Bumps on the Road Didn't Deter These Guys

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis

Martin Dietel is a Trinidad native, a former calypso musician and a recent fixture among Jacksonville's downtown buildings where he ran snack shops. He was diagnosed as a child with a degenerative eye disease and came to the United States as an adult for medical treatment after one of his brothers moved to Orlando.

Nothing worked, but Dietel does, and hard.

He now works for Goodwill Industries of North Florida, logging pick-up orders over the phone into the computer, and his performance earned him the distinction as one of the organization's 2005 Achievers of the Year. Dietel's journey will embarrass anyone who complains about the little bumps and ruts on their own paths.

Dietel, 56, is cheerful, friendly and quick-witted. For example, he took Goodwill President Bob Thayer by surprise when he told him "nice shirt" in passing. Thayer said thanks and continued on before he grasped that Dietel couldn't see his shirt. "I was just messing with him," Dietel says. He can perceive light and dark, but that's about it.

Each year, Goodwill honors three people who gain employment through their services. The organization believes that a job can be life-changing and it focuses on training and employment services for people with disabilities and special needs. This year, Goodwill will have placed 7,000 people into jobs in Northeast Florida.

Goodwill honored Dietel along with Adam Barkley and Kevin Mahaffey at a luncheon this week.

Barkley's mother moved the family to work on a South Florida farm, where Barkley said in a Goodwill video that they "lived in poverty . . . like slaves." After they returned to Jacksonville, his mother was killed by her boyfriend, and Barkley lived with his grandparents. Life grew worse with drugs and addiction, but Barkley landed at the I. …