Carla Pettograsso of Weymouth is shy, but she lights up when talking about what she does. And she does a lot: The 29-year-old client of The Arc of the South Shore, a nonprofit that works with developmentally disabled children and adults, volunteers at six organizations and works part time for Burke Distributing in Randolph, sorting recyclables.
“It’s fun,” she said recently when asked what she liked about volunteering and working. “It’s something to do.”
Of her volunteer work at places that include the South Shore YMCA Food Pantry and Holly Hill Farm, Pettograsso said she gets particular satisfaction out of helping to sort recyclables at the South Shore Natural Science Center in Norwell because, she said, “I like the animals, the snakes, turtles, frogs.”
Last year, the young woman became a member of The Arc’s Self-Advocacy Group, earning a spot as a permanent substitute for off-site employment at Fallon Ambulance Service and Tedeschi Food Shops, said Brenda Linden, development director of The Arc.
“Before that, she hadn’t shown much interest in working off site,” Linden said, adding that when Pettograsso did express interest in working, she filled out an application and went through an interview process before being chosen for work by a panel of Arc staffers and her peers. “From there, she really took off and started to show more self-confidence. She’s a hard worker, honest, responsible, and a valued employee.”
Pettograsso lives with her parents, where she occasionally helps out with cooking chores, including making one of her favorite dishes, American chop suey, she said. She likes camping in summer with her family, walking in Webb Memorial State Park in Weymouth behind The Arc’s headquarters, and hanging out at home, talking to friends on the phone, and listening to music.
“I have a lot of friends,” she said, gained at The Arc and at her volunteer work. “I like my friends.”
Amanda Begnoche, a counselor at The Arc, works closely with Pettograsso.
“When I first started here, Carla didn’t do a lot, but as she got more training, she got more comfortable and has really come out of her shell,” Begnoche said. “We do cooking here, and go strawberry and apple picking, and she really enjoys all of it.
“Now she’s a superstar,” she said, as Pettograsso smiled at the assessment.