Service advisor Jamie Balfanz, 20, was the subject of a 2005 book, “My Best Friend Will,” when she was 11. It pictorially chronicled her friendship with her classmate, Willie, who has autism. The two were featured on Twin Cities television, in the Hudson newspaper, and at book signings and disability conferences.
Balfanz connected with Willie at a group program where they spent time with another student while the larger group took recess. “That’s what I liked to do,” she said. Birthday parties, bowling, movies and other activities were frequent, and their families got together on weekends. They’re still best friends.
Boyd asked her to apply at the store after noting her smiling and happy demeanor at County Market, where she was a cashier, she said. Five years later, she did.
Some two months into the auto service world, Balfanz was thriving. “It’s something to wake up every day not bummed out that it’s nine in morning. The customers are great, people I work with are great and it’s an awesome place to work,” she said.
The new advisor has a keen awareness of customers with disabilities and takes extra steps to make sure they receive full service. A friendly face, greeting and offer to help can go a long way.
People with disabilities are “just like us,” she said. “They enjoy the same things that we do, understand everything the same that we do, just in a different way. They have strengths and weaknesses. We are all human.”
Willie recently graduated from a “transitional” school. He draws regularly, and studies guitar, piano and singing.
The book gives people a different perspective about people with disabilities, she said. Read the book description.