October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Goodwill Industries International is proud to join service providers, advocacy groups and employers among other stakeholders, in acknowledging the importance of employees with disabilities as a vital component of the U.S. labor force.
This year’s theme, developed by the U.S. Department of Labor — “My Disability Is One Part of Who I Am” — underscores the fact that employees with disabilities bring a wide variety of skills to the table. However, it is evident that more work needs to be done to educate employers and support people with disabilities. Approximately one in five Americans has a disability and they make up nearly 20 percent of America’s workforce, yet their unemployment rate is more than twice that of workers without disabilities.
For 113 years, Goodwill has worked tirelessly to support job seekers with disabilities and specialized circumstances through training, placement and employment efforts. Goodwill’s 2015 Achiever of the Year and Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year award recipients exemplify the benefits of Goodwill’s employment programs and highlight the achievements of both those currently enrolled and those who have gone on to independent success.
GII Achiever of the Year
Steve Hennessey, is a person who has shown great progress and accomplishment in overcoming challenges to finding employment. He still benefits from the Goodwill work environment. Hennessey lost his father at a young age and was placed in a home for people with intellectual disabilities after his mother was no longer able to care for him.
Today, he lives independently and is known for his hard work and infectious smile at a federal building, part of a Goodwill Omaha, Serving Eastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa, custodial program, where he’s worked since the age of 20.
“I just like to work,” said Hennessey. “I want to work a long time.”
GII Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year
Archie Gibbs, has completed a Goodwill career program and found success with a non-Goodwill employer. After experiencing profound hearing loss as a child and enduring an abusive family situation and life in the foster care system, he arrived at Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia (Macon) in 1998 to receive career training. There, he rose through the ranks of the Goodwill’s custodial service training program, and today he and his wife, Chericah, own and operate Coleman Cleaning Service, providing residential and office cleaning.
“I never thought I [would] be where I am today if I didn’t have faith, God and Goodwill in my life,” said Gibbs.
Goodwill is proud to support people with disabilities year round, but this month, join us in celebrating the contributions of American workers with disabilities – past, present, and future.