Rodney began supporting Brandon right away on his goals. “Brandon is sort of shy at first, but once you get to know him, he has an infectious personality,” Rodney shared. The two started brainstorming possible jobs or volunteer opportunities that both appealed to Brandon’s interests and also provided opportunities for meeting new people. Brandon loved working with elderly people, so they explored volunteering at a Senior Center.
Brandon’s desire to work with older adults wasn’t without reason. He was extremely close with his grandmother, who tragically passed away around the time Brandon came to Progress. “I really enjoyed helping my Grandma out at home. We would plant flowers, go grocery shopping, put groceries away.” Brandon’s grandmother taught him how to knit and crochet, and he would often spend the night at her house. The two shared a special bond, and when she passed away there was a void in his life.
It goes without saying that Rodney came into Brandon’s life at the right time. “He’s nice and kind and lovable,” Brandon describes Rodney with a smile. “We like the same things – same foods even.”
As they searched for opportunities for Brandon, the two would often have lunch at a Penn Station Sub shop. Rodney noticed a young man working who gave out free cookies to patrons on Tuesdays. He asked the manager if there were any openings for a similar position, as it could be a great job for Brandon. Much to their surprise, the manager explained that Penn Station offers an employment program specifically for people with disabilities, and after a few phone calls, they found an open position for Brandon.
Brandon began at Penn Station right away, and has enjoyed every minute of the job. He works there two days a week, and helps with all sorts of duties including organizing bread shelves, cleaning windows, busing tables, and many other tasks. Patrick, the Penn Station manager, speaks very highly of Brandon. “It has been a real pleasure working with Brandon. He gives more effort and goes the extra mile more than anyone. He does a great job interacting with guests. He has a great attitude and is amazing with the team. He fits right in and everyone loves working with him,” Patrick continued, “One negative person can bring down a team. Brandon is the exact opposite - he walks in and is always smiling, and it carries over to everyone working here.”
In addition to his job at Penn Station, Brandon continues to explore other interests. He regularly volunteers at SmART! Supplies, Progress’ social enterprise that sells gently used arts and crafts materials while employing people with disabilities.
“I love Smart, I’m very crafty.” Brandon shared. At Smart, he works on making gift tags out of holiday cards, and organizing the store and fabrics.
“Brandon is very good at organizing; Smart is a great fit for him.” Rodney added.
Because Brandon enjoys crafts, volunteering at Smart appeals directly to his interests and passions. Brandon has made all sorts of crochet and knit items, thanks to his Grandmother’s lessons. He made Christmas washcloths, and is currently working on a baby blanket for a cousin. Rodney and Brandon often pick up books about knitting and crocheting for new project ideas.
Through all of this hard work, Brandon is striving to achieve his ultimate goal – independence. He currently lives with his parents and sister, and although he loves his family, he would like to live on his own one day.
Rodney believes Brandon will get there, and sees unlimited potential and strengths. “Brandon is a hard worker. It’s clear to everyone around him that he wants to accomplish things and make a difference. He’s caring and funny and is always looking out for others.”
Brandon shared that having Rodney by his side has “made my life very happy. It was happy already, but Rodney made it even more happy.”
When he’s not working towards his goals, Brandon enjoys listening to country music, playing games, rooting for the Predators, spending time with his Boston Terriers Anthony & Roxie, and being with his family.
Brandon and Rodney will continue to navigate working and striving towards independence. Rodney shared that “Brandon has made me appreciate the little things more. He gets a charge out of life’s simplicity, and it’s helped me to take time and smell the roses.” Brandon has a bright future ahead of him, and with Rodney’s support, his goal of independence may not be too far off in the distance. No matter how they get there, Brandon and Rodney will be sure to enjoy the road along the way.
Lily Wojcik, PR & Events Manager, Progress