Eight outstanding disability employers, who go above and beyond for people with disabilities, were honored this fall by MOHR. Five winners are from the Twin Cities area, and with one each from Fairmont, Duluth and Buffalo. Awards coincide with the national celebration of disability employment in October.
“Employers tap into this great talent pool and give people with disabilities an opportunity,” said Julie Johnson, president of MOHR. “Organizations will be stronger if they hire these talented and dedicated people. They will quickly see the benefits of an inclusive workforce.” MOHR represents more than 100 disability service providers across the state.
Employers help people with disabilities to pursue their goals, earn decent wages and contribute to the economy as part of their communities. “Supporting people to live a community connected life is a large part of what MOHR providers do for the people they support.”
Winners are nominated by MOHR members.
Activar, Inc. of Bloomington was nominated by Rise. Activar is a manufacturing and distribution company engaging in construction, plastic, technical and industrial products and services. As many as 10 individuals from Rise work at the large Bloomington plant. They produce metal wall cabinets used by businesses around the world.
The work is fast paced, and the Rise team is tasked with the finishing steps. They bring in parts from the warehouse, assemble them, do quality checks, package and palletize completed cabinets to be sent back to the shipping department, said Keith Hovland, Rise Director of CBTE and Support Services.
Cub Foods-Buffalo, was nominated by Functional Industries. Cub utilizes people with disabilities in a variety of positions within the store. Individuals work in the deli, on the cleaning team and on the sales floor.
“The management team at Cub Foods does a fantastic job of allowing individuals to ‘move around’ and explore different jobs in different departments to find the best fit, one that makes the individual the most happy,” said Ashley Nordlie, placement services manager for Functional Industries.
Ferlic Filter LLC, was nominated by Merrick, Inc. Ferlic Filter, a medical supply company, uses Merrick workers to handle X-ray cassette covers and filters used by hospitals and diagnostic centers across the United States. These are bundled and packaged using specially designed bags of different sizes.
Ferlic Filter owner Carly Nelson visits with Merrick clients regularly to build and maintain relationships with the crew, said Karen Herrera, development and communications director for Merrick. There are team-building activities and pizza parties, complete with drawings for prizes and gift cards to celebrate the great work of the crew.
Lakeview Methodist Health Services, was nominated by STEP Inc. Employees with disabilities at Lakeview Methodist Health Services, a long-term care facility in Fairmont, stepped up their efforts when COVID-19 hit. STEP, Inc. supports eight individuals. Staff work in laundry, foodservice and custodial operations.
“The biggest responsibility for our job coaches is to set up the employee for success, not to fail,” said Dominique Berg, employment service manager for STEP. Cooperation and communication with Lakeview have been strong, and important to the success of each employee.
Lunds & Byerlys was nominated by Opportunity Partners. Tres Lunds, president and CEO of Lunds & Byerlys, praised the employees. “We are so remarkably proud of our entire family of Lunds & Byerlys employees for the way in which they have delivered an added level of care and comfort to our customers during these uncertain times,” he said.
Opportunity Partners typically works with six or more Lunds & Byerlys stores, making site visits to coach employees, check on their progress and meet with managers, said Cara Buettner, an employment specialist with the Minnetonka-based organization.
Target-Duluth was nominated by Trillium Works! Target creates customized job positions for people with disabilities and instills a sense of independence and pride. “Target has employed several people we support over the years, and has looked at each individual for the strengths they have, and the contributions they can bring to Target; not the tasks they cannot do,” said Liz Glesner, a program supervisor with Trillium Works!
Trillium provides job coaching, transportation and weekly check-ins to Target employees. The service is flexible, depending on the independence level and comfort of the individual team member.
Unidine-The Glenn Minnetonka, was nominated by Chrestomathy, Inc. An elegant senior dining facility in Minnetonka and its foodservice provider, Unidine, are an excellent, supportive workplace for people with disabilities. Unidine is part of the Compass Group North America company, which has other service providers with which Chrestomathy has established a working relationship, said Kara Townsend, vocational director for Chrestomathy.
“Chrestomathy has worked with several managers at their company locations, and the managers have made it clear that this is a ‘partnership’ with us in helping the individuals we support to be successful at their work,” she said.
Westwood Early Childhood Center was nominated by Partnership Resources, Inc. Westwood Early Childhood Center has hired individuals through Partnership Resources, PRI, to support its kitchen operations. PRI supports these individuals on the job to help make them successful, said PRI Program Director Marijane Oquin.
“WECC has gone above and beyond to support our client, Allie Henley, in her role as a kitchen aide,” she said. The center updated a list of duties, created a new checklist and provided an embroidered apron for her, Oquin said.