Plotting a successful path to a “normal” life was exactly what Doreen A. was doing after high school. She graduated with an associate degree from Brevard Community College (now Eastern Florida State College) and embarked on landing a good job. But in her mid-20s, life changed dramatically for Doreen. She began feeling overwhelming levels of anxiety making it very difficult to navigate through the day. Numerous hospitalizations later, Doreen discovered that she had Schizoaffective Disorder and her “new normal” began.

Managing this sometimes debilitating mental health challenge was one goal, finding a job that would accommodate her needs was another. Doreen sought the services of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and after an initial assessment, the agency determined that Doreen needed Supported Employment services in order to successfully work. VR referred her to BAC’s Employment Services department and from there she met Employment Coordinator, Luisa Ozuna who began working with her immediately.

Ozuna said that finding the right employer match was crucial because of the accommodations Doreen needed. Mark Phillips, manager at Five Guys Burgers & Fries on Merritt Island, was someone Ozuna had a strong working relationship with so she approached him about Doreen.

“I love working with Mark because he understands that people with disabilities can thrive on the job if given a chance,” Ozuna said.

After an initial interview, Mark saw Doreen as a great fit for Five Guys. Ozuna worked with her side-by-side until it was evident that Doreen could handle the job on her own. The fact that Phillips also offers accommodations like taking extra time off  when the inevitable hospitalizations occur, as well as graciously supplying extra doses of assurance so Doreen stays positive about her abilities also were factors in her success at the restaurant. Because of Phillips’ willingness to accommodate, today Doreen not only works three days a week at the Five Guys, but also maintains a job at a movie theatre one day a week.

Doreen has an incredible work ethic, is kind and she doesn’t give up,” said Ozuna. “To say she’s my hero is an understatement!”

Her self-confidence on the job also has translated into her day-to-day life too: Doreen maintains healthy relationships with family and friends, including a boyfriend, owns her home and a car, and is diligent about paying her bills on time.

Because Doreen’s employers do what it takes to help her be her best, she has become an important thread in the fabric of our community.