Customers visiting Monkey Joe’s today for the indoor bounce house and playground will find David Stillman, a participant of MERS/Goodwill’s Supported Employment Program, hard at work and amazing customers. A Kirkwood native, David is living another day at his dream job, fulfilling his passion for sports and working with kids.
Shannon O’Hara, Marketing Manager for Monkey Joe’s St. Louis location, had the pleasure of hiring David in August 2015 when she was the store manager. “I can honestly say there is no job title that encompasses the value David brings to our organization and its customers,” said Shannon. “David is such an awesome person with a great personality and an eagerness to work. There’s a reason we hired him on the spot!”
David’s passion for recreation and working with kids began in high school. Nicknamed “Chubbs,” David was the Kirkwood High School basketball team’s manager for four years, passing out cups of water and dry towels, and cheering on his friends and teammates. As a child, David had been diagnosed with learning disabilities, but has never let that define him; he always dreamed of playing in a varsity game. When his coach called him from the bench one day, he proved himself as the team’s most valuable player when he shot two three-point goals, one at the buzzer. The starring turn even landed David an appearance and interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show.
After graduating from Kirkwood High School in 2010, David interned and volunteered with various recreation centers before attending college at the University of Central Missouri in Warrenton. There David enrolled inTHRIVE, a two-year residential program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. After completing THRIVE, David was referred to MERS/Goodwill’s Supported Employment Program by Casey Thompson with Missouri’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. There, he met Leslie Quarles, Director for Goodwill’s South County Career Center, who spent several weeks exploring job opportunities in which David had indicated interest, specifically recreation, hospitality, and anything having to do with sports and kids.
David had been working seasonally as a camp counselor and referee at a local YMCA, but was looking to obtain a permanent position. When David came to Goodwill, he had a solid work history and just needed that extra support in order to meet the requirements for his future employer.
Through Goodwill’s Discovery & Exploration and Job Development services, David practiced job interviewing skills and worked one-on-one regarding employer expectations and job readiness skills. He attended weekly job readiness training classes and began working with Stephanie Guth, a Job Developer with MERS/Goodwill, once he was ready to seek employment. Stephanie had heard about an opening at Monkey Joe’s from coworker Madonna Goldacker, who had developed a relationship with the employer.
“David exudes this contagious energy at all times, and I knew immediately he would be a great candidate for the open position at Monkey Joe’s,” said Madonna. “When we dropped off David’s application and met Shannon, she wanted him to start right away.”
Training new hires at Monkey Joe’s is a process that can take anywhere from two weeks to a month. With David, he caught on so quickly that he was able to complete the training in just one week. Shannon credits MERS/Goodwill’s job placement process and David’s exuberant energy with providing such a great fit for her company. She adds, “I really appreciate the referrals from Goodwill because they are extremely thoughtful about who they recommend and they are thorough to identify qualities in a candidate that would make a great fit for us.”
David has been working for just a few months, and continues to impress and inspire his coworkers and customers. When asked about his favorite part of the job, David mentions he likes “the kids and the mascot.” David’s official title now is Team Leader and his role at Monkey Joe’s is invaluable. He works the concessions, assists the ticket counter, helps with event setups and even volunteers to wear the Monkey Joe mascot costume.
“David’s journey continues to inspire me each and every day,” said Stephanie. “You can’t teach an attitude or someone to be positive and David is truly a one-of-a-kind individual.”