Appliance store helps teen with Asperger’s shine

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland teen with a knack for fixing old washers and dryers is now shining thanks to a local appliance store salesman with a big heart.

Over the last year or so, 16-year-old Christopher Toft has been watching YouTube videos that demonstrate how to repair household appliances.

His family said he lit up when they offered to take him on a trip to Standard TV and Appliance in Southeast Portland to check out some of their old machines.

But they didn’t know he would find a new friend and maybe even a future career.

“You could see that he has a tremendous passion about washing machines as I do,” salesman Rich Mickle told KOIN 6 News. “I’ve been doing it for 35 years.”

The teen has Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. But his instant bond with Mickle led to a tour of the repair department and “boneyard” at Standard TV and Appliance where old washers and dryers are brought for scrap or repairs.

“He all of a sudden wanted to get one and fix it up,” Christopher’s dad Eirik Toft said.

The store offered to give Christopher an old washer to take home, work on and sell — free of charge. Using his dad’s garage as a workshop, he’s now fixed up 4 appliances.

“He’s always proud of himself when he gets one running,” Eirik said. “Stuff that you would think would never work… that all of a sudden [does], just amazing.”

As Christopher’s passion for restoring old appliances continued to grow, his dad said he had the idea of getting some of his classmates involved.

“I thought, you know, not only could my son benefit from learning this skill, but if we could, we could certainly share the wealth and get other people on the spectrum also to work with him, to work with us,” Eirik said.

He’s now looking for a warehouse space where teens with autism can learn to work on appliances and sell them. The family worked out a deal with Standard TV and Appliance that lets teens pick out washers and dryers from the “boneyard”.

“I’m really hoping to see this flourish into something wonderful,” Eirik said. “Not just for Christopher, but for the community.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help develop the program.