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Ariel Shiner

In this day of corporate downsizing, upward mobility and nimble job-hopping, a 28-year career with one company is an increasingly uncommon commodity. It takes an employer who values dedication and loyalty and an employee whose contributions are needed and valued. Even more uncommon than most is a combination like the Wawa Food Markets and Ariel Shiner. Because here something else accompanies the dedication and the value. It’s known as autism. It wasn’t known as that—or at least not very readily—back in the ’60s when Natalie and Harry Shiner were trying to determine why their youngest son talked very little, screamed periodically and showed scant interest in learning. “Whenever we heard of another school, we thought maybe it was for him,” recalls Harry. “Then in 1976 someone told us about Eden. And we knew from day one we’d found the right place.” At Eden Institute, Ariel joined the vocational preparation class; where he mastered a variety of skills—and enjoyed doing so, if the shy smiles that began to emerge were any indication. “Finally, someone understood Ari,” says his father. The understanding was mutual. By 1980, Shiner, about to graduate from classroom programming, was a worker in need of a workplace. Enter Princeton Wawa store manager Joe Bendas and his “how can I help?” addressed to Eden founder David Holmes. The result: on the first day of spring 1981, Ari Shiner created a few firsts of his own—from Wawa’s first special needs placement to Eden’s first work placement…predating the beginnings of Eden’s Adult Employment division by more than two years. The word “pioneer” rather springs to mind. Shiner’s duties, initially in the store’s coffee area, have grown over the years to include deli prep and general cleaning, as well as stocking shelves, pricing products and replenishing the cooler. Quiet and unassuming, he learns quickly and thrives on praise. Shiner’s long-time supported employment teammate is Eden participant Martin Maccarone, who is also his housemate. In fact, therein lies another first, as it was Shiner and Maccarone who pioneered the supported living concept at Eden when they moved from an Eden group home into an apartment complex. The move brought new opportunities for independence and a quieter lifestyle that suits Shiner well. He likes baking, does his own laundry and shares household cleaning tasks with Maccarone. Favorite outings involve the theater, especially musicals, and the outdoors. Shiner has two special hobbies of long standing: word search puzzles and long stitch needlecraft. “He has the patience and dexterity for both,” says Windsor Mill Teaching Parent Margaret Swan, “and his concentration is formidable!” A recent long stitch project, depicting baseball bat and basketball hoop, was undertaken as a gift for sports fan Maccarone. Ari’s career has been marked by Wawa with both 20 and 25 year celebrations and award ceremonies. He’s happiest, however, just to get back to work—which is a good thing, given what Princeton Wawa manager John Golias has to say. Asked about Shiner, he begins with descriptive words. “Ari is conscientious and hard-working,” says Golias, who then stops, deciding to leave adjectives behind. “Actually, I don’t think I could run the store without him.
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