25-year-old West Hartford man with Down Syndrome earns first paycheck

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BLOOMFIELD -- As if the job market isn't tough enough, it's that much harder to get a job for those who are mentally disabled.

A doctor in Bloomfield is paying it forward by giving a paycheck to a man who has Down Syndrome, and she says her newest office hire is a model employee.

Dr. Jennifer Pennoyer, a Bloomfield dermatologist, hired 25-year old Dan Fiorentino in August. She says his presence as a greeter in her office has been paying dividends ever since.

"Dan has come in here and done a wonderful job," said Pennoyer, who is affiliated with Saint Francis Hospital. "We really just took a leap of faith that it might or might not work out but it was certainly worth a try."

Dan is kept busy as both an office ambassador and traffic cop, greeting patients and escorting them to their exam rooms in the busy workplace.

"I like meeting new patients, " Fiorentino said. "I call their name and they follow me."

Fiorentino's mother, Shelagh McClure, said her son's success should help spread the message that hiring mentally disabled adults often times is worth the investment.

McClure said employers "find that people with disabilities are loyal employees and they are hard working."

Dan's father, Tom Fiortentino added, "These are folks who need a first chance, and given that first chance they will do the job."

Now that Dan, from West Hartford, is gainfully employed, there is talk of taking a trip to Florida in the spring to see his beloved Boston Red Sox play ball.

Saint Francis Hospital noted that they currently have 16 people from HARC, a local organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities and their families to live life to the fullest, working in their cafeteria along, with another four from the Farmington Valley Transitional Academy.