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Margate summer resident presented with Donald J. Sykes Award

  • Downbeach

From left, Lucy Paccione, Andrew Scheffey, his mother Brenda and brother Patrick.

By NANETTE LoBIONDO GALLOWAY

LINWOOD Andrew Scheffey just wants to work. On Tuesday, he received the Donald J. Sykes Award for excelling at his first job at The Other Lucy in Margate, a beachfront eatery that opened last summer in the shadow of Lucy the Elephant.

Drew is an inspiration, said Lucy Paccione, the other Lucy for whom the snack shack is named and Andrew's boss.

Andrew was one of two individuals with disabilities honored Tuesday by the Atlantic County Division of Intergenerational Services and Disability Advisory Board at a luncheon held at Linwood Country Club. It was the 34th year the county has bestowed the award on deserving individuals during DisABILITY Awareness Month.

The award honors Donald J. Sykes, who despite constant pain from a rare auto-immune disease, lived an active and productive life. He was involved in numerous community causes, advocated for people with disabilities, and was chairman of the Atlantic County Disabled Citizens Advisory Board until he died in 1991.

From left, Atlantic County Commissioner Maureen Kern, Andrew Scheffey, Board of County Commissioners Chairman John Risley.

Andrew, age 16, has autism, and his personal achievements emulate Sykes' can do attitude toward life.

At first, he was timid and shy, and he said he was not sure if he wanted to work the register, Paccione said about Andrew. But he started with cleaning and prepping, and when he mastered those skills, he decided to tackle the register.

Andrew's story of success working at the stand this past summer received a lot of media attention for his willingness to challenge himself on the job, preparing hamburgers and wraps, and working the register during breakfast and lunch service.

Wawa was so impressed with his story that they offered him a job and he is now working in a supermarket, Paccione said.

From left, The Other Lucy, Lucy Paccione, Andrew Scheffey, and Christine Wilson, director Atlantic County Division of Intergenerational Service.

I'm overwhelmed with my journey and advocating for myself, Andrew said during his acceptance speech. My disability will never define my capability or my dreams. I need to adapt to the world, and not have the world adapt to me.

Drew, an 11th grader at Hatboro Horsham High School, said Paccione gave him the opportunity to prove he is a capable worker, despite having autism.

Lucy cares about her employees and believes everyone should be recognized, valued and able to soar high, he said vowing to embrace his uniqueness.

Paccione, an educator who like Andrew, lives in Pennsylvania and summers in Margate, collaborated with H.O.P.E. (Helping Others Pursue Empowerment), a nonprofit organization that works to empower adults through skilled training, to open the beach grill last summer. She hired 20 employees, two of them have autism.

The most valuable skill Andrew learned while working at the shack is teamwork, Paccione said.

Drew is phenomenal. He progressed to a high level, mastering skills and working as part of a team. We respect each other, she said.

Paccione said the organization is planning a black tie event this winter to raise the funds needed for a second season at The Other Lucy Beach Grill.

Brenda Scheffey admires her son Andrew's award.

Andrew's mother Brenda Scheffey said her son was excited when he learned Paccione nominated him for the award.

He speaks so highly of Lucy, Scheffey said. He just wanted a chance to work and getting the job at Lucy made him so happy.

Mike Bersani, 30, of Linwood, was the other individual to receive the award.

Atlantic County Commissioners Maureen Kern and John Risey present Mike Bersani with the Donald J. Sykes Award.

His parents Dave and Cathy Oldis said their son was nominated by Victoria DiStephano, R.N., who has known Bersani for many years.

He volunteers in a wide variety of organizations and works with the elderly at the Linwood Care Center and at The Arc Thrift Shop, Cathy Oldis said.

Bersani currently helps watch two adult brothers who also have disabilities so their parents can have date nights, she said.

She said her son is also a member of a bowling group for individuals with disabilities at King Pin Lanes.

He's active and very sociable. He likes to chat with all the moms in the bowling group, she said.

The Division of Intergenerational Services also paid tribute to founding member and former chairman of the Disabled Citizens Advisory Board, Joe Brown who died on Aug. 21. Brown developed a guide to accessible beaches in Atlantic County and advocated for hotels to provide lifts for disabled hotel guests to transfer from wheelchairs into beds safely.

Atlantic County Prosecutor William Reynolds also spoke about the county's Special Needs Registry and how his office is educating law enforcement officers and first responders countywide about the nuances of responding to an incident involving a person with special needs.

 

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