Michael D’Agostino is overcome with tears, as he gets a big hug from Addison resident Rachel Lobello on Saturday, April 28. Lobello stepped up and rallied the community to help Michael, who is disabled, after she learned he had been let go from the job he had held for 13 years.

By Dee Longfellow

For The Addison Independent

While doing her weekly shopping, Addison resident Rachel Lobello became acquainted with a physically-disabled gentleman named Michael D’Agostino, who worked as a greeter at one of the big box stores. Michael was always pleasant and eager to help out anyone who needed anything. Rachel looked forward to seeing him in the store every time she shopped.

On Friday, April 13, Michael greeted Lobello at the store and told her he had some sad news.

“I’m being fired,” he said. “Today’s my last day.”

“Whatever for?” Lobello could hardly believe it.

“They say they are eliminating greeters at our store,” he said. “I asked if I could have a job anywhere else in the store. I would have done anything, really, but they said ‘we really don’t have anything else that you can do.’”

Michael told the Independent in an interview that all he did on his last day was work his shift, punch out, and walk out the door.

“No one said anything to me,” he said. “No one came to say goodbye, no managers came to talk to me, I just punched out and went home. I worked there for 13 years.”

Lobello was heartbroken for her friend.

“I teach special ed, so I know what it’s like when my students are treated like that and it just breaks my heart,” she said, fighting tears. “My heart just went out to him and I just had to do something about it.”

 

Committed to take action

She went home and told the story to her husband Giulio, who is one of Addison’s firefighters, a group that is no stranger to community service and charitable efforts. They decided Michael was not going down without a fight and they were willing to get it started.

“I went into the store and talked to the manager to speak on Michael’s behalf,” Lobello said. “The woman who talked to me just brushed me off, she said, ‘if you have a problem, you’ll have to call corporate.’ I just couldn’t believe it.”

The story blew up and went viral once Lobello placed it on her facebook page. Many people throughout the community stepped up to help and a special event was quickly organized.

 

A salute to Michael held Saturday

A group of friends and well-wishers gathered on Saturday, April 28, at the Briki Restaurant on Lake Street, east of the Marcus Theaters. The restaurant had agreed to donate 10% of its morning’s profits directly to Michael. He wasn’t made aware of it so it was a complete surprise, when Briki General Manager Brandon Kratz stopped by the table where Michael’s supporters had gathered.

“We’ve decided we want to donate 10% of this morning’s proceeds to you, Michael,” Kratz said. “We hope it will help you out.”

Michael was speechless. He didn’t know what to say.

 

A job offer is arranged

Lobello wasn’t finished. Earlier in the week, she had spoken to the owner of Caputo’s fresh market, which is currently going through a building expansion. Owner Robertino Presta Jr. said he would be hiring more greeters after the store’s construction is completed, but upon hearing Michael’s story, he decided he would come to the Briki Restaurant that Saturday and offer Michael a job on the spot.

Sure enough, Store Director Jose Figueroa and Robertino, grandson of Caputo’s founder, walked into Briki Restaurant and came up to the table to speak to Michael. The crowd grew quiet as Robertino began to speak to Michael, saying he had heard of his misfortune.

“I’m here to offer you a job, we’d like you to come work with us at Caputo’s,” Robertino said, handing Michael a job application. “Go ahead and fill that out and then we’ll figure out a schedule for you.”

Michael broke down in tears at the realization that he was not going to be unemployed for much longer. It took him quite a while to process all the kindness coming his way.

 

Other supporters

Among the guests who came by Briki restaurant to enjoy breakfast and greet Michael were a group of firefighters including Dave Dinelli, Joe Schramm, Jim Skala and of course, Giulio Lobello. Addison Trustee Charlie Baxa and his wife Marcia also came out to see Michael.

Rachel Lobello summed it up this way: “When everyone else tried to shut Michael down, the Addison community stepped forward and built him back up. That’s just what we do here in Addison.”

 

 

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