And that was exactly what Goodwill Industries International gave him.
Bulling, a 34 year-old Lakewood resident with cerebral palsy, is Goodwill’s 2011 Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year award winner for his determination to find work and gain skills. Don’t be surprised if you see him the next time you go through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Bulling has worked nearly four years as a custodian at the airport, sweeping, washing chairs, dusting among other duties.
“Goodwill gave me a chance by helping me get a job and a fresh start — the same for anyone with a disability or anyone who never had a chance,” said Bulling, who works for Capitol Building Maintenance. “Goodwill gave me an opportunity and I took the ball and ran with it. Now I have a career, not just a job.”
Bulling’s mother, Kyu Chon, calls him the “$5 million kid,” for all the operations he had as a youngster starting with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck that caused him to be born three months premature at 1.5 pounds. Within two weeks of his birth, he had already been diagnosed with a learning disability and cerebral palsy. Although he graduated from Tacoma’s Lincoln High School, in 1995, and found a few custodial jobs, it was not a happy experience despite his hard work.
“I liked my jobs, but the treatment was not so kind,” said Bulling. “I left for personal reasons. It was not my choice. I was pulling my share, but the managers didn’t treat me very well. They didn’t give me the advocacy and support I needed.”
Bulling only received the advocacy he really needed for future work when he found out through a friend about Goodwill, an AWB member since 2001.
Bulling joined Tacoma Goodwill’s Supported Employment program. This service helps people with developmental disabilities receive competitive jobs in the community. Bulling’s case manager assisted him in getting his current job.
Now the sky’s the limit for Bulling.
“He feels as though he has a lot to offer, and I think he does,” said Leah Ferrer-Warner, his case manager at Goodwill. “It is his goal to be an advocate, and I think he’ll do it.”
Already, in April, Bulling attended a Goodwill conference, in Washington, D.C., including meetings with members of Congress. He also speaks at a variety of events, at local Boys & Girls Clubs and in front of organizations advocating on behalf of the disabled.
“In five or 10 years, I see myself working as a consultant with people with challenged and disadvantaged needs, or alongside the Port of Seattle and the CEO,” said Bulling. “They need an advocate like me – somebody who has guts and who is not afraid to speak up and speak out. They need to understand that if I can do it, anybody can do it. All you’ve got to do is believe in yourself.”