Companies are honored, see value of workers with disabilities

Companies are honored, see value of workers with disabilities

Two Minnesota companies were honored by Eagan-based ProAct, Inc. as Business Partners of the year. The awards highlight the importance of employer partnerships to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The winners are honored annually at recognition banquets. 

Design n Bloom, a family-owned florist in Eagan, is one honoree. Design n Bloom has provided special flower arrangements for nearly 20 years. It hired several individuals from ProAct to help operate the shop that produces its decorative and aromatic creations. 

Gayle Kenow is the owner. Her husband Steve, who assists with the business as well as working at his own job, spoke about the individuals from ProAct who work for the florist. 

“There’s an enthusiasm for getting the job done, no matter what it is. We want to applaud all of you for that,” said Steve Kenow. “Finding employees who come to work on time, happy to be there and excited is rare these days. It’s just a joy to be able to be part of this and know that everyone has something to contribute. Thank you.” 

Gayle Kenow said her home-based flower business saw changes after flower shops in the area began closing. “We’ve been growing, that’s for sure,” she said. She began the business in 2001. 

Several individuals from ProAct help with cleaning, floral wrapping, and organization. There are job coaches, as well, and Steve Kenow sometimes assists with deliveries in the evening. 

Gayle Kenow said treats others the way she wants to be treated. “We’re all a team here,” said Kenow. “Those who come here are so considerate. We’ve never had any worries.” 

ProAct Employment Development Manager Anna Cahak said Kenow recognizes the strengths of individuals from ProAct and supports them in their employment goals. “She provides continued partnership and outstanding support of employment opportunities for individuals looking to gain community employment,” said Cahak. 

ProAct President and CEO Steve Ditschler said partners like Design n Bloom are wonderful examples who work closely with the nonprofit to provide opportunities for the people it serves. “We are grateful for their role in enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.” 

Produce distributor H. Brooks of New Brighton is the other honoree. H. Brooks distributes produce using a ProAct crew for sorting, quality control and packaging at its facility. Manufacturing Manager Steve Elsberry said the crews are prompt and dependable. ProAct also sends supervisors to assist. 

On weekdays, individuals from ProAct quality check fresh fruits and vegetables, sort and shrink wrap them. ProAct Community Employment Manager Jessica Gruber said the lead person in the coolers area of the H. Brooks warehouse works closely with the individuals with disabilities. 

The longer commute is worth it for the steady crew of three, Gruber. Individuals wear appropriate clothing for the cold environment and work side-by-side with H. Brooks employees. 

Elsberry said that inclusion is important. Some from ProAct may be working on their own tasks, but they are near other staff members from the company. Every precaution is taken for safety, the manager said. 

ProAct also picks up some of the training responsibilities with its crew to handle food and comply with food safety rules, which saves the company time, said Elsberry. “The group is generally in high spirits, so smiles bring an uplift to the other workers as well.” 

“They are a wonderful example of people who work closely with us to provide opportunities for the people we serve,” said Ditschler. “We are grateful for their role in enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.”