Mark Stanganelli, Worker With Down Syndrome Fired From $12-A-Week Job, Gets It Back [UPDATED]
Budget cuts are the norm across the country. But you'd think this one wouldn't have been a make-or-break expenditure: For 15 years, the Greater Lawrence Educational Collaborative, a nonprofit public entity located outside Boston, paid $12 a week to Mark Stanganelli to polish silver at a Wyndham resort in Andover, Mass.
It's a job that has given the 45-year-old Stanganelli, who has Down syndrome, a "sense of worth," according to his father, Gerald. But last month the collaborative wrote a letter to Stanganelli's parents, of Lawrence, Mass., telling them the $600-a-year job was "no longer an appropriate option for Mark," as was reported by local television station WCVB-TV. (The Greater Lawrence Area Educational Collaborative has not responded to inquiries from AOL Jobs.)
[UPDATE: This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 9, with a statement from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and an interview with Gerald Stanganelli.]
In an interview with AOL Jobs on Thursday, Gerald Stanganelli said the decision was made after the Massachusetts Department of Disability Services spent the last year moving his son to a new job -- shredding paper at the hotel -- because the room where the silver-polishing was done was no longer available. A training coach was also appointed to try and prepare Mark for the new work over the course of the year.
After the dismissal went public, and prompted a public outcry calling for Stanganelli's job to be restored on AOL Jobs, among other forums, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services met Wednesday with the Stanganelli family. After the meeting, the office provided a statement to AOL Jobs, which said Stanganelli will be allowed "to stay in a position at the Wyndham while we work with the family." The details, such as Stanganelli's new task, are still being worked out, according to his father. But he added that his son felt deflated by the paper-shredding task and didn't feel as valued as when he shined silver.
Stanganelli's stipend will also be restored, the department's communications director, Alec Loftus, said via email. That pay had been agreed upon in 2002 so that Stanganelli could continue working at the hotel, according to his father.
"The money was not the issue," Gerald Stanganelli said. "When you have Down Syndrome, you need routines. Working at the hotel gave Mark stability."
Indeed, the news of Mark's continued tenure at the Wyndham came as a relief for Stanganelli's parents, who had said they didn't have the heart to tell initially their son that he'd no longer be going to his job -- and getting the paychecks that, in the words of his mother, Beverly, he's been "thrilled" to receive.
"It's so much a part of him," said his father. "I couldn't believe this was happening. I didn't want to share that with Mark."
Wyndham Worldwide had said it shared their sentiment. (Wyndham is unable to hire Mark itself because of an exclusive hiring contract.)
"Personally, he can stay here forever. We love him. You hate to see anybody leave, especially Mark, who has been here for a long time," Wyndham Hotel manager Don Corbisiero had told WCVB. "We've gotten to know him and he's gotten to know us. You can't help but feel bad about that. But that's not our decision."
Along with Health and Human Services, the office of Gov. Deval Patrick had, in the meantime, also reached out to the Stanganellis, promising that a new position would be found for their son, Senate President Therese Murray said.
The Stanganellis were dreading their son losing his job, which was scheduled to end this Friday. "I can't imagine what it's going to be like on the eleventh," Gerald had told ABC News. "We went to the Department of Development Services and asked if we could have a job coach, a job trainer," Beverly added. "But we were told no, that due to the budget they were not going to be able to help us out."
And they emphasized how the issue for them had nothing to do with the money Mark wasn't going to be able to earn. As their story became news, dozens of Americans have reached out to them, as well as to AOL, and have offered to pay them the money. Instead, Gerald suggested donors turn to the National Down Syndrome Society for contributions.
Update: This story was updated at 12:30 p.m. EDT on Aug. 9 with a statement provided by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and an interview with Gerald Stanganelli to AOL Jobs.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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