David Tofield, a 35-year-old member of Tucson’s Jewish community, has an intellectual disability. He can often be found volunteering at the Tucson Jewish Community Center and at Congregation Young Israel services. Tofield finds his volunteer experiences rewarding, but what he was really looking for was a “real paying job,” he told Allison Wexler, the Jewish community’s special abilities coordinator.
“To say vocational training and placement is a challenge for individuals with special needs would be quite an understatement,” says Wexler, who helps provide access to vocational resources, and in some cases, training and placement.
Wexler met David Kravec of Clutch Auto Repair several months ago, when she attended the Jewish Business Networking Group’s monthly breakfast to scout out possible partnership opportunities.
Kravec created a shop assistant position, for which Tofield interviewed. He was hired and now works six to 10 hours per week at Clutch Auto Repair, where he proudly earns minimum wage.
Wexler recently visited Tofield at the garage. “I found that not only was he happy at his new job, but that Robert, the mechanic, was an excellent mentor. When David had questions, he asked Robert for assistance, and Robert stopped what he was doing to help David in a very patient and supportive manner. It was clear to me that this was an appropriate placement for David,” she says.
“My job is awesome. It is nice to work with nice people. I love it,” he says. “Also, I told Allison about my strong points, and she helped me out by finding the perfect job for me.”
Tofield’s mother, Joyce Stuehringer, says, “It has been a complete joy to witness my son achieve an increased level of self-worth and sense of purpose in this world. It has truly been a blessing for him.”
For Kravec, “hiring David has been a home run. Trying to find anyone to work five to 10 hours per week and be a reliable employee is very, very difficult. David is always early, works very hard, and fits in great on the team. He often comes to work with a new idea or solution to something he’s been working on. We really couldn’t ask for more and we are very fortunate to have him.”
Wexler notes that vocational advancement and other efforts to serve individuals with special needs in the community are thriving thanks to generous funding from the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Aligned Grants Process, and leadership from the Tucson Jewish Community Center and the Special Abilities Task Force.
Editors note: February is Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month.