FAIRFIELD — Raul Castellanos saw one of his employees in a new light Thursday.
Castellanos runs The Coliseum Soccer store in Fairfield. Rebecca Villareal works for him, organizing the shoes, folding shirts and keeping the soccer equipment store in order.
Villareal, 21, showed off her modeling skills at the Solano County WorkAbility 1 Employer Recognition & Fashion Show.
The Fairfield resident was one of about 40 models who smiled from ear-to-ear while walking a make-believe runway inside the cafeteria at the Matt Garcia Center housed at the former Sullivan Middle School.
She wore black pants, a black-and-white print shirt and a black scarf. She waved to the crowd, who applauded her and the other models.
Castellanos was impressed with his employee, who brings a smile to work as well as dedication.
“She’s a lot of fun,” he said of Villareal.
Dave Miller of Savers in Vacaville attended the event. He employs three WorkAbility students and donated the fashions for the show.
As a Boy Scout, Miller helped a fellow troop with special needs members. Employing special needs people became “near and dear to my heart,” he said.
Louie Ramirez, a 20-year-old from Dixon, is one of Miller’s workers.
“It’s been going great,” Ramirez said of his job. “I’ve made some friends.”
He’s also saving the money he earns with the goal of living independently some day. The program’s goal is for participants to learn to earn.
“Everyone loves Louie,” Miller said.
Savers employees told Miller to say “hi” to Ramirez and give him a hug.
Miller said he felt fortunate to attend the event. The other employees, given a choice, would have swapped seats with him, he said.
The annual event serves as a way to recognize the multitude of Solano County businesses that employ these young adults and as a special end-of-the-year event for the students who are heading off to an adult day program or work.
“We love it,” said Brenda Pignataro, a vocational specialist with the Solano County Office of Education. “It’s a great way to showcase our students and employers.”
WorkAbility 1 was begun in November 1981 as a statewide pilot project to test the concept of work experience for youth with disabilities. There are more than 300 WorkAbility 1 sites in the state.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.