Robert Callari, 51, has been supported by AHRC for decades. He graduated from Division Avenue High School in 1993, starting Day Services shortly after. He currently lives in an Oceanside residence.
In 2010, after getting comfortable doing various tasks in the community, he transitioned to Pre-Vocational Services (Pre-Voc), where he volunteered with different non-profit organizations doing more structured tasks like stocking shelves, keeping the back of house area tidy and prepped for his coworkers, and providing cleaning services.
From there, he transitioned into the Supported Employment Program (SEMP), where he continued volunteering to build his resume. Robert garnered experience in the hospitality industry, working with food products, cleaning food counters, and doing upkeep for dining areas.
As an Employment Training Specialist (ETS), Cathy Hawkins helps Robert find and keep roles that interest him. Robert secured his first job in 2018. Robert was hired as a condiment stand worker with Levy Restaurant Group, a vendor for the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale.
For Robert, this was a great opportunity because he loved the lively atmosphere. He worked there for two years until 2020 rolled around, and the contract ended.
Cathy strongly advocated for Robert, helping him find similar work in environments he loved.
“Once we complete his resume, we pass it along to the job developer who identifies positions he would be well suited for. From there, we help him with the application, training, and communications with his house manager to make sure he has transportation and can get to work,” explained Cathy.
“I love music. I like to see shows and also the beach, so I’d like to work there,” shared Robert. By the summer of 2021, the SEMP team found him a seasonal position at Jones Beach, working the concession stand, and in the fall, he scored another seasonal job at the UBS Arena in Elmont.
Having these positions back-to-back allowed Robert to work year-round and have money to save, spend, and treat his girlfriend, Patty Somartino, who lives in Syosset.
“We’ve been together for a year. For her birthday in April, I bought her a card and chocolates. We went to Friendly’s and to the movies. We like going on movie and dinner dates, to Applebee’s, and even the Chinese buffet,” said Robert.
“The UBS job is cool for him because he loves to work, and he works hard; if they need him and he can get the transportation to his shift, he’s more than happy to do it,” added Cathy.
This dynamic speaks to the importance of an ETS to people with disabilities. Robert doesn’t drive and relies on either Able-Ride, a transportation service for people with disabilities in Nassau County, or his house manager to get him to work; Cathy is also there to bridge the gap when any issues come up affecting his ability to get to work or to reschedule shifts.
Also, the ETS serves as a liaison between the employee and the job’s leadership, acting as an advocate for the employee and point of contact for the employer.
“I would go in and give managers my card and tell them to call me if there are any issues or concerns. I make sure they know who I am and why I’m there,” said Cathy.
She accommodates workers in different workplaces, making sure they make the best representation of themselves while on the job. She’s also there to provide the motivation they need to continue looking for work after setbacks—if they wish to do so.