Manny standing in front of forklift.

We Fall, We Pick Ourselves Up

Manny was on track to complete a six-year commitment with the Illinois National Guard when he was thrown from a motorcycle. He suffered severe injuries, resulting in a permanent disability.

After a long road to recovery, Manny was ready to find meaningful work again, but the employers he contacted focused more on his disability than on his potential. “I’d always mentioned I have a disability and would probably need accommodations,” said Manny. Despite providing a strong case for why he would be a valued team player, employers wouldn’t give Manny a shot.

Manny and Brad

Manny and Brad, CEO of The Bazaar

Undeterred, he reached out to the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Rehabilitation Services, where a caseworker connected him with Beth Forde, Director of Community Employment at Aspire. After assessing Manny’s work history and job interests, Beth matched him with the ideal workplace – The Bazaar, a distributor of name-brand consumer goods sold through retailers, as well as their chain of Bargains in a Box discount stores.

“When I got that job with The Bazaar, I was ecstatic,” said Manny, who started out in warehouse distribution. Given the opportunity, Manny soared! When Manny was ready to take on more responsibilities, Aspire helped coach him in how to advocate for himself. He asked for and earned a promotion and now works as a Logistical Customer Service Agent, serving as a liaison between stores and the warehouse.

“As soon as we met Manny, we were like ‘Wow!’ said Brad Nardick, CEO of The Bazaar, a kindred spirit who shares Aspire’s vision for greater disability inclusion. “Manny is sharp, aggressive and a clear communicator. He’s got a good attitude so he got fast-tracked to be our Logistical Customer Service Agent.”

With a new job and a new outlook for the future, Manny isn’t letting anything hold him back. “I don’t live with regrets,” he said. “We fall, we pick ourselves up.”

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