TRUMBULL, Conn. — A local man with disabilities who lives independently and worked for decades competitively as a client of Kennedy Canter is being called an “Everyday Hero.”
He is Bernie Miller, 70, who until retiring in June worked in the maintenance department at Trumbull High School.
Miller received the Northeast Region X Everyday Hero Award from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. It recognizes individuals who’ve made a positive impact on the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Region X includes
New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Quebec and Maritime Provinces.
It will be added to his wall at home, said Miller’s brother Len, who described Bernie, the youngest of four children, as “a great guy, with excellent social skills and work ethic.”
"I like my life and all I have accomplished,” Bernie said.
Miller receives support services through The Kennedy Center Supportive Living Program, Len old Daily Voice.
He started working at 16 on their father’s fruit truck.
"He learned his skills from going into people’s houses every day. He learned from my dad.”
When his father retired he was only 40, at which time he transitioned to The Kennedy Center Maintenance Program, Len recounted.
There he learned the needed skills and got training to move into competitive employment in two years.
Bernie became a custodian, working at Fairfield Department Store from 1989 until it closed in 1996.
In 1995 he was given an award as “Employee of the Year” from Southwestern Connecticut’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, his brother said.
Then in 1996, Bernie went to work at Trumbull High School until retiring in June.
Throughout his career he relied on public transportation, and walked a mile or so to and from a school bus to get to the school.
He was asked to be a guest speaker there for seniors in Special Education and related his success story, Len said.
For the past 18 years since their father died, with support from the Kennedy Center, Bernie has lived on his own.
Planning for that began when their mother died in 1991, said Len.
"He took care of my mother who was a paraplegic and helped my dad when he got older."
With both gone, Bernie’s family met with the Director of the Department of Developmental Services West Region because they felt he could live on his own. Funding for an assessment was granted, Len recounted.
He was selected to be in the Self-Determination Pilot, “It Makes Good Sense.” His story was featured in a brochure.
“Bernie Miller has certainly flourished as a Kennedy Center consumer in the workplace and in the community,” said Martin D. Schwartz, President and CEO of The Kennedy Center.
“He pioneered our self-determination program and serves as a role model for others. The entire Kennedy Center congratulates Bernie on his most recent, prestigious achievement.”
The Kennedy Center responds to the needs of the community by offering innovative, comprehensive service options to persons with disabilities and special needs, from birth to senior years.
Bernie, Len related, enjoys retirement and has transitioned well.
He is receiving 10 and a half hours a wee of supportive services and additional support on weekends, but otherwise lives independently.
“He’s been retired now for seven months and doing well. He has his dog. That's a major piece of his life. He loves to cook. He has supportive services. The Kennedy Center has been wonderful. They have the expertise to guide us as a family. He's a lucky guy and he also makes a lot happen. He's highly motivated and has a good personality. "