Vermont Businesses Recognized for Outstanding Efforts to Employ Individuals with DisabilitiesWaterbury, VT-At this month’s 5th Governor’s Summit for the Employment of People with Disabilities, eight businesses were recognized by the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (GCEPD) for their efforts to promote the employment of Vermonters with physical, mental, emotional and/or other disabilities.The GCEPD, a statewide committee, offers links to employment services, awareness to employers, and advises the Governor on current issues facing individuals with disabilities who seek employment. In 1989, the GCEPD began recognizing individuals, businesses, media or municipalities that have made significant contributions to the employment of people with disabilities. Currently, over sixty Vermont businesses and individuals have been honored.The Governor’s Awards are given in four categories: Employment, Design/Accessibility, Media, and the Governor’s Award for Outstanding EffortEmployment AwardsSupported EmploymentJoel Melnick– President, Nathaniel Group Inc.–VergennesNathaniel Group has a well established culture of providing supported employment opportunities to individuals. The nominator, a parent of a young adult with significant cognitive limitations who has worked for Nathaniel Group for the past 9 years, states that Mr. Melnick has demonstrated a remarkable openness to bringing students with disabilities into his workplace and genuinely cares for workers with special abilities. His daughter has developed new friendships and a very responsible work ethic as a result of the kind, respectful, and inclusive nature of the work environment found at Nathaniel Group.Youth in TransitionColleen Mollica–Human Resources, VERMED, The Medical Sensor Company–Bellows FallsAwarded in recognition of VERMED’s strong collaborative relationship with the Occupational Development Program at Springfield High School, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Health Care and Rehabilitation Services. Through this collaboration, a number of students with disabilities have found opportunities for on the job training and work experience at VERMED, which for at least four youth has translated into a paid position following high school graduation. Ms. Mollica has shown a willingness to make accommodations for students and has allowed the students in training to feel fully part of the staff by providing VERMED jackets and tee shirts.CorporateKevin O’Brien–Store Manager, Price Chopper of BenningtonAND Price Chopper Vermont Corporate OfficesOver the past several years, Price Chopper has become a valuable partner in communities throughout Vermont. Local managers have ensured that applicants with disabilities have appropriate accommodations during the hiring process, are welcomed and supported in the workplace, and have the same opportunities for promotion and career advancement as other workers. The Price Chopper commitment and philosophy is epitomized by the practices of the Bennington Price Chopper and its store manager, Kevin O’Brien, whose particular efforts are recognized by this individual award. The Bennington Price Chopper has a long and quiet history of offering employment to persons with disabilities. The commitment of Price Chopper to the employment success of these individuals can be seen in their high level of performance. A number of individuals with disabilities have found long term employment with Price Chopper, allowing them to maintain their independence. Bennington agencies that work closely with Price Chopper to develop jobs for consumers state that the company provides solid training and supports to enable people with disabilities to succeed in the workplace.Small BusinessClaude Bouchard-Owner ,Bouchard’s Expert Automotive Repair–St. AlbansMr. Bouchard has consistently given individuals with disabilities opportunities to participate in work experiences and assessments in his business. He has hired individuals with disabilities and written letters of references for others after they have completed their experience. To paraphrase his nominator: “He has worked with some challenging people and doesn’t give up, giving them a chance to get their hands dirty and feel they have a chance in the world of work. He has fostered positive relationships for those that need them. For giving back to his community through interviews, work experiences, and job hires, Claude is a prime example of someone who deserves a Governor’s award.”AccommodationMark Helijas–Executive Director, Turning Point Club–White River JunctionThis award is given in recognition of Mr. Helijas’ willingness to provide accommodations for employees with mental illness. His vision, reflected in his employment practices, is to shine a light to erase the stigma that causes individuals with mental illness to be discriminated against in the workplace. In doing so, he provides the acceptance and support that allows and encourages employees to be useful, in charge, and at their best, without ever feeling “less than”. To quote one of his nominators: “Mark treats everyone fairly. I live with depression and anxiety every day. Knowing that Mark won’t fire me if I get mildly depressed or even depressed enough to need hospitalization makes me a better person. I love being useful and helpful in my job. Mark makes it possible for me to do that.”Design and Accessibility AwardMark Harvie-President, Omni Medical Systems–MiltonWhen Omni moved into a new manufacturing location, it constructed a mezzanine to house several work stations. Regulations required the provision of vertical access to this mezzanine to provide access for individuals using a wheelchair or otherwise requiring accommodation. Omni could have complied with these regulations by installing a basic vertical platform lift hidden in an out-of-the way location, as is often done. However, Mr. Harvie chose instead to showcase accessibility by making the lift the focal point of Omni’s reception area. He went far beyond the minimum requirements and installed a custom lift made of glass and stainless steel, placed in a 4-sided glass shaft with automatic sliding glass doors. This lift is the first of its kind in Vermont, and a rarity elsewhere in the US.Media/Public Education AwardDavid Townsend–Small Planet, Inc.–RutlandPresented to Mr. Townsend for his dedication in promoting public awareness and understanding of the respect, dignity, and equality to which all people with disabilities are entitled. As a member of the Rutland Region Business Advisory Council, he has taken a lead role in developing a website and collateral marketing materials to be used to promote employment for people with disabilities. The intent is to raise the awareness of the business community about the potential benefits of hiring individuals with a disability and about the organizations that support this mission. In addition, Mr. Townsend is a vocal advocate to the business community, speaking at business events to share with employers his experiences in employing and training people with disabilities. For his energetic and passionate initiative to facilitate and lead a partnership of agencies and businesses, and to educate the broader business community about the hiring of individuals with disabilities, Mr. Townsend is recognized with this award.Governor’s Award for Outstanding EffortRobert Johnson, CEO, and Evelyn McLean, Director of Human Resources–Omega Optical, Inc.-BrattleboroSince its founding by current President Robert Johnson in 1968, Omega Optical has successfully grown into a world class company with well over 100 employees. Such growth is due not only to its continuous commitment to quality products and services, but also to its outstanding community involvement and strong belief in a diverse workforce. A large number of individuals with various disabilities have been hired and retained by Omega Optical over the years. Whenever a worker with a disability needs and asks for a reasonable accommodation, Omega Optical management does not hesitate to support their request. If technical assistance is requested, the company routinely collaborates with Vocational Rehabilitation, VABIR, and other agencies so that their employees can continue to succeed at work. Omega Optical is a highly progressive, innovative company, with employees working hard to produce specialty filters such as those on the Hubble telescope. They are also innovative in their ability to see individuals as individuals – to see what they can offer the company and what the company can offer them. This 2008 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Effort celebrates and honors Omega Optical for being a true role model when it comes to hiring and employing individuals with disabilities.This email message may contain privileged and/or confidential information. If you are not the intended recipient(s), you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, or copying of this email message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please immediately notify the sender and delete this email message from your computer. CAUTION: The Agency of Human Services cannot ensure the confidentiality or security of email transmissions.