Woman with Down Syndrome brings attention to national disability employment awareness month

Melissa Bauguess works at Handel's Homemade Ice Cream in Long Beach making toppings and sanitizing.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Melissa Bauguess has been working at Handel's Homemade Ice Cream in Long Beach for a year.

"Awesome. I love this work so much," said Bauguess, a Handel's employee.

Bauguess is 32 and has Down Syndrome.

"She's just fun, and funny, and vivacious, and sweet and kind of a lot of fun to be around," said Gayle Godana, Bauguess's mom.

Godana says Bauguess didn't have a job in quite a while.

To help her daughter find a job, Gayle registered her with the ICAN California Abilities Network.

It's a nonprofit that empowers people with disabilities to get careers in their community.

"The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is about 82% and so societally, there is a sense of misunderstanding of what they can achieve and what they can become in this world. Everyone deserves to have a meaningful life producing and being a part of the work force," said Scott Elliot, executive director of ICAN.

In order to find Bauguess a job, ICAN asked her what she loved and she said ice cream.

"I love it here so much because I break Oreos," Bauguess said.

When she's not making toppings, she's sanitizing every half hour and taking out recyclables.

"Melissa's personality took over. It took her maybe a week or two weeks to get comfortable and she is just full joy and her spirit is very infectious to everyone here on the staff," said Greg Flaherty, owner of Handel's in Long Beach.

"I love ice cream! I love Handel's," said Bauguess.

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