HONESDALE-The Wayne County Employment Coalition (WCEC) held a lucheon meeting at the Park Street Complex where they honored the Himalayan Institute for its support in “fostering the employment” of those with disabilities.”

Brian Fulp, retreat center director, was present to receive the award from Charlie Lagarenne, who does vegetable preparation.

Fulp was joined by Florence (Fi) Mitchell, veggie preparation coordinator.

Another employee who was unable to attend the meeting was Patrick McKenna.

Although he couldn't be there, McKenna wanted to thank the staff at the Himalayan Institute for their support so he made a video.

“I couldn't miss the chance to tell you how the Himalayan Institute has changed my life,” McKenna said in the video.

“Finding me a job was really hard and I know my autism was the reason. Sometimes people don't get it [and] they don't give someone like me a chance.

“The Himalayan gave me that chance and now I'm happy to go to work.”

McKenna added he feels accepted and at home at the Himalayan Institute.

“They listen to my thoughts and ideas,” he stated. “I have so many people encouraging me to be the best I can be.”

McKenna thanked the staff for all they've done for him.

“Working at the Himalayan not only changed my life, but it also changed the way I look at employment,” McKenna said.

He congratulated the staff on the recognition and said it is “well deserved.”

Lagarenne also said a few words about the Himalayan Institute.

“There are so many reasons that I want to thank the Himalayan,” he said.

“There are not just one or two reasons, there are countless ones. I started out just visiting the institute...after awhile I started to volunteer in the veggie prep department.”

He added before long he was offered a job.

“The Himalayan Institute entrusted that I would work hard,” stated Lagarenne. “The Himalayan Institute believed that I would do things I never did before.

“The Himalayan shows patience to me and gives me a peaceful environment to work.”

Lagarenne added working at the Himalayan has helped him to learn new skills and said his co-workers are also his friends.

“Thank you for all you do for me, for continuing to provide a wonderful employment to people with disabilities,” he said.

Fulp said the Himalayan Institute has started employing a lot of people over the last 16 months. He said Lagarenne and McKenna have embraced it the most.

“They are the ones who inspire the most day after day,” he stated. “Thank you so much.”

The WCEC is a community coalition comprised of educators, employment support provider agencies, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Office of Developmental Programs, community businesses, Wayne County Office of BDP/EI staff, families and people with disabilities.

WCEC members work together to “promote successful employment, choice of employment opportunities and supports needs of individuals with disabilities in pursuit of an every day life.”

The coalition was formed in 2008 and has “grown in number and purpose.”

WCEC facilitates information sharing and serves as a “central point of contact” for parents, employers and clients/consumers seeking support services from member agencies.

The coalition meets every other month. For information call (570) 253-9200.