By Kimberly Tharpe, Special to the Democrat, Oct 29, 2012
From left, Chris Starke, Rachel Sabo and Terry Baptist
ST. PETERSBURG — Terry Baptist, 43, who is employed at Tradewinds Resort in St. Petersburg, had a specific goal in mind when he started his job in 2008. He wanted to get his driver’s license and purchase a car. Baptist has achieved those goals and many others in the last four years. He has worked diligently to improve his living environment, as well as his finances.
Baptist, who has autism and other disabilities, receives services from Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is showcasing the workplace achievements of people with disabilities and celebrating the employers that hire them.
With the assistance of his live-in support provider, Deborah Evans, and supported living service provider, Chris Starke, Baptist was able to obtain intensive dental services donated by the University of Florida and the Special Day Foundation. UF dental hygienist Rachel Sabo visits Baptist on a monthly basis to make sure that he is maintaining proper dental hygiene. Through the guidance of his support team and his own drive towards independence, Baptist is learning to pay monthly bills and is well on the road to becoming more self-sufficient.
“Terry is diligent at what he does and doesn’t stop until the job is done,” said chef Justin Harry at Tradewinds Resort.
Baptist’s supervisor, Henry Harden, agrees.
“Terry is very good at his job. He is focused and always on time. He’s just one of the regular guys,” Harden said.
Because of his exemplary work at Tradewinds Resort, Baptist’s hours have increased to four days a week and he is now a valued permanent employee. When asked why he likes to work, Baptist replied, “It puts money in my pocket and I have co-workers that are my friends.”
His long range goal is to purchase a home. “I don’t want to have to keep paying rent the rest of my life,” said Baptist.
He also has a keen interest in environment sustainability and is always looking for ways to protect, recycle and reuse resources.
In his free time, Baptist enjoys building model cars, playing video games, and watching documentaries and NASCAR races.
APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with the developmental disabilities of autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, spina bifida and Prader-Willi syndrome. To learn more about the agency, call 1-866-273-2273 or visit APDcares.org.