Workers help beautify OCC

Special needs worker Tony wipes down a table at Orange Coast College.

If you’ve ever wondered who the green vested adults are who can be spotted picking up trash and making Orange Coast College’s campus squeaky clean, you’re not alone.

A local Goodwill nonprofit asked OCC if there were any job opportunities on campus for special needs adults 25 years ago. Anis Wakim, manager of instructional food services, has been the director of the program that has employed special needs adults as campus cleaners for 23 years.

“I took this role because I wanted to help the community. This job makes them feel important,” Wakim said.

Curious to know more about the workers themselves, I spoke to these men to get to know them better.

One of the special needs workers employed by OCC, Chris, 39, said he enjoys the job opportunity given to him because he feels good picking up trash and it helps the environment.

Every year, Wakim has to pitch his proposal to the Associated Students of Orange Coast College to keep the program alive and normally receives an annual budget of $4,500-$5,000.

OCC pays the workers Monday through Thursday, $6 an hour and require a two-hour minimum work day. They are employed in the fall and spring semesters but not during summer.

Wakim said one time in the summer he saw some of them at the mall and they eagerly asked him about when they could go back to work.

Wakim added this job gives them something to do and they look forward to it.

The program consists of four adult men, who are not OCC students  but live locally. Kent Carabelle, supervisor and a job coach employed by Goodwill, oversees their work.

Carabelle picks one of them up for work at his parents’ home and picks the other three up from a group home. After work, he drops them off. On the weekends, Carabelle will take them to the mall or go wherever they’d like to go. Goodwill has also taken them to Disneyland in the past.

Carabelle first gained experience working with special needs adults by working in a group home.

“I’ve become friends with this group. Three of them are very high functioning and they love to socialize with people,” Carabelle said.

One of the workers, Gregory, 26, said he often finds lots of cigarette butts while picking up trash. He said picking up trash also prevents animals on campus from choking.

Gregory added he enjoys making money and saving it. In his free time, he enjoys watching YouTube, movies and anime.

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