can. What this event does for all involved is a blessing in itself.”
For eighteen year-old Heidi Muñoz, her favorite activity was at The Hernando Sun’s table. “I liked how they fold the newspapers in half and put them in the bags,” Heidi remarked. She, along with Brandy Strickland-Boice, also volunteered to be photographers-for-a-day by taking pictures at the event and writing captions for the pictures. Heidi’s career goal is to get into Engineer Technology.
One of the mentors, Liz Mock, who is a Life Skills Coach at the Arc Nature Coast, remarked, “This event helps our clients become more independent. Their disability, or whatever they’ve been told they have, isn’t going to hold them back. We’re teaching them that they don’t have to depend on somebody else.”