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CONTACT: Melanie Mowry Etters
Communication Director

Connecting with the Community

By Crystal Crowell

There are many ways in which we can engage with our communities, such as volunteering, working, or donating. Miami Springs resident Michael Gavila is a shining example of how one person can impact multiple communities in a variety of ways.

One of Gavila’s communities is his work community. He has been employed with the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) in Coral Gables for almost 20 years. The center’s mission is to optimize the potential of people living with autism and related disabilities.

As a file clerk with UM-NSU CARD, Gavila handles many office tasks ranging from filing to shredding documents. One of his tasks is to scan documents into the center’s digital storage files. It’s an important task that Gavila is happy to do.

“I like working and I like my job,” said Gavila. “I like getting up early and getting to go to work and be social.”

“Michael is a great team player and is receptive to learning new tasks,” said Gavila’s supervisor Jennifer Durocher. “Michael is socially motivated and always interacts with staff.”

Gavila has a disability and receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is highlighting the workplace achievements of people with developmental disabilities.

Gavila said he likes to work because it helps give him independence and he can do things he likes. He lives in supported living and schedules his own transportation for his many activities.

“I schedule my rides with Special Transportation Services,” Gavila said. “I use this to go to work or to city hall or to see my mom. I like being able to get around on my own.”

Another one of Gavila’s many communities is the city of Miami Springs, where he is active in a variety of ways. His favorite activity is politics. Gavila can regularly be found at city hall, where he is known by many.

“When I leave work, I almost always go city hall to see my friends,” Gavila said. “I like being involved with politics.”

It’s not uncommon to see Gavila around town knocking on doors, canvasing for local officials. He wants to keep his neighbors informed and likes sharing what is going on at the local and state levels.

When asked about Gavila’s civic involvement, Miami Springs City Manager William Alonso, CPA, CGFO said, “Mikey, as we call him, is an excellent person and human being. He helps us at city hall by sharing our social media posts on his own personal sites to keep residents informed of things going on in the city. He is actively involved in our community, and everyone admires and loves his personality. He also keeps in contact with many of our city, county and state elected officials to let them know what the city’s needs are. He is the goodwill ambassador for Miami Springs.”

Gavila has many other communities he is involved with, his gym, his running club, his church, and he gives freely of his time to each one. One example is how he gives to his church. Gavila can be found every Friday afternoon folding bulletins for Sunday service. “I like to go on Friday afternoon because it’s quiet and I can get it done quickly,” Gavila said.

“Everyone in Miami Springs knows Michael,” said Gavila’s mother, Susy Gavila. “Michael has a helpful spirit, and people in the city will call him if they need anything. He truly wants to help everyone,” she added.

When Gavila isn’t working, volunteering, or helping a community member in need, he enjoys going to see the Miami Dolphins play. He also attends spin class almost every day and is currently preparing to run another half marathon.

“I have run many of the Disney half marathons,” said Gavila. “I really like to run marathons in different places and see everything,” he added.

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 58,000 Floridians with severe forms of autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit or call toll free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).

Michael Gavila at work in Miami, Florida.