By Mekialaya White

THORNTON, Colo. (CBS4) – Organizations across Colorado are gearing up for Xcel Energy’s Day of Service 2021. Every September, thousands of volunteers give back to their communities with a service project through the event.

Tiffany Totays has been waiting anxiously since last year to contribute. As Xcel Energy’s Operations Supervisor, she enjoys staying involved. She partnered with an organization that’s dear to her heart this year. The organization is called TACT, or Teaching the Autism Community Trades.

(credit: CBS)

“I found it looking for resources for my son who has autism,” said Totays. She and her son, Jojo, 10, met CBS4’s Mekialaya White at a Thornton park Sunday morning ahead of the event.

“They have really great programs,” Totays explained. “They do welding, they work on automotives, woodworking. This year, I wanted to do something fun and fulfilling for TACT clients and employees.”

TACT Program and Development Director Becky Mershon said she was eager to collaborate.

“We’re making balance boards from volunteers with Xcel on this Day of Service. We have all the tools, the pieces ready. And we’ll have our carpentry staff here.”

Mershon says the project will help further their objective. The organization helps people ages 5-30 in the autism community get jobs and provides on-the-job coaching until their client has settled into a good routine.

READ MORE: Day Of Service Offers A Variety Of Volunteer Opportunities

“We want to encourage and empower educate and employ those with autism in the skill of trades, which is the highest growing opening for workers. Unfortunately, autism is the highest unemployed group in the country about 90 percent unemployment. It’s really difficult because it’s not that they don’t have the ability to do the job but they do have struggles around the social communication issues of it,” Mershon said.

In turn, Totays hopes to educate people to promote a type of diversity she says can be overlooked.

(credit: CBS)

“What I’m really trying to do is expand that to neuro-diversity. It’s not just people of different races or beliefs, sexual orientation, there’s a whole different level with neuro-diversity so I think that’s a whole new avenue that we can be exploring, like how can we expand inclusivity.”

Totays also knows firsthand how these programs and projects benefit people like her son, Jojo.

“He is brilliant, my boy is a smart little guy, and I want him to do whatever he wants to do in life. Just because people think things differently or approach things differently or process things differently doesn’t mean that their value is any less in what they can contribute or what they can bring. There’s value here too it just feels a little different than we are used to,” said Totays.

Find details and sign up to volunteer for yourself for Xcel Energy’s Day of Service.

Mekialaya White