Alice’s voice rings out as she arrives for her 9 a.m. shift. She’s learning Italian phrases—this one means “beautiful restaurant”—because she’s so excited to be working as the new support employee at Tutta Bella in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.
Alice is the first Northwest Center client to be hired by Tutta Bella to work at one of their five neighborhood restaurants in and around Seattle. Her job is to prepare the restaurant before the lunch rush, ensuring that tables are set up, silverware is in place, and floors are clean.
“It’s a perfect match for me because I love eating Italian pizza and assisting in getting the place ready to open, so the cooks can just concentrate on making delicious pizzas,” Alice says. “It’s so much fun to work here because it gives me my independence and I get paid for what I like to do.”
“Alice has been here only a week and is already making a huge impact reducing the workload for the other employees,” says general manager Lindsey Rose. “She’s amazing, and the staff appreciates her big time.”
Though Alice is the first Northwest Center client to find employment at Tutta Bella, the restaurant has hired people with disabilities from the very beginning through their Supported Employees program.
“Every Tutta Bella location employs people with disabilities, which has been incredibly successful for the participants, customers, and the restaurants,” says founder and owner Joe Fugere. “Employees not only deserve to be employed just like everyone else, but they’ve greatly enriched each or our restaurants. Our employees with disabilities have a high retention rate, arrive on time, and work hard to get the job done.”
“They meet our needs and we meet their needs, so it’s a win-win for everyone,” says Rose. “Our restaurant reflects the world we live in and Alice is part of it. We are honored to have her here.”
Says Fugere, “My hope has always been to inspire other businesses to implement similar hiring practices.”
At just four months old, Noemie was having trouble getting enough nutrition. Her diagnosis was complex: tongue-tie (ankyloglossia), a condition that restricts the tongue's range of motion; acid reflux; food allergies; and sensory processing disorder.
Noemie’s pediatrician referred her to a special clinic for children who have trouble getting enough nutrition. As the months passed, she saw other specialists in gastroenterology and nutrition, and began outpatient feeding therapy. And yet, Noemie made little progress.
Finally, the pediatrician referred Noemie’s family to Northwest Center Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers’ (ESIT) feeding therapy program, and they began working with occupational therapist Molly Nolan-Jones. The in-home visits were valuable, but after a few months, Nolan-Jones felt that Noemie’s diagnosis was not complete.
"At that point, Molly told us what turned out to be some of the most important words: ‘I feel like something else is wrong; you need to take her back to the gastroenterologist,” says Noemie’s mom Nichole.
“Molly became more than a feeding therapist,” Nichole continues. “She became a family advocate. She spoke with doctors on our family's behalf, and she was instrumental in helping the doctors find a proper diagnosis: eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease.”
Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease (EGID) makes it painful and difficult to swallow and digest food. Because Noemie’s EGID diagnosis was delayed, she had developed a pediatric feeding disorder. So Nolan-Jones continued to work with the family.
“I provided education about how to present food, how to engage in sensory play throughout her day, sensory approaches to food, and mealtime routines at their home,” says Nolan-Jones.
When Noemie turned 2, Early Supports transitioned her occupational therapy services from her home to the Early Learning classrooms at Northwest Center Kids at Greenwood.
"Noemie, her mom, and I would join the classroom at lunchtime,” says Nolan-Jones. “Our goal was for Noemie to spend time around other kids who were eating and enjoying food. This was motivating for Noemie, and she would eat more food during these meals.”
This past fall, Noemie officially transitioned to Early Learning as a student.
“Words can’t even explain how thankful I am to Molly and everyone at Northwest Center,” Nichole says. “It made a big difference in Noemie’s life and saved her from further complications. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Learn about EGID at Apfed (American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders). Visit Northwest Center Early Supports for Infants and Toddlers to learn more about services for children from birth to age 3.
Spring is finally upon us, and at Northwest Center we celebrate both the successes we’ve achieved and the potential successes soon to come.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, first designated with a proclamation to “increase public awareness of the needs and potential of Americans with developmental disabilities.” This month we’re sharing stories of children and adults reaching their full potential.
Follow facebook.com/nwcenter, twitter.com/nwcenter, and instagram.com/northwestcenter, and look for the hashtag #DDAwareness19 to see many of the great successes of our clients.
As you help us celebrate those successes, know that we also see the potential in children like Noemie. Working with our Early Intervention team, she’s gone from an infant struggling to get enough nutrition to a little girl who’s thriving in our Early Learning classrooms.
Down Syndrome Awareness Day, celebrated on March 21, is a reminder of the businesses we work with who see the potential for success by hiring people with disabilities. One standout employee is Barbie. She is an accomplished knitter who worked with Employment Services to find the perfect career at Paradise Fibers in Spokane, and she just happens to have Down syndrome.
YOU play a critical role our ability to continue our services for children and adults. Without your financial support, we can’t even begin to touch the tens of thousands of people waiting for services in Washington state. You can make a huge difference by attending The Derby, our annual spring fundraiser, on April 27. Register for The Derby now.
We’ll also be part of GiveBIG again this year—mark your calendars for May 8, and look for more opportunities to maximize your gift to Northwest Center when you #GiveBIG.
We envision a world where individual talent meets unlimited opportunity. Thank you for your continued support in bringing us closer to a truly inclusive society.
Onward and Upward,
It’s getting close to post time! Join us on Saturday, April 27 for The Derby, a Kentucky Derby-themed live auction event that benefits Northwest Center. The 8th annual event will take place at the elegant King Street Ballroom with spectacular views of Seattle, 255 South King Street in Pioneer Square.
The Derby benefits Northwest Center’s programs and services for people with disabilities. Like Elijah, who was turned away from multiple preschools that had no programs to work with children with developmental delays. Or Katelyn, who had a college degree but had trouble finding work because of her autism diagnosis. Your attendance at The Derby makes it possible for people with disabilities to find the resources and support they need from birth all the way through their careers.
Of course, getting a crack at some fabulous auction items is half the fun of The Derby. This year, we’ll be auctioning off the opportunity to be on the field assisting the Seattle Seahawks’s photographer during a home game; a seven-day stay right on Maui’s famed Wailea beach, and a vacation getaway to stunning faraway places.
You can also take your chance on two stellar raffles to win a seven-day cruise on Holland America Line to the U.S., Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean, or a $1,000 gift card to Seattle’s famed Canlis restaurant.
Value Village™ is the premier sponsor for The Derby again this year. A vital partner of Northwest Center since 1967, not only does Value Village make significant contributions to Northwest Center’s programs, the company has an inclusive workforce that includes employees hired through Northwest Center.
Join us on April 27! Purchase tickets now.
Why does Connor travel the world to fly kites? Because the Northwest Center client wants to raise awareness about epilepsy and anti-bullying. Connor, who has epilepsy, took his indoor kite-flying performance all the way to the 2010 semi-finals of America’s Got Talent (AGT), beating out 90,000 contestants and appearing in the “Live Wildcard Finals” top 12 in Los Angeles.
Connor used his AGT appearance as an opportunity to tell his story on network television and share the benefits of kite flying. “When I’m flying my kites, I never think about having seizures. Nothing can touch me,” he says.
Kite flying changed his life—and now he hopes it can help change others’, too. Connor travels the world with “Dare to Dream,” a program he co-founded with his mother Amy Doran, lead job coach at NWC. Together, they participate in kite flying festivals to raise epilepsy and anti-bullying awareness. They also team up with foundations to raise funds for Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy Patients (SUDEP).
In April, Connor and Amy will travel to Cervia, Italy for the Artevento Festival, where professional kite flyers come together to share their handmade kites and compete in flying competitions. At home in the Pacific Northwest, Connor also spreads the word about workplace inclusion for people with disabilities—he found his own job through Employment Services at Northwest Center.
Connor feels he’s living his dream, and he encourages others to believe in themselves and embrace their dreams, too. “If you believe in yourself, you can do anything,” he says. “No matter what type of disability you have or other life challenges, never give up.”
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.