Autistic young adults worried about saving Christmas

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Two young adults living with autism work with Hacienda HealthCare vocational instructor Tom Burick. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Two young adults living with autism work with Hacienda HealthCare vocational instructor Tom Burick. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The group of autistic young adults is using Hacienda HealthCare’s maintenance shop. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The group of autistic young adults is using Hacienda HealthCare’s maintenance shop. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The group was using TechShop to make all these decorations, but since TechShop suddenly shut its doors, the group is scrambling to figure out how they’re going to make their deadline. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The group was using TechShop to make all these decorations, but since TechShop suddenly shut its doors, the group is scrambling to figure out how they’re going to make their deadline. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
They are going with a Hawaiian-theme Christmas. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) They are going with a Hawaiian-theme Christmas. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A group of autistic young adults is worried if they’ll make their holiday deadline.

They’ve been tasked to build Hacienda HealthCare’s large outdoor Christmas décor display from scratch.

The group is part of a paid vocational program at Hacienda HealthCare, a facility in south Phoenix that helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We've decided to make a Hawaiian Christmas,” said Garrett Porterfield, a young adult living with autism.

So far, they’ve built tiki torches and hula dancers out of large Styrofoam boards and connected them on custom-cut wooden stands.

The group was using TechShop to make all these decorations, but since TechShop filed for bankruptcy and suddenly shut its doors, the group is scrambling to figure out how they’re going to make their deadline. 

[READ MORE: TechShop suddenly shuts down in Chandler]

The group’s leader, Tom Burick, the program relied on TechShop for tools and resources.

It sounds simple, but it’s more meaningful than you might think.  

He added this project may seem fun, but it has some serious purpose. Burick said the project goes far beyond making Christmas decorations.

"We're not only here to save Christmas,” said Burick. “I need to keep building their skills. I need to keep these guys moving forward and we need to get them placed in the community. So saving Christmas, that's our short-term goal, but long-term it’s about jobs.”

Right now, they’re using Hacienda HealthCare’s maintenance shop. It has limited space and equipment needed to get the job done.

So far, four of the 29 participants in the program have been placed in the workforce. Ryan Sorrells hopes to be the next one.

"I love it, it's a blast," said Sorrells, who explained he wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn these job skills without the program.

If you’re a community member interested in donating time, tools or warehouse space, contact Nancy Salmon, the vice president of Corporate Communications at NancySalmon@HaciendaHealthCare.org or 602-920-0733.

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