Success Stories

Charles Dickinson building furniture 


Charles with Terry and Wayne LaFazio, Manager 

Charles Dickinson, 25, is gaining work skills while attending college.

Charles’ goal is to pursue a photography career, traveling the world and taking photos. For now, he attends classes at Southwestern Community College’s Curry campus while working about 10 hours per week at Barron’s Home Furnishings in Brookings, Ore.

Charles also interns at the Coastal Pilot newspaper, taking photos at local events on a freelance basis.

Charles has autism, and has an older brother with autism. He said his brother completed a Master’s degree and now works as a computer programmer. His brother inspires Charles to work toward his goals.

“I was raised in an environment where my autism was an asset, not a deficit,” Charles said. “So anything that can be done to encourage employers and other people to consider people’s abilities and not their deficits, I am all for.”

Charles works in the service department at Barron’s, part of a team that assembles furniture, and keeps the showroom clean and presentable. He also prepares furniture for shipping.

“I moved here two years ago from Ashland and I had assembled furniture there at a hardware store,” Charles said. “I’ve done cooking, cleaning, landscaping, bussing tables. But I prefer assembling furniture.”

His manager, Wayne LaFazio, said after more than a year on the job, Charles works with minimal supervision.

“He’s a go-getter,” he said. “He’s always willing to help with whatever is needed. And he has the ability to follow directions.”

Charles lives in his family home and is completing his basic college classes. He is not sure whether he will pursue photography as a career, but he said it will always be a part of his life.

“I like to travel, see things, and take shots of everything I see,” he said.

The work at Barron’s allows Charles to focus, something that fits his skill set – attention to detail.

“I like working on furniture because it’s like a giant puzzle piece, you have to make everything fit together or it won’t work,” he said, smiling. “And I like to see a finished product that I put together with my own hands.”

Lain Ham was the VR counselor for Charles. Karen Lomheim is Charles’ service coordinator from Community Living Case Management. Elaine Lortscher was the job developer and Mentor Oregon provides job coaching when needed. Nelson Ferguson was the benefits counselor from the Work Incentives Network.