Darious Ziegler is an amazing person with a unique story. As a toddler, Darious was delayed in walking and talking. His mother, Betty, says she was not prepared to be a parent – she did not know how to care for any child but especially a child with special needs. As she looks back, however, she shares, “Darious has taught me so much, like how to be a good person and an even better mom.”
Darious went through the mainstream school system and even got a job in high school, but that ended when it was discovered that co-workers were taking his money and treating him badly. So, as his mother went to work every day, Darious stayed home “locked inside the house with no one around.”
FINDING THE RIGHT PLACE
“Darious is a go-getter. He loves being around people and being active. He needed socialization,” his mother shared. So, his grandmother, sister, and I began looking at adult day programs. “The minute we walked into United Ability, we knew it was the ONLY place for Darious,” she said.
After being on the waiting list for the program, the family received a call from The Department of Mental Health – United Ability had an opening. Darious began immediately in the Adult Day Life Skills Enrichment Program at UCP, which is now United Ability. Upon gaining social and other skills, Darious then added working in the United Ability Enterprises Program into his routine. In this role, he worked alongside other adults with disabilities, each tasked with specific jobs related to the Gone For Good secure document destruction or Outsource Solutions businesses. Once again finding great success, Darious was then asked about volunteering in the community with Adult Day Director, Janis Braue. He jumped at the chance.
According to Darious, “I used the skills learned in the Adult Day Program and workshop area. I would tell Ms. Janis ‘thank you; you have a good program [at United Ability] because it kept me from sitting in the house, watching TV all day and not doing anything.’”
PRIDE AND A PAYCHECK
Darious’ volunteer job turned into a 5-month opportunity at The Club with Project GATE (Gaining Access to Employment), a program in coordination with The Department of Mental Health and Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, while still under the watchful eye of United Ability job coaches and employment specialists. His education and training in kitchen and food preparation then landed Darious a part-time job working with Touchpoint Food & Nutrition Services, contracted by St. Vincent’s East. He performed so well that, today, Darious is employed full-time by Touchpoint.
Every Monday – Friday, Darious rides ClasTran to St. Vincent’s East where he clocks in and out. His duties include making and wrapping sandwiches, spooning pudding and fruit into cups, and keeping his work area extremely clean. According to Darious, “I make a LOT of sandwiches, and I use a real knife and cutting glove just as I learned at The Club.”
His Touchpoint supervisor, Shelley Bell, shared, “Darious is a ray of sunshine and makes us all laugh. When you have had a tough day and you walk in the kitchen and there is Darious who says, ‘I just love you,’ I doubt he realizes how that completely turns a person’s day around.”
With his huge smile, Darious shared the favorite part of his day is “seeing all the people. They say good morning to me every day, and I never miss work because I like being here. I have made friends.”
For many of us, “Where do you work?” is often the first question asked. For Darious, it is now the most important question: one that he answers bursting with pride. Darious receives a paycheck every two weeks. When asked about that, he sat tall in his chair and said, “I like having money in my pocket. I buy clothes and food for dinner. Sometimes I pay for my own haircuts on Saturday or give money to my mom to get the grass cut or help with bills. Our bills have to get paid.”
Darious’ mother said, “Attending the Adult Day program and being connected with United Ability has been the icing on the cake. It brought Darious out of his shell from being home all the time and feeling locked in. We owe so much to Wendy Lawless, his job coach. She is truly like part of our family.
His mother continues, “I thank God for this opportunity, because I don’t worry about Darious like I used to. He is an amazing person, and I simply cannot believe the impact United Ability has had on his life.”
For more information on United Ability’s Adult Day or Employment Services programs, contact Janis Braue, Adult Day Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205.943.5205.