BUFFALO, N.Y. — Collecting empty boxes, wiping down glass cases and sweeping the floors at Price Rite in Amherst give Kevin Nowak something to do three days a week.
“As far as work goes, he’s always just having a smile on him, helping anybody who needs it even if he is doing his job duties,” said Shannon Panepento, an employment services specialist at People, Inc. “He will go above and beyond to help another customer.”
July is Disability Pride Month, celebrating the day the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) took effect, ensuring people with disabilities could not be legally discriminated against in public life including transportation, education and jobs.
“Some [customers], they always say to me: you do a great job,” said Nowak. “So that makes you feel good. Even when you know you’re doing good.”
As a result of the ongoing wage crisis care professionals face, it can be hard to fill jobs that help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live their day-to-day life. Panepento has been in the human service industry for over 15 years, and said she would not want to be anywhere else.
“As far as the staff crisis, once you get into this field, it changes your life forever,” she said. “And the money, as I say to everybody, money comes and goes, but smiles are priceless.”