April is Autism Awareness Month. TD is celebrating with events and stories aimed at spotlighting our progress and future ambitions in advancing disability inclusion and equality.
For Nick Purcell, one of the secrets of his success is simple – he's never been late for anything in his life.
"I always make sure I have enough time to do everything I need to do to get there on time," he said. "The night before, I always make sure to get eight hours of sleep, so I am not tired."
Making sure he's punctual isn't the only thing he likes to plan in his life. At all his jobs, he's had a task list to make sure he completes everything for the day and more. Most importantly, Nick has a five-year plan to achieve his ambitions of getting an office job, marrying his girlfriend, buying a house in his hometown of Bloomfield, New Jersey and getting a hybrid car.
What wasn't in his plans was a disruption in working due to COVID-19, but he used the time to help improve his skills and continue working with Spectrum360, a North New Jersey-based organization that serves individuals on the autism spectrum. Nick has been a long-time client with the organization's Independence360, a comprehensive program developing vocational, life and social skills and personal development for adults diagnosed with autism.
Independence360 has been working with clients virtually by hosting both one-on-one sessions and classes to help keep up their continued progress as they wait for the economy to reopen.
"We focus on career readiness, and career exploration," said Devin Hosbach, Manager of Career Development Services. "Our role is to really explore all possibilities for not just a job but a career."
Before the pandemic, Nick was working two jobs - one as a cashier at the food stand in Red Bull Arena and the other for FTC FBO, a private jet charter company at Morristown Airport.
Even though the pandemic threw a wrench in his plans, he didn't let it get him down. Instead, he focused on becoming a master at Microsoft Office.
"I've been also getting better at my interviewing skills, redoing my resume, formatting email and learning how to laminate documents," he said. "I'm really ready to start working again."
Nick's participation in Spectrum360 has benefited his family as well in so many ways.
"Without the safety net of love and compassion that Spectrum provides, I honestly don't know where Nicholas and I might be," said Patrick Purcell, Nick's father. "They are my lighthouse for every storm I have to weather navigating the adult life of a person with autism."
TD provides vital support and helps fill potholes for organization
TD's partnership with Spectrum360 is well-rounded. Bank employees became acquainted with Spectrum360 clients initially when serving the organization's business needs. The clients then started to attend financial literacy programs at the bank.
As more TD employees volunteered with the organization, the TD Charitable Foundation (TDCF) became interested and stated to support the organization's employment training program in 2009.
"TD has always been able to help us enhance our career services each and every year and those grants make it possible for us to have enough job coaches and employment specialists," said Kimberley Mitchell-Rushmore, Program Director for Independence360. "It's been a tremendous relationship; TD Bank has really helped us to fill in these potholes."
The bank is very supportive of the goals that Spectrum360 strives to achieve. TDCF has contributed $254 million in grants to non-profit organizations since it started in 2002. TD's philanthropy is centered around its global corporate citizenship program, known as the TD Ready Commitment, which actively promotes inclusivity, economic vitality, environmental wellbeing and health and enabling people of all backgrounds to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
"TD's partnership with Spectrum360 is a true reflection of our commitment to inclusivity," said Paige Carlson-Heim, TDCF Director. "The organization makes a significant impact on the lives of their clients and provides a solid foundation for lasting community connections."
An eye for detail led to amazing job success
Marcia Andrews wanted her daughter, Simone, to achieve her dream of working after graduating high school. But Marcia knew that it would be difficult to find the right role for her daughter, who was diagnosed with autism at a young age. Simone has challenges with expressive language, but she has a superb memory for dates and can see the most minute spatial variations.
Marcia found out about Spectrum360, and Simone became a client of the program.
"I was apprehensive, at first, but I had to let her try," she said. "With the help of the staff, she was able to get a job. She really loves going (to Spectrum360). She loves the independence she feels by being a part of it."
Devin and Simone went to visit a local drapery store to introduce her, and eventually secured an interview where Simone would make boxes of samples for customers to show she could do the job. Simone excelled at her role and was able to produce many boxes each where each sample was less than an inch apart. She was so productive that her work helped the store's bottom line.
"I loved to make the sample boxes," Simone said. "Working is the best."
Unfortunately, the store was shut down temporarily during the pandemic, but Simone expects to be working upon the reopening. In the meantime, Simone has continued to take classes with Spectrum360, working on her budget management skills, career explorations and other self-improvement programs.
Marcia wants to make sure that people know how important it is to her family to have resources such as Spectrum360.
"As a parent with a child who has a disability and knowing that the odds are against you going out there in the world, it's hard." She explained. "Without these programs, Simone would be sitting at home just being lost. We know that there's a lot that people with disabilities can do. We just need someone to be their advocate, we really need this."