Local Contracting Family Builds B.E.S.T. Special Needs Workforce for Alexandria Businesses

Each of the members of the BEST team are just that and they are ready to help businesses in Old Town and Del Ray. Get ready to meet the team!

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The BEST team
From left to right: Charlie Zeleya, Naimo Gabow, Chieko Duano, and Jarmar Wright. (Courtesy photo)

Alexandria, VA – Focused, efficient, dedicated and happy. Sounds like the perfect set of employees, right? Each of the members of the new special-needs workforce team called B.E.S.T. are just that and they are ready to help businesses in Old Town and Del Ray.

“They’re so enthusiastic to be working,” said Robert Pizzano about the B.E.S.T. team’s work at his contracting company’s office. “They always line up everything perfectly in the stock supply room. I’m proud to show it off!”

Local Jobs for High School Grads with Disabilities

The new workforce came to fruition when Paola and Robert Pizzano, owners of Pizzano Contractors in Alexandria and founders of the Joey Pizzano Memorial Fund, saw a need for employment opportunities for special needs adults, especially the ones just graduating from high school.

Improving the lives of children with special needs and their families is a cause close to the Pizzano family. Since founding the Joey Pizzano Memorial Fund (JMPF) in 1998 to honor their six-year old son Joey, who lost his life in an accidental drowning, the Pizzanos are always on high-alert for ways to elevate and integrate the special needs community.

The Pizzanos recently began thinking about opportunities where young adults with special needs could go to work.

After some thoughtful research, the Pizzanos contacted ServiceSource, a nationwide nonprofit with a mission to facilitate services and partnerships that support people with disabilities, their families, their caregivers, and community members.

That’s when Theresa Piccolo, Director of Community Relations and Philanthropy at ServiceSource, got on board.

“A lot of things fall off [in terms of support] when someone with special needs graduates from high school,” states Piccolo. “We [at ServiceSource] help them know what resources are available, how they can be accessed and whatever they might need in their adult life.”

Bringing B.E.S.T. to Businesses

The B.E.S.T. team was initially piloted at Pizzano Contractors office in August 2019. The team currently includes Charlie Zeleya, Naimo Gabow, Jarmar Wright, and Chieko Duano. They work two days a week with a supervisor from ServiceSource overseeing the team. Not only do they do light cleaning, organizing, stocking of office and kitchen supplies, they also bring a sense of joy to everyone, while gaining a sense of independence and important on-the-job skills.

Naimo Gabow (Courtesy Photo)
Jarmar Wright (Courtesy Photo)
Chieko Duano (Courtesy Photo)
Charlie Zeleya (Courtesy Photo)

“We are excited [our business is] in Old Town because it’s a tight-knit community,” said Paola Pizzano. “They’re inclusive. Everybody wants to help and spread the word [about the B.E.S.T. team]. And it’s so walkable.”

B.E.S.T. is based on growing inclusive communities and creating environments in which the members of the team enjoy their experience. The team members are friends and enjoy working together and supporting each other. The special needs workforce community is finding a welcoming home. The wheels are turning now on how to bring all members of the area together to build a stronger bond.

“We’re going to make an effort to encourage and invite the special needs community, as well as everybody else,” Mrs. Pizzano explains about the soon to be open B.E.S.T. team space in Old Town. “It will be a natural inclusion of everyone. We’re going to be playing bingo or cornhole in the back. The special needs community has so much to offer and so much joy to share.”

Bringing It Full Circle

When the Pizzanos started JPMF, they wanted to infuse their son’s joy for life into the foundation. Joey was the inspiration behind JPMF and he is now. Mrs. Pizzano credits Joey for bringing her the idea to have B.E.S.T. stand for “Building Employment Solutions Together”.

“I wanted people to say I work for the best and I wanted people in the office to say the best are here today,” recalls Mrs. Pizzano. “It’s all about being positive.”

Would you like to find out more about the B.E.S.T. team or need the B.E.S.T. team to help with a customized task? Find more information by emailing jpmfbest@servicesource.org .

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