On Tuesday, Cliff Jackson’s childhood dream came true.
The Gnadenhutten resident, who is developmentally disabled, has always wanted to be a firefighter, “ever since he knew what a fire truck was,” said his mother, Tammy.
So he applied for a job at the New Philadelphia Fire Department to do cleaning and landscaping work there. On Tuesday morning, he learned that he had landed the job.
He arrived at the fire station for what he thought was a final interview. He found staff members from the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities, firefighters, Mayor Joel Day and Safety Director Greg Popham waiting for him. To Jackson’s apparent delight, he was told he had gotten the job and was presented with a yellow T-shirt with his name and the fire department’s name on it.
Afterwards, Jackson, 23, said he was excited about his job. “It will be a lot of fun. It’s a dream come true.”
Added his mother, “He will feel like a real man, and he is.”
Chris Sapp, community connections specialist for the county DD board, said the fire department interviewed several candidates for the position. “They all interviewed well. They were all good candidates.”
Jackson, who works at the Stepping Stone Workshop in Uhrichsville, stood out because of his enthusiasm and preparation for the interview.
On the day of the interview, “I dressed up nice, like you always should for an interview,” Jackson said. “I practiced at the workshop with some workers. They showed me how to be good, how to shake hands correctly.”
City officials think Jackson’s hiring is good for New Philadelphia.
“This is a big deal in a lot of ways,” Day said. “For us to be able to hire Cliff, it sets an example in the community that people like Cliff can be good workers, can contribute. That’s very meaningful. And you can see he fits right in with the fire department already. The guys were just elated that he stepped forward and offered himself for service to them.
“He has so much enthusiasm, and he will be a great ambassador for us. Anyone who visits the fire station and come in contact with him, their day will be brightened, there’s no doubt about it. He’s going to be a representative, a great spokesman in his own way, not only for the fire department but the whole city.”
Fire Chief Jim Parrish recommended that area businesses and community organizations contact the county DD board about hiring the developmentally disabled.
“There’s not many days when you have the opportunity to make someone’s dream come true,” he said. “Today’s the day for Cliff. He’s going to do a fine job, I’m sure.”