Pines of Sarasota’s Volunteer Program Celebrates The Success of a Special Volunteer

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The Volunteer Program at Pines of Sarasota is proud that the training, encouragement and support given to Derek Levin led to his employment at Hyatt Regency Sarasota.

Derek is 23 years old and has Asperger’s Syndrome. Derek has been volunteering in Pines Fabulous FindsThrift Shop sorting room for almost a year. Derek first visited Ivy Ruark, Director of Volunteer Services, accompanied by his single mother, Elizabeth, who spoke as his advocate. Elizabeth wanted Pines to give Derek a chance at volunteering in order that he learn some job skills. With full understanding of the potential challenges, Pines gave Derek a volunteer position.

Bobby Schiele, manager of the on-campus Thrift Shop, worked with Derek, bringing him gently along. Dr. Carol Chiodo, a Thrift Shop volunteer and a former special education teacher, directly oversaw Derek’s training and still works with him to this day when he needs help. “Derek has gained several skill sets that will not only aid him in a work environment, but at life in general,” explains Dr. Chiodo.

“I am so proud of Derek. How exciting for this young man. When he came to us, he was painfully shy and he needed his mother to stay with him. Derek has blossomed into a productive young man,” states Ivy Ruark.“

Through the patience and persistence of a caring staff and volunteers, Derek has succeeded. It is only natural that my staff saw this opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and rose to the occasion,” explains John Overton, President/CEO of Pines.

“Derek’s volunteering at Pines has made him feel more independent, stronger, achieve higher self-esteem than he has ever had before. For the first time he was accepted as a friend and coworker. As Derek’s mother, the positive influence Pines has had on him means the world to me,” explains Elizabeth. Derek starts work at the Hyatt in the month of July and he still plans to volunteer at Pines on his days off.

Pines Volunteer Program has opportunities for child care, pet visits, event staffing, highschool volunteer programs, thrift shop and more. To speak with Ivy Ruark and get more information on Pines of Sarasota Volunteer Program, please call (941) 365-0250

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