Vito Pagillo at Countryside Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Palm Harbor, FL had no idea how much he would enjoy his job as maintenance assistant at the care center. When he started working there in July 2017, he had already dedicated 25 years to a career in the Department of Justice, had owned a restaurant, and had served in the military. He and his wife moved to Florida from New Jersey just three years ago, and Vito was ready to share his energy and skills in a new workplace.

In Andrea Mattern’s nomination of Vito for the CHIRPs spotlight, she said, “Vito always has a smile on his face and goes out of his way to say hello to anyone and everyone. Vito will do anything that is asked of him, he goes above and beyond on a daily basis. Everyone in the building, staff and residents alike, know Vito by name and reputation of being ready and willing to help daily.” Andrea also mentioned a special bond between Vito and one of the residents at Countryside. What follows is a touching story that explains the rewarding relationship between the two men.

The main characters in this story are Vito, the maintenance assistant who only speaks English, and Manuel, the resident, who only speaks Spanish. Vito and Manuel were first introduced by Rudy, the housekeeping manager, who happens to be bilingual. Rudy learned that Manuel had the desire to assist in the care center, and found some odd jobs for him in housekeeping. Manuel made it known that he would like to help in maintenance too. Vito enthusiastically welcomed Manuel to make the rounds with him each day. Manuel is ready for work each morning, and waits for Vito to come and give direction for the day. “Hey, we are doing lightbulbs today,” says Vito. Manuel watches Vito do the work, assists as appropriate, and shares the success of a job well done. After they improve something, Vito and Manuel share a high-five or a fist bump to celebrate the success.

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Vito and Manuel working together
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Vito and Manuel wearing their work hats.

The other residents joke, “Who is the assistant, and who is the maintenance person?” The two men are both so committed to the job, it’s hard to tell the difference! Manuel’s participation in maintenance is appreciated by Vito, and gives Manuel a focus each day. The therapists and the psychologists at the care center have commented on the therapeutic benefits of Manuel’s “job.” We know that the job is rewarding to Vito too, as he loves to tell his daughter in New Jersey the details of his days at work.

Manuel’s closest family member is a son in who lives in Puerto Rico. When the son calls to talk to Manuel, the staff immediately pages Vito, because they know that wherever Vito is, Manuel is not far behind. Vito and Manuel both wear hats while they are doing their work. In fact, Manuel gave Vito a Puerto Rico hat to wear! Because Manuel’s family lives so far away, Vito has “adopted” Manuel in the adopt-a-resident program and will be getting him special gifts for Christmas. It sounds like there is a lot of generous Christmas spirit in these two men all throughout the year. We love hearing heartwarming stories of special bonds between employees and patients. They bring Consulate’s Core Values to life!

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In his free time, Vito loves to fish