Working for a living

Local man finds peace on the job

For a long time, Jason Latham didn't have much confidence.

"He didn't have anything to look forward to," his mother, Ginny Latham, said. "He desperately wanted a job."

Jason is developmentally disabled, and when he graduated from high school in 2001, he had trouble landing a job.

He would go to Horizons Specialized Services for a few hours a day, but it wasn't until he picked up a job at Village Inn that his friends and family really started noticing a difference.

Jason started working with Rene Littlehawk, a vocational coordinator at Horizons. Together, they pinpointed some job skills and prepared for his entering the work force.

Now, confidence isn't an issue.

"He sings in the morning about going to work," Ginny Latham said. "If everyone in the world could be as excited about going to work as Jason, the world would be a much better place."

Between buzzing around the kitchen, filling the ice bucket and replacing towels, Jason almost constantly has his nose in a conversation.

The Village Inn would have seemed a bit darker without Jason's bright smile.

"He's just a doll," Littlehawk said. "His family is beyond supportive. They're terrific."

Erin Walker switched to days in mid-August and almost immediately made a new friend.

"He just clung right to me when I got to days," she said. "He comes to me when he needs help."

Which isn't too often anymore. Jason spent a year working with a job coach and handles pretty much any task on his own at the restaurant.

But every now and again, Walker might notice a way to help Jason out, so she'll pitch in the extra effort to show him.

Beaming proudly and egging on his co-workers, Jason would jokingly point at a freshly refilled towel dispenser.

"He likes getting recognition for his efforts," Walker said. "We try to give him confidence."

Now after a day's work, Jason comes home with a check and another predicament: what to buy?

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