Customer Highlight: Tino's Employment Story

I took my mom and dad’s word to heart and did it. I’m where I’m at now. I have a driver license, I have a job. I can go where I want—because I’m a grown up.
— Tino
Tino wearing his red Lowe’s vest at work, smiling and giving two thumbs up.

Tino wearing his red Lowe’s vest at work, smiling and giving two thumbs up.

Valentino, or Tino for short, sat down with us recently to share his employment story. For the past eight years, Tino has worked at Lowe’s where he currently serves as a full-time Delivery Load Puller and Assistant to the Delivery Driver. But Tino hasn’t always worked full-time at Lowe’s; he worked his way up to his current position over time.

Before he got his start at Lowe’s, Tino shares that he worked as a Busboy at Black Bear Diner for five years. He was motivated to start looking for a new job because, “I was not getting paid enough,” he says. With a goal to find a new job and earn more money, Tino sought out support from a job coach through supported employment services offered by United Cerebral Palsy (UCP). The job coach helped Tino learn how to search, apply, and interview for jobs, “because I didn’t know how,” he says.

With the job coach’s support, Tino began applying for jobs at Walmart. When he didn’t hear back from Walmart, Tino explains, he continued applying for positions online at Home Depot and Lowe’s. “Lowe’s jumped on it real fast and wanted an interview,” Tino says about his online application experience. “I was shocked at how fast it went.”

Tino was initially hired by Lowe’s as a Front End Seasonal Loader, working a few hours per week. After a period of time, with the encouragement of his co-workers, Tino asked his manager if he could work part-time and was soon promoted to a more permanent position. After working part-time for six months, Tino asked to work full-time, “because I wanted to do something more athletic, like lifting appliances.” At first, Tino was told no because there were no available positions at the time. When a Deliver Load Puller position opened up, a manager notified Tino directly. Tino applied that day and was hired for the full-time position he has today.

Promotions did not come immediately to Tino, as his story shows. He emphasizes that it took hard work and dedication to get to where he is today. It also required a willingness to speak up and ask for help in finding and interviewing for jobs, as well as asking for more responsibility on the job.

Portrait of Tino wearing a yellow baseball hat with a Pikachu pattern and a matching yellow t-shirt.

Portrait of Tino wearing a yellow baseball hat with a Pikachu pattern and a matching yellow t-shirt.

Persistence was key to Tino’s success in securing his first position as a temporary seasonal employee at Lowe’s, and then working his way up to a permanent full-time position. Even when he was not hired or did not get a promotion right away, Tino kept applying for jobs and following up with managers to show his interest in taking on more responsibility at work while still working hard at the job he had. By taking this approach, Tino gained the respect of his co-workers and managers who have become important sources of support to his professional growth and sense of belonging.

Tino notes that he was shy at first but remained persistent because he really wanted to work full-time and was confident in his work ethic. Asking for a promotion can be hard to do, Tino acknowledges. But he was encouraged by his family, friends, and co-workers who said, “You can do it. Go for it.”

Ask what kind of challenges he has experienced in regards to employment, Tino says the main challenge he faces at work is dealing with disgruntled customers--a challenge anyone working in retail and customer service can relate to. “[Customers] can be a little upset because they didn’t get what they wanted,” Tino says about customers who share negative feedback with him. Tino explains that his approach to handling these situations is to acknowledge the customer’s experience and to follow up with his managers so they can take action and make necessary changes.

Asked what job advice he would pass on to other employees, Tino shares that his dad taught him to, “Listen to your elders and have that hard work ethic,” adding that his dad tells him to, “find something to do instead of standing around. If you’re done [with a task] and don’t have something to do, pick up a broom and start sweeping.” Tino notes that he receives praise from his co-workers and managers for his work ethic and feels appreciated for his contributions to the team.

Asked what advice he has for employers, Tino says that it’s important for employers to show appreciation for their employees and to help people with their needs, “like if you say you need a little help or don’t understand something.” He acknowledges that not every single need can be accommodated but within reason Tino believes employers should be willing to train people who are willing to work hard and be a part of a team.

Tino advises employers that ongoing training for employees is important to their continued success at work, like when “you got a routine and something new crops up, and you need a little more training to handle the new situation.” He especially appreciates managers who are polite to their employees.

Tino wearing a yellow baseball hat and a yellow t-shirt with a red and white Pokemon ball logo.

Tino wearing a yellow baseball hat and a yellow t-shirt with a red and white Pokemon ball logo.

Being a part of a supportive work team has been an important part of Tino’s employment experience. “We’re a solid team [at Lowe’s],” he says, adding that he appreciates the support and encouragement he receives from his co-workers, many of whom he counts as friends. The need for support is mutual. Tino shares how he supports his co-workers by offering a listening ear and words of encouragement when they face their own challenges.

“Lowe’s is like a big ol’ family,” Tino says. “If I’m not okay, they’ll see what’s going on. They love me a lot and want me to be a front end loader again because I work so hard,” he adds, chuckling. “But I’m not going back to that,” he says with a grin.

Asked who supports him in his employment pursuits, Tino notes his first manager at Lowe’s was an important support because they helped train him as a seasonal employee. The manager eventually put in a good word for Tino with the other managers to be hired part-time. Tino gives the main credit to his parents (who are his foster mom and dad, he explains) for the support and encouragement they’ve provided him in working toward his goals. “I took my mom and dad’s word to heart and did it. I’m where I’m at now. I have a driver license, I have a job. I can go where I want—because I’m a grown up.”

Asked what’s ahead for him, Tino shares that he recently won a BBQ grill from entering a raffle prize at work. “I won the large prize,” he says, smiling. Now he’s looking forward to firing up the new grill once the weather gets nicer.

Congratulations, Tino! Keep up the good work.


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Kaaren Londahl, Self-Advocate of the Year

Recently named Self Advocate of the Year by Oregon Self Advocacy Coalition (OSAC), Kaaren Londahl is known throughout the community for the important work she does to advocate for the rights of individuals with a developmental disability in Oregon.

Photo of Kaaren Londahl in northeast Portland.

Photo of Kaaren Londahl in northeast Portland.

Within minutes of meeting with Kaaren, it’s clear why she’s been named Self-Advocate of the Year. Her experience and network are as robust as her enthusiasm for self-advocacy is infectious.

Kaaren is an active board member at OSAC and Independence Northwest, and a member of the PHAME Arts Leader program. She also works at OCDD and PHAME.

“I am a strong leader,” Kaaren states matter-of-factly, smiling as she hands me her OSAC business card and points out her title: Advocate at Large.

Self-determined but not self-important, Kaaren recognizes that by sharing her story she is able to encourage more people to become advocates—“and strong leaders too.”

What or who motivated you to become a self-advocate?

“My mom,” says Kaaren. "In the 1970s, my mom noticed there weren't services for people with disabilities." Kaaren's mother, Pauline Londahl, responded to the lack of support she encountered by establishing an organization called Exceed Enterprises in Milwaukie. “She started a workshop for people [with disabilities] to learn life skills,” Kaaren says, explaining that her mother wanted individuals with a disability to have an opportunity to learn life skills, like cooking and cleaning, as well as to participate in creative and social activities, like playing music and going bowling. Sharing more about her mother's advocacy work, Kaaren notes: “Mom was on the board that closed Fairview.”

note on fairview.png

Why is it important to be a self-advocate?

“We don’t want programs to go away,” she says, noting that funding for support services can change.

Aware of this possibility, Kaaren emphasizes that, "people need to speak with their legislators," to advocate for the services and programs that assist them in living a full life in the community.

When asked what topics she and other self advocates address with legislators, Kaaren shares that, "we attempt to educate legislators about issues that matter to us," including: housing, employment, relationships, and transportation.

In her call for more self advocates to attend Legislative Sessions in Salem, Kaaren points out that some people who would like to attend these sessions are unable to because of limited access to transportation. “If anyone from [Community] Pathways wants to drive people to Salem, that would be great,” Kaaren says, using her network to attempt connecting people with the support they need to achieve their goals.

As Advocate at Large, what are your main responsibilities?

Kaaren shares that she recently joined the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities (OCDD) on a trip to Pendleton, Oregon where they met with individuals to learn about their experiences with support services. Their trip, she explains, is a part of a statewide effort to learn about support services from the perspective of individuals with a developmental disability in Oregon.

What have you learned from individuals about their support services?

"A lot of people find it difficult to ask for help," Kaaren says. “You have to ask to get ahead.”

She explains that when asked about their experience with support services, individuals expressed that they do not always know what questions to ask in order to receive the support they are seeking. With this observation, Kaaren pinpoints a frustration many people, regardless of their abilities, face when seeking help: Not knowing who to ask for help, or what questions to ask, in the first place. Kaaren says that more clarification about what to expect from support services would be helpful to individuals and their family members.

kaaren quote.png

What other obstacles do individuals receiving support services face?

"Parents," Kaaren notes. “Parents can sometimes get in the way of their kid.” Even when the 'kid' is an adult, Kaaren explains, a parent or family member can become an obstacle to the individual's support services, “because they think their kid isn’t able to do certain things.” 

When asked what advice she has for parents and family members of individuals with a developmental disability, Kaaren says: “Let your kids do what they want to do.” She pauses before adding, “In a safe way. But let them do it.They have to learn."

From meeting with individuals across the state, Kaaren notices that the number of individuals who attend these meetings is quite small. Asked why this might be, Kaaren says that individuals do not show up to events because they either do not know about them, their providers do not take them, or they lack accessible transportation.

What would you suggest be done to address these concerns and help improve services?

Kaaren notes the following ways brokerages can help improve the experience of support services for individuals and their support networks:

  • Host Brokerage 101 events to educate people about brokerage support services, so they learn what questions to ask.

  • Educate providers about support services, as well as self advocacy groups and events.

  • Promote programs like RideWise, which trains individuals to ride public transportation.

How would you describe the support services you get through Community Pathways?

“I like my services. They're great. They help me. They really help me,” Kaaren says. "You have to navigate things," she continues. "They help me grow. They help me learn about what's out there in the world."

When asked what she values the most about her support services, Kaaren says it's the communication she has with her PA. “It’s nice having another person to talk to,” she shares.

“If you complain,” she adds, “[support services] won’t work. You have to speak up. I may not get everything I want, but I have to work with [Community] Pathways, with my PA Sarah, to get what I do get. It’s important to speak up.”

Photo of Kaaren Londahl standing next to an orange biketown bicycle in northeast Portland.

Photo of Kaaren Londahl standing next to an orange biketown bicycle in northeast Portland.

How would someone interested in self-advocacy learn more about it?

"They should contact me,” Kaaren says with a smile, pointing to her business card.

"OSAC is seeking new members," she adds. [Learn more at]

What would you say to individuals who want to get involved in self-advocacy, but are shy or anxious about attending meetings and events?

“They should contact me,” Kaaren says, pointing to her business card again. “Joining a group gives people a chance to get to know more people who have self-advocacy experience," she adds. "We will cheer lead them on to use their own voice."

Of course, some individuals may still find it difficult to attend self-advocacy meetings for different reasons. When asked if individuals can attend meetings and events with the support of a family member, friend, or provider Kaaren says, "Yes, that's fine," but stresses that, "self-advocates need to speak up for themselves. The provider or parent should not speak up for them. We need to speak up."

What is your advice for self-advocates preparing to speak with legislators?

  • Stick to one question or topic per speaker.

  • Stay on topic.

  • Only speak for a few minutes. "If you speak for too long, people will stop listening."

  • Meet with your team afterwards to discuss what went well and what did not go well, and make the necessary changes to improve.

[Join the 2019 DD Advocacy Days to gain more information, training, and support. Learn more at]

Recently named Self-Advocate of the Year, what are you working on now?

With the midterm elections on November 6th drawing near, Kaaren says she is busy volunteering with Disability Rights Oregon (DRO) to help educate individuals with a disability about their right to vote and the supports available to help them fill out and cast their ballots. [Easy Voting Guide]

“We want people to live an everyday life like anyone else without a disability,” Kaaren says about her experience volunteering with DRO to get out the vote. “I want to follow in my mom's footsteps, because I’m a strong leader.”

Throughout our interview, Kaaren makes the mission and motivation underlying her work as a self advocate clear: “I want people to live the way they want to live.”

Kaaren lives independently in Northeast Portland with her dog. Her sister Dolly and nieces are an important source of support in her life and motivate her to advocate for her own rights and the rights of all people who experience a disability.

Congratulations on being named Self-Advocate of the Year, Kaaren!

-The Community Pathways Team