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In June, when Lee Rozinski realized that he was being offered a job, his eyes welled-up and his heart thumped in his chest. For the first time in his life, Lee Rozinski, 22, has a job. A job he is passionate about. A job where he can help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. People like himself. “I’m able to make a difference here and that’s what I want to do,” Rozinski said. “I want to show other people that everybody’s equal. Nobody’s any different, no matter which way you look at it.”
Rozinski works as a greeter and helps manage the Multimedia department at the Bethesda Lutheran Communities Thrift Shop in Baraboo, Wis. In his role, Rozinski is the face of the store, welcoming customers with a friendly smile and directing them to sales. Rozinski’s job at Bethesda was made available through an initiative by the organization to hire people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at its 21 thrift shops around the country. Currently, Bethesda employs 21 people through the program.
To Rozinski, the job goes beyond showing up and putting in hours. It is about raising awareness for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “I love this job so much,” Rozinski said. “I’m so passionate about it. I get to wake up every morning and say ‘hey, I get to make a difference today.’ That’s what it’s all about.”
Before becoming a paid employee, Rozinski distinguished himself over three years as a volunteer at the Baraboo Thrift Shop. The store’s manager, Tracie Lange, easily identified Rozinski’s love, appreciation and dedication to Bethesda and the idea of boosting sales. “I remember the first day I met Lee, he had a big smile on his face and the most positive attitude of anyone I’ve ever met,” said Lange, who has managed the store for three years. “I have customers that come in to the store every week from around the area just to see Lee.” Rozinski said even if he was not a paid employee, he would continue to volunteer at the store “for as long as they’d let me.” The opportunity to work has not come easy. Rozinski has overcome long odds to make his mark with Bethesda.
At birth, Rozinski weighed just one pound, six ounces. He had a five percent chance of survival. Now, Rozinski is taking on cerebral palsy in hopes of someday shedding his motorized wheelchair and walking— even if only for a few steps —an achievement doctors and surgeons told him would never happen. “I don’t just want to stop here. I want to keep going,” Rozinski said. “You can accept the fact that you’re different and try to rise above it, or you can do nothing about it. I will never give up on my goals, and I’ll always keep pushing forward.”
Thanks to hard work and his burning desire to reach his goals, Rozinski is saving for a wheelchair-accessible van. The van will allow him to enroll at a local college with hopes of becoming a motivational speaker. Those goals were not realistic, Rozinski said, before he was offered his job at Bethesda. But thanks to Lange’s diligence in identifying Rozinski’s talents, he continues reaching for his goals. “Lee never looks at himself as having a disability,” Lange said. “He is a great, positive asset to the store because, to me, Lee is what it’s all about.”
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