AwardsOutstanding Disability Employer Awards

To recognize the important role that organizations play in employing people with disabilities, the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) announces winners of the First Annual Outstanding Disability Employer Awards. These coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, a tradition that dates back to a Congressional proclamation in 1945

Congratulations to this year's honorees:

Winning Employer: General Mills

Nominating Organization: Opportunity Partners

Nominated by Opportunity Partners in Minnetonka, General Mills was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, MOHR, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of employers in our efforts to provide meaningful services to people with disabilities in Minnesota,” said Mike Burke, president of MOHR.  The organization represents more than 110 disability service providers across the state.

General Mills employs two Opportunity Partners supported employment teams at two of their locations and offers temporary supported employment for special projects at a third site. General Mills has also hired individuals directly and brought work to Opportunity Partners’ locations. Duties involve mailroom, scanning documents, kitting, repackaging and more.

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Winning Employer: Mid Continent Cabinetry

Nominating Organization: Advance Opportunities

Nominated by Advance Opportunities, Mid Continent Cabinetry was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, MOHR, in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of employers in our efforts to provide meaningful services to people with disabilities in Minnesota,” said Mike Burke, president of MOHR.  The organization represents more than 110 disability service providers across the state.

More than two dozen individuals with disabilities from Advance Opportunities work at Mid Continent Cabinetry’s Cottonwood, Minn. plant in a fully integrated setting, performing a variety of jobs, said Dawn Wambeke, executive director of Marshall-based Advance Opportunities.  They scan barcodes, clip labels, punch holes in doors, assemble product, bale cardboard and clean at the facility.

Mid Continent Human Resources Manager Racquel Rolla said employees from Advance are positive, happy to be working and their good attitudes are contagious.  They have even boosted morale for other workers at the plant, she explains.  Rolla challenges supervisors to think more about other jobs that could be added to workers’ duties.

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Winning Employer: Lundgren Ford Lincoln

Nominating Organization: East Range DAC

Eveleth-based Lundgren Ford Lincoln was named a 2017 Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation.  It was presented at the dealership before an audience that included: Bruce Lundgren Owner of Lundgren’s Ford in Eveleth, Minn., State Senator David Tomassoni, Representative Jason Metsa, St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson, Eveleth Mayor Robert Vlaisavljevich, Congressional Field Representative for Congressman Rick Nolan Tom Whiteside, and Robin Harkonen, Executive Director of East Range Developmental Achievement Center in Eveleth.

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Winning Employer: PCs for People

Nominating Organization: Midwest Special Services

St. Paul-based PCs for People has been named an Outstanding Employer of people with disabilities by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR).

PCs for People, a nonprofit which strives to put functional computers into the hands of low-income individuals and get them online, was nominated by Midwest Special Services (MSS), a Twin Cities nonprofit which supports adults with disabilities.

The recognition marks the 27th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 72nd Anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which is celebrated every October.

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Winning Employer: City of Benson

Nominating Organization: Swift County DAC

Nominated by Swift County DAC, the City of Benson was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation.

Individuals with disabilities from Swift County DAC in Benson help maintain the city’s image by mowing park areas, painting fire hydrants and other tasks. They have also cleaned city offices and other properties, assembled meter boxes and stenciled safety cones.

City Manager Rob Wolfington said Benson is at a crossroads of transportation, and that it’s important for the city to make a good impression on people who are passing through. “It’s the little things that make a difference,” said Wolfington. Mowed and maintained downtown parks and fresh paint on fire hydrants apply the shine to Benson’s image, the manager explained. He said individuals from the DAC provide reliability, quality and value.

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Winning Employer: Lepier Oil Company

Nominating Organization: East Polk County DAC

Nominated by East Polk County DAC in Fosston, LePier Oil Company was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation.

Third generation owners Tami and Larry LePier operate gas stations, convenience stores, a Subway sandwich shop and a deli. The company employs six individuals with disabilities, who work in the kitchen, clean facilities and interact with customers.

LePier’s co-owner Tami LePier said the individuals from East Polk County DAC are wonderful to work with, as are the support staff from the nonprofit. “They are so excited to come to work and interact so well with our customers,” said LePier. “Larry’s father started this partnership with them (East Polk County DAC) way back in the 1980s and we’ve kept it going just because of the wonderful people that come and work for us.”

Lepier Oil Company Award Presentation

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Winning Employer: HOM Furniture

Nominating Organization: Rise, Inc.

Nominated by Rise, HOM Furniture was named an Outstanding Employer of People with Disabilities by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of employers in our efforts to provide meaningful services to people with disabilities in Minnesota,” said Mike Burke, president of MOHR.  The organization represents more than 110 disability service providers across the state.

Rise President Lynn Noren said the nonprofit is fortunate to have HOM as a business partner, because from senior management and throughout the entire company, HOM has supported Rise’s mission and sought out additional work opportunities for Rise workers.  “HOM includes Rise workers as valuable members of their team. It’s a great partnership.”

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Winning Employer: Cub Foods - Baxter

Nominating Organization: Productive Alternatives (PAI)

Nominated by Productive Alternatives (PAI) in Brainerd, the Cub Foods store in Baxter was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, MOHR, in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of employers in our efforts to provide meaningful services to people with disabilities in Minnesota,” said Mike Burke, president of MOHR.  The organization represents more than 110 disability service providers across the state.

Productive Alternatives placement specialist Heidi Lefebvre said Cub Foods in Baxter treats each employee placed by PAI with patience and compassion.  “They reach out to us if something needs to be addressed, so we can help problem solve together.”

At the grocery, Cub Foods General Manager Jeff Marchand said the store has hired nearly a dozen individuals through PAI in the last three to four years, and all have been very reliable.  “I love working with them.  We tease them and they tease us back and have a lot of fun,” he said. 

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Winning Employer: Malco Products

Nominating Organization: Functional Industries

Nominated by Functional Industries, Malco Products was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, MOHR, in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of employers in our efforts to provide meaningful services to people with disabilities in Minnesota,” said Mike Burke, president of MOHR.  The organization represents more than 110 disability service providers across the state.

Malco Products Director of Operations Deb Nistler said the efforts of Functional Industries and its associates, and their quality work have been important to the company.  “They have been a joy to work with.  It is exciting to see their smiling faces on a daily basis,” she said.

Individuals with disabilities from Functional Industries assist with packaging and assembly of hand tool products on the company’s assembly shop floor, explains Kirk Langbehn, purchasing, planning and production manager for Malco.  The company makes hundreds of different tools for the construction and automotive industries.  

Malco Products has been an avid supporter of the people served by Functional Industries for more than 15 years, explains Amber Oster, vice president of workforce solutions for Functional Industries, which is based in Buffalo, Minn.  “Our individuals are so proud to work for them and have grown by leaps and bounds in the environment they offer on this crew site,” said Oster.  Malco provides both center-based and work crew jobs, and Malco is one of the best sites to learn job skills, she explained.  “The company’s professionalism, work ethic and role modeling say it all.”

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Winning Employer: U.S. Bank

Nominating Organization: PAI

Nominated by PAI, U.S. Bank was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, MOHR, in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.  PAI is a disability service agency that provides workers to U.S. Bank.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of employers in our efforts to provide meaningful services to people with disabilities in Minnesota,” said Mike Burke, president of MOHR.  The organization represents more than 110 disability service providers across the state.

Individuals with disabilities from PAI perform clerical work in a highly secure financial records setting, explains Suzanne Sancilio, VP of operations for PAI, which is based in White Bear Lake.  “U.S. Bank has been exemplary in their flexibility and willingness to adapt specific job tasks to suit the needs of the individual workers from PAI,” she said.  The partnership provided the pilot for PAI’s “Job Opportunity and Employment Starter,” or J.O.E.S. program, a unique opportunity for individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

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Winning Employer: Waytek, Inc.

Nominating Organization: MRCI Worksource

Valuable partnership with Waytek, Inc. in Chanhassen recognized by major state disability organization as exemplary example and model for other employers to emulate; award presentation set for October.

 Innovation drives inclusion is the theme for National Disability Awareness month, but Chanhassen employer, Waytek, Inc., is the real-world example in action.

In celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) is excited to recognize Waytek as an Outstanding Disability Employer for their exemplary example for other employers to emulate. 

Nominated by MRCI WorkSource, Waytek will be presented the award at a special gathering scheduled for October 19 at 10 a.m. at Waytek,  2440 Galpin Ct in Chanhassen.

Through a partnership with MRCI, Waytek employs numerous individuals with disabilities at its Chanhassen location.  MRCI clients help fill orders and complete numerous other tasks that contribute to the company’s success.  Waytek is a family owned business that prides itself in offering high quality electrical wiring products, at a competitive price with an exceptional customer experience.

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Winning Employer: Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch

Nominating Organization: Ability Building Center

Nominated by Ability Building Center (ABC), Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch has been named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR), in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of employers in our efforts to provide meaningful services to people with disabilities in Minnesota,” said Mike Burke, president of MOHR. The organization represents more than 110 disability service providers across the state.

ABC Executive Director Bruce Remme added, “We are honored to partner with such an outstanding organization. Ironwood Springs is truly a model employer that is making a difference in southeastern Minnesota.”

Lynda Kuscienko, Job Developer at ABC, said Ironwood Springs focuses on community, inclusiveness, overcoming obstacles and finding value in all individuals, whether they have a disability, or not. “Staff at Ironwood are friendly, welcoming, accommodating and patient,” said Kuscienko.

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