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Indianapolis man with autism connects with neighbors through yardwork

Hillel's mother posted on Nextdoor that her son was looking to do yardwork. The post has connected him with his community.

INDIANAPOLIS — For most of us, yard work is a pain. Just another item on the "to do" list every week.

But for one young Hoosier, it's a chance to give back, and a social media post is connecting him with his community.

The sound of sticks breaking may be a big deal to most of us, but for 21-year-old Hillel, it's music to his ears and part of his yardwork routine.

Hillel's mother recently posted a message about him looking to do yardwork on the Nextdoor app. 

"He loves gardening and yard work," she wrote. 

Linda Baker read the message.

"She was just very proud of him and obviously wanted him to be able to contribute and so I appreciated that," Baker said.

She didn't hesitate in hiring Hillel to clean up sticks in her yard because she relates to his family on a personal level.

"I have a grandson who is on the autism spectrum and they have a lot to give. We all have a lot to give, but in different ways," Baker said.

Hillel's mother created a website to share her son's story, including his likes and inspirations.

"He loves working in gardens because it gives him the chance to express his love of the outdoors and the opportunity to meet new people in the community," she wrote.

Caretaker Hannah Stigter oversees the yard work assignments and drives Hillel to his customers. 

"He will walk up and introduce himself and ask what do they want done for the day," she said. "A lot of the jobs that we've done thanks to Nextdoor are sticks and weeding, mostly. It's been really great because we have been able to meet different people who are not as mobile as they would like.

"It's also helping him interact with people because he has a common ground with them."

Hillel's mother is grateful for the neighbors who are supporting her son, especially since, according to the Autism Society of Indiana, 35 percent of young adults with autism have not had a job.

Hillel usually spends part of his earnings at his favorite Goodwill Store, all thanks to people taking a chance on a woman's 21-year-old son looking for yardwork.

"I think we have to give people a chance to show what they can do to contribute to society," Baker said.

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