JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The coronavirus pandemic has had a lasting impact on the community. For one Jacksonville man with Down syndrome, the pandemic kept him away from his job, which he loved so much.
After a 14-month hiatus, Collin Hazelip, 27, has returned to work, and he could not be happier.
“I am ready to go back,” Hazelip said. “For the past ten years, I have been working at Publix.”
On top of that, for the last three years, Hazelip also worked as an office assistant at 121 Financial Credit Union. But the pandemic kept Hazelip away from the office for more than a year.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been back to 121, but they are my family, my community, and I need to,” he said. “I love working down there.”
Fully vaccinated, Hazelip has returned to work -- but not at the grocery store.
“I had an opportunity to go to City Hall,” he explained.
And, as of Saturday, Hazelip was working at 121 Financial Credit Union -- but in a different setting this time.
“I will be working at the Jumbo Shrimp baseball games,” he said. “Money does not grow on trees.”
Back on the clock as the credit union’s brand ambassador, Hazelip was asked to throw out the first pitch.
“This is all new to me,” Hazelip said. “I am trying really hard to encourage everyone to step outside their comfort zone.”
Hazelip said he is elated about returning to work. He said in-person relationships are critical for people with intellectual differences.
“We all want to be involved, but there are a lot of unknowns,” Hazelip said. “I think everyone really wants to come back and get their life back in order, and I think we need to be more independent.”
He said he hopes to be back at this office job with the credit union in September.