Devereux Pennsylvania’s CAAPP program helps make dreams a reality
Growing up, John Pagnoni had a passion for cooking. He and his grandmother would watch Food Network shows featuring celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri to gather ideas and learn new skills.
Today, Pagnoni dreams of opening his own restaurant. A dream the 30-year-old is pursuing thanks to support from Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.
Before his mother enrolled him in Devereux Pennsylvania’s Community Adult Autism Partnership Program (CAAPP), Pagnoni struggled to manage his finances, form friendships and hold a job. Five years later, he is thriving.
Devereux Pennsylvania’s CAAPP provides individualized and innovative community-based support services for adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other disabilities. Through the program, Pagnoni, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome when he was in high school, obtained a part-time job as a dietary aide at Pocopson Home, a long-term healthcare facility in West Chester, Pa. He recently celebrated his five-year anniversary.
“I love it! It’s been my longest job, so far,” said Pagnoni. “Learning how to cook, helping in the kitchen and meeting with the residents – everything is awesome! I have a couple of friends who also work there and they’ve taught me a lot. They’re teaching me how to basically go through life.”
From struggles to successes
Since receiving services through Devereux Pennsylvania’s CAAPP, Pagnoni has gained self-confidence, improved his socialization skills and is more active in the community. He spends time with friends from work and goes to the gym on a regular basis, hoping to get fit and healthy before his sister’s wedding in the fall.
Pagnoni recently moved into a new apartment that he shares with a roommate, and spends his free time whipping up turkey chili, tuna casserole and other tasty cuisine.
“I want to own a restaurant, and I want to employ people on the autism spectrum and give them opportunities like I’ve been given,” explained Pagnoni. “I don’t see many career placements for kids on the spectrum. They usually get grocery store bagging jobs and I think some of us could do more if we’re given the opportunity. Since I’ve been here at Devereux, I’ve been seeing what I can do and what others like me can do.”
By building his portfolio through cooking classes, volunteer activities and putting together a business plan for his future restaurant, Pagnoni is on his way to achieving his culinary dreams.
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