For the team at Argus Janitorial, a division of Northwest Center in Spokane, it was especially meaningful to receive the “Outstanding Support” award at the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery’s (VBCN) Heart of Gold awards. The janitorial services the team provides to VBCN, says Argus General Manager Jackie Fountain, are very much a labor of love.
Vital need sparked a new approach to inclusive early learning
Katrina Caron, Director of Early Learning at Northwest Center’s Chinook location, gets the calls all the time.
“Parents will have a child with a special need and they can’t find care anywhere. Or their child is going to be kicked out of their preschool. Or the current school is not meeting their child’s needs. I have to say, ‘I’m really sorry, but I have to put you on our waitlist’ when we can’t take more children.”
“One, two, three, edge-to-edge, edge-to-edge. One, two, three, edge-to-edge, edge-to-edge.” Glenda’s table wiping process is precise—each table cleaned with unparalleled focus and care.
Glenda works at Red Robin in Renton, where she gets the restaurant ready for the day before opening—a job that she, her managers, and her job coaches agree is a perfect fit. Glenda has been at the job for a little over seven months, gaining confidence by proactively adding new responsibilities and even taking on another shift on Saturdays.
Benefit to raise $100,000 to launch pioneering Inclusion Team
Derby fashions, a fast-paced live auction, and the opportunity to raise much-needed funds to benefit Northwest Center Kids’ mission of inclusive education all come together at The Derby, Saturday, April 28 from 6-10 p.m. This premier fundraiser for Northwest Center takes place this year at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University Street, downtown Seattle.
The hotel’s elegant Spanish Ballroom is the setting for an evening of Kentucky Derby-inspired fun and frivolity for a cause. Every dollar raised will help Northwest Center Kids launch a brand new, pioneering program that will bring inclusive early learning to kids throughout the region.
Erika’s first few shifts at Amazon Prime Now warehouse had their challenges. The pace was hectic, she was negotiating a scanning system, and she was navigating a dizzying assortment of quadrants and aisle numbers. Several times, Northwest Center job coaches found her wandering an aisle, saying she was lost.
But if you asked Erika how the shift went, she was all smiles. “It was a good day today,” she would say. “I learned a lot!”
That unwavering optimism gave Northwest Center and Prime Now management confidence that Erika would get the hang of things. And it didn’t take long for their faith to be rewarded.
We’re well into 2018, and the momentum continues to build here at Northwest Center. There isn’t enough space to mention all our successes, so I’ll highlight just a few.
Our Early Intervention and Early Learning teams served a record number of kids in 2017 (770!) and are well on their way to surpass that number this year. We’ll soon launch an Inclusion Team to train other preschools to provide inclusive early learning education and support, while our new autism program (EPIC: expanding play, interaction, and communication) will complement the services we already provide.
Ruby and Trevin put their aisles together so well that their job coach hates to see a product leave their “work of art aisles.”
Recently Job Developers in the Omak office adopted a new team motto. Developers are out to achieve the “Triple Win” where job seekers, employers, and the job developer all hit the tape at the end of the race at the same time.
Ruby and Trevin both were hired in June to do similar jobs, but typical of the area covered by Northwest Center in Omak, these jobs are both quite a distance from the Omak Office. They, and their job developer, and two different employers are celebrating “Triple Wins.”
A growing number of individuals, organizations, and for-profit companies are recognizing the many benefits of a diverse workforce. Studies show that inclusion benefits the entire workplace with better morale, efficiency, and consumer reviews; and we know from over fifty years of first-hand experience that employing people with disabilities is good for business. The strategies outlined below are designed to enhance inclusion in the workplace for employees of all ages and all skill levels.
Charles has spent this year showing his team at Puget Sound Laundry Services he has what it takes to get the job done, and then some! A longtime Northwest Center Employment Services participant, Charles has previously worked in document shredding at American Data Guard, on a supported work team at the Bank of America Building, and in Northwest Center’s Assembly & Packaging division.
While to some, top performer may seem like a minor achievement, for many people with disabilities their whole lives have passed without ever being recognized for their contribution.
When a new shift begins, associates clock in and head to “Stand Up,” an area of the warehouse where managers go over daily announcements and celebrate top performers in front of their coworkers. For Mihret, who has worked for just over six months, Stand Up became a goal from day one.
Mihret, born in Ethiopia, is deaf yet does not know American or Universal Sign Language. English is her second language and this makes communication and connection difficult for her. Yet in June 2017, Mihret came into work and saw her name, written in big green letters. Mihret was awarded top performer. Two days later, Mihret achieved her goal yet again. In fact, that day, three out of the four top performer awards were given to associates placed by Northwest Center, all with diagnosed disabilities.
An outing with a young child can be a challenge for any parent. And that challenge can be even more daunting for families that have a child with a developmental delay or disability. Fortunately, the number of destinations in the Puget Sound region that accommodate children of all abilities is growing every year. We have compiled a modest list of local activities and destinations that are definitely worth checking out.
Coach Mike Quinn is Northwest Center VP of Business Development
Northwest Center is proud to announce that the Issaquah Spirit, a Special Olympics soccer team coached by Northwest Center VP of Business Development Mike Quinn, has been selected to represent Washington State at the summer 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, July 1-6, 2018 in Seattle.
Anthony and his mom Sara
Anthony looks at the world a little differently—and often beautifully.
“When Anthony goes up a hill, he says it’s heavy because it makes his body feel heavy,” says his mom Sara. “What a unique way to describe that feeling.”
Still, Sara and her husband Jason struggled to find a preschool that would nurture Anthony’s potential the same as any other child.
By Richard Solomon, Lead Employment Support Coordinator
Conlan holds up a finger and furrows his brow, focused on the screen in front of him. He’s working as a Problem Solver at Amazon’s Prime Now warehouse (UWA1) in Kirkland, a job he found through Northwest Center Employment Services. The warehouse is a hub for Pacific Northwest fulfillment, with a torrent of inventory that gives him plenty to do.
The program that Northwest Center Early Intervention has pioneered in collaboration with the University of Washington Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (UW NICU) is not only making a huge impact on families whose babies are beginning life in the UW NICU; it’s also making one statewide.
Our 2017 Golden Hearts Luncheon raised money for a more inclusive working world. Host Dennis Bounds, former King 5 news anchor, kept things lively as he shared success stories like that of Devin, who found his career through Northwest Center School-to-Work. Devin’s story was captured on video and shared at the event by featured speaker Chris Ulmer of Special Books by Special Kids, whose popular videos of conversations with children and adults with disabilities were an event highlight.
By Gene Boes, President & CEO, Northwest Center
Value Village & Northwest Center
Few regions have seen as much change in recent years as the Pacific Northwest. A technology-driven boom has propelled growth in the Puget Sound region, with Seattle earning the status of fastest-growing city and undisputed construction crane capital in the nation.
Stephan knows a thing or two about dancing in the rain. An avid hip-hop dancer, Stephan enjoys every day as a Donations Station Attendant for The Big Blue Truck™, no matter if there are sunny skies or some of our Pacific Northwest mist.
While Stephan is a happy, vital member of The Big Blue Truck™ team, it took some trial and error to find the job where he could excel. A member of the School-to-Work (S2W) program, Stephan was actively preparing himself for employment opportunities before he graduated from high school. It took some job coaching and training, but when Stephan saw the people in the Big Blue Truck™ he knew he wanted to join in.
Dear Northwest Center Community:
I am honored to be the new CEO of Northwest Center, to lead and serve a world class team in our mission “to promote the growth, development, and independence of people with disabilities through programs of education, rehabilitation, and work opportunity.”
Each of us has talents, gifts and potential, and deserves the opportunity to engage and contribute. When society values diverse perspectives, honors all abilities and allows everyone the opportunity to contribute, that society is working at its best and will help the world achieve its collective potential. I am reminded daily of the importance of inclusion through my eyes as a parent. My daughter, Tori, is 24 years old, loves horseback riding, listening to music, shopping, and going out to restaurants…and has Autism. Tori has helped mold me into the person I am today and contributes to my success in immeasurable ways. But her opportunities to engage in our community are limited.
At Northwest Center, inclusion is at our core and we envision a fulfilling future for everyone. Our founding parents insisted that everyone deserves the opportunity to realize their fullest potential and we continue to honor their philosophy today. Now in our 52nd year, Northwest Center provides early intervention and inclusive learning for children, and employment services for individuals with disabilities. We employ people of all abilities in our Social Enterprise, with over 40% of the 950 people on our payroll self-identifying with a disability.
I am humbled to be part of an organization that refuses to allow anyone to be overlooked, mislabeled, marginalized, or denied the opportunity to engage and contribute.
Thank you for everything you do to support Northwest Center. Your partnership is what makes this possible.
Onward and Upward,
What is something special about you?
Though sometimes difficult to answer, Chris Ulmer asks this question to nearly everyone he interviews. Ulmer, a special education teacher turned an internationally renowned speaker, travels the globe interviewing people with disabilities. His goal is to not tell their stories, but to give them the opportunity to tell their story themselves.
Northwest Center is the recipient of Value Village’s 50 Year Partnership Award. Since 1967, we have had a long-term partnership with Value Village to collect clothing and household donations with our iconic Big Blue Trucks and blue donation bins. Value Village buys that merchandise to sell in its stores, and the revenue Northwest Center receives funds education and employment programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities in WA State.
Trevor Pacelli grew up in Sammamish, Washington and was diagnosed with a form of autism at age 5. As a child, he published drawings in two children’s magazines and illustrated a children's book at age 15, written by his sister Briana Pacelli, “The Kindergarten Adventures of Amazing Grace." an autism awareness book. At 19, he wrote a book in the "Six-Word Lessons" series to help people with autistic children in their families understand how an autistic person really thinks and feels. He is a graduate of Arizona State University in Film and Media Studies. Trevor recently joined the team at Northwest Center in July 2017.
Trevor shares his journey to gaining employment at NWC and his experience with workforce inclusion.
As an individual on the autism spectrum who has gone through several interviews over the years, I could tell you a lot about my long, endless job search. While confidence wavered on when or if I would find a job in key moments of my life, my jobs across the last five years served to teach me plenty of useful skills, as well as some important wisdom about workforce inclusion.
Seattle’s swaths of downtown real estate are looked after by Debbie, who manages the janitorial teams responsible for the upkeep of government agencies housed in historic office buildings and modern skyscrapers.
Yadier and Yusdel’s smiles are both infectious and light up the room—they are happy to be excelling at the job of their dreams. Both Yadier and Yusdel’s story is one of triumph. Upon emigrating from Cuba, the two roommates were looking to gain meaningful employment that would treat them like everyone else — both Yadier and Yusdel are deaf.
When Darren attended Gonzaga’s mock interview event with HireAbility Spokane he never expected to receive a job offer. But that’s exactly what happened.
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