Kennedy Center recognizes vending operator for his commitment to mentoring and hiring Americans with disabilities
MILFORD, CT -- October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the purpose of which is to educate the public about disability and workforce issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 50 million Americans, or one in five people, are living with at least one disability, and most will experience a disability at some time during the course of their lives.
Michael Daddona, owner of Automated Services LLC here, is a longtime employer of Americans with disabilities and this year he has partnered with the Kennedy Center Inc., a community-based rehabilitation nonprofit, to raise awareness of the many advantages of hiring people with disabilities.
For years, the Trumbull, CT-based Kennedy Center has been placing clients with area businesses in Fairfield and New Haven Counties. Daddona is one of the regional businessmen leading the charge for the agency. Automated Services has hired more than 20 Kennedy Center clients over the past seven years and currently employs four on his staff of 36.
Daddona started his vending business 40 years ago, when he was 17 years old. He has expanded several times and says he enjoys mentoring students from the Kennedy Center’s Partner’s School Transition Program who are exploring vocations in warehouse work and food preparation. Automated Services runs a commissary that prepares fresh food for vending machines and manual foodservice sites.
Daddona coaches each Kennedy Center hire and gives them one-on-one pep talks about the importance of hard work. Using his personal life story as an example, he illustrates that it's possible to succeed against all odds. "I grew up in a lower middle class family and had the ambition and drive to succeed," the operator said.
Of course, there are federal and state tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities. Automated Services, for instance, receives both the Work Opportunity tax credit (a federal tax credit of up to $2,400) and Connecticut's new Vocational Rehabilitation tax credit. The state tax credit provides incentives for hiring individuals in new positions who are referred from a vocational rehabilitation provider to create jobs. These incentives allow employers who meet the criteria to receive a state tax credit of $200 a month per person for 2010, 2011 and 2012.
For Dadonna, helping his employees succeed is the motivation for hiring Americans with disabilities. The vending operator said many of his employees have moved on to more demanding jobs. "Ten years from now I want them to remember the life skills I taught them," he said.
One of Automated's Kennedy Center clients is Ricky Vargas, who was hired over a year ago. "Like all my new employees, Ricky started out moving machines and performing cleaning duties," Daddona said. "He became such an enthusiastic, motivated employee, that I promoted him to warehouse supervisor."
Another Kennedy Center standout is Brandon Hartsgrove, who keeps Automated's product inventory organized as stockroom clerk. "He just has shined beyond my wildest dreams," Daddona said. "He is self-motivated and possesses tremendous organizational and communication skills."
"The Kennedy Center is developing skills in people with disabilities that will make them lifelong contributors in the workplace," the Connecticut operator reported.
"Mike does his very best to match the interests and skills of each person to the job they will be doing," said Joan Nassef, marketing and employment relations manager of the Kennedy Center's employment services division. "His goal is to have everyone succeed so he provides incentives to make that happen."
In 2008, the Kennedy Center recognized Automated Services as Competitive Employer of the Year at its annual awards dinner. That same year, Daddona sponsored a business after-hours event for the nonprofit at Harboryard in Bridgeport and donated a home slot game as a raffle item.
Information on matching Kennedy Center clients with jobs and tax incentives for hiring Americans with disabilities can be had by calling Nassef at (203) 365-8522, ext. 240.
Automated Services was established in 1971, and has become a prominent provider of full-line vending, office coffee and pure water, and coin-operated amusements in the southern Connecticut market. The company also is a distributor of new and remanufactured vending equipment, and runs The Pinball Store (Orange, CT). This originally was established to serve the home entertainment market.
PHOTO: Michael Daddona meets with Enrique Zayas (l.)
and Brandon Hartsgrove (r.), two valued members of Automated
Services (Milford, CT), the largest independent vending operation
in New England. Both young men received job-training skills from
the Kennedy Center's employment services division.