At the Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Fla., most of the employees have one thing in common: they've been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
As young adults they began to age out of the school system, with employment options in short supply. That’s why John D’Eri co-founded Rising Tide Car Wash: to give his son, and others on the autism spectrum, a place to earn a paycheck -- and build a community.
D’Eri came up with the idea about two years ago when he was –- what else? -- driving through a car wash.
Why not build a business with the prime objective of employing people with autism, he reasoned –- not a charity or a “sheltered workshop” –- but a business with the potential to keep growing.
Although the repetition of a car wash might seem like a drawback, it’s actually perfect for those on the autism spectrum who gravitate toward repetitive behavior. D’Eri relied on experts in the car wash business and those who employ people with disabilities. Together they spent almost two years testing systems and coming up with a training protocol.
D’Eri is insistent it remain a self-sustaining business -- because if it is, that means other people can do it too without having to depend on grants or government red tape. He employs 35 men who have been diagnosed with some form of autism and several who have moved up to manager positions.
For more of Harry Smith’s reporting, visit his new Facebook page "Mr. Smith Goes To …"
First published April 21 2014, 2:44 PM
Harry Smith is an NBC News Correspondent who came to NBC News as a Correspondent for Rock Center with Brian Williams in July 2011.
... Expand Bio
One of televisionâ€™s most distinguished journalists, Smith has been a news reporter and anchor for more than 30 years. Before joining NBC News, he hosted the CBS News morning shows The Early Show and its predecessor CBS This Morning for 17 years.
Smith served as a senior correspondent for CBS News and substitute anchors for the CBS Evening News, Face the Nation and CBS News Sunday Morning. He also hosted the A&E series Biography.
Smith has interviewed a whoâ€™s who of world leaders from Barack Obama to Margaret Thatcher. Heâ€™s reported from the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War and the war in Bosnia. Smith reported live from Tahrir Square the night Hosni Mubarak fell from power. He covered the revolution in Libya. Smith has also reported from disaster zones in the United States as well as Japan, Sri Lanka, Haiti and the Philippines. Smith has won several Emmy Awards, an Edward R. Murrow Award, and a du Pont award as well as numerous other honors.
He is a proud graduate of Central College in Pella, Iowa. He is married to the remarkable Andrea Joyce, an NBC sports reporter. They are the parents of two sons.