PLATTSBURGH - North Country businesses have once again been recognized for their commitment to disabled members of the local workforce.
Representatives from the Office of Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities, the Clinton County Advocacy and Resource Center's Workforce Network and OneWorkSource gathered Oct. 31 to present annual employer awards as part of National Disability Employer Awareness Month.
VESID district manager Stephen Novacich credited the organization's partner agencies and employers with being "exceptional" forces in facilitating employment for those with disabilities.
"We do so well in the North Country because of all the players involved, perhaps most importantly, with all the work our partners, providers and the VESID office does," said Novacich. "It would be pointless unless we had an employer community that had been so progressive, positive and pragmatic in their decisions to give persons with disabilities opportunities to work like the rest of our population."
Keri Mack, representing the North Country Workforce Investment Board, said there is sometimes a stigma associated with hiring someone with a disability, though those concerns are unjustified.
"The fact is, every individual, regardless of their disability, deserves the right to be treated on an individual basis, fairly and without discrimination," said Mack. "These individuals can be productive and successful members of the workforce; they just need to be given the opportunity."
State Assemblywoman Janet L. Duprey, R-Peru, applauded the honorees for their ability to overlook a label that can often be associated with a disability and for seeing "the beauty, the drive, the determination and the value of every employee." Duprey added the schools which work with VESID and the other organizations are also what makes the road to successful employment easier for those with disabilities.
"I think the beauty of this day is that we also recognize the fantastic school systems we have in the North Country, because they're educating our children with special needs and they're doing a great job of it," she said.
Chases's Mobil Station in Redford was among the honorees during the event. Colleen Collins of Workforce Network, the supportive employment arm of the Clinton County ARC, said the business welcomed its first worker through the VESID program more than a year ago. The individual was shy and "had a hard time coming out of his shell" at first, said Collins, but soon found confidence from his job.
"Thanks to Chase's and their staff, they gave this individual a chance and took him right under their wing," she said. "Now, he's very outgoing, friendly ... everyone seems to sit and talk with him and make him feel very welcome and we really appreciate that."
Business owner Andy Chase said the employee has become a familiar face to those who frequent his Redford store and is "a pleasure to have working for us."
"We were glad to bring on board and train him for the duties in his position and he's done great," said Chase. "It's great to see an individual grow and learn a trade they can take onto other places if they want."
In addition to Chases's Mobil Station, honorees included Champlain Valley Fitness and Health Center, Corner-Stone Bookshop, La Quinta Inn and Suites, Meadowbrook Healthcare, Price Chopper, Wal-Mart and the Law Office of Stafford, Owens, Curtin and Trombley, all of Plattsburgh; and the Essex County Youth Bureau, Elizabethtown.
During the event, proclamations and citations in honor of National Disability Employer Awareness Month were read by Duprey and fellow state Assemblywoman Teresa R. Sayward, R-Willsboro; Clinton County Legislator Sara E. Rowden, D-Area 4; Essex County Board of Supervisors chairperson Cathy Moses, R-Schroon; Plattsburgh City Councilman James E. Calnon, I-Ward 4; and John Masella, representing the state Department of Labor and the office of Gov. David A. Patterson.