Through on-the-job vocational training he learned retail skills as a volunteer, sorting donated clothing at Ruth’s Place, talking to customers and working with a supervisor and other volunteers. He set an example of success and independence for his peers to follow.
Jeff’s accomplishments and great resume quickly led to a part-time job at Sodexo on the campus of Merrimack College, working in the dining commons.
“I’m a hard worker,” Jeff said. “I cleaned tables and worked behind the counter at the sandwich shop. I worked with my supervisor and did what I was told to do. I was proud of my job.”
Then everything changed.
Jeff, then 26, left CLASS in June 2016 to live with his family in Connecticut immediately following the death of his mom from cancer. He took it very hard — many sudden changes made it hard.
“His whole life was disrupted,” said Carol Martin, his case coordinator at CLASS. “Jeff moved the day after the funeral. Everything was done so quickly.”
One of the first things Jeff and his family did was contact the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services for support, but they were unsuccessful. Disappointed in having no services, they felt their options were shrinking.
“It was an unsettling time for Jeff,” said Carol Martin, his case coordinator. “He was with people who care about him very much, but he missed what his life had been – the social life, work and the paycheck. He called me at least once to three times a week just to talk. He was adjusting, doing OK, but he said he missed people here.
“He told me he wanted to move back to Massachusetts and back to CLASS,” Carol said. “Life was full here – that’s what Jeff wanted for himself again.”
So the young man began advocating for himself in earnest, telling his family first that he wanted to move back, how he missed the area and what his life had been.
“I want to work and I want to be busy,” Jeff said.
Jeff was a fast worker. Within six months, in December 2016 he called Carol to announce he was moving to Lowell to live with family. Carol helped them get his MassHealth coverage reinstated, then contacted his DDS service coordinator to let her know Jeff would be arriving soon.
“We got him back,” Carol said. “Now he needs to rebuild his social life, since he's settled here and comfortable.
“And he’s out interviewing for a job, the next step in his career,” she said with a contented smile.