Two years ago, Cornerstone General Contractors had a vision: to expand its definition of diversity, equity, and inclusion to also include people with disabilities. Today, the company not only employs but fully embraces and champions two people with disabilities.
Cornerstone builds new facilities for regional schools so they hired employees with disabilities to work in the office and on the job site. Ben works as the assistant to the head of construction on a job site, cleaning, organizing, and inventorying tools and equipment. Stephen, hired through Northwest Center Employment Services, works as an office assistant monitoring warranties on all products and mechanicals (such as floors and cabinets) installed at newly built buildings, and is working to digitize the company’s thousands of project files, and recently added data entry to his role.
Cornerstone was clear from the beginning that the people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) they hired would be treated like any other employee. That includes compensation—both employees earn wages well above minimum that are in line with likewise jobs in the field—and also includes the opportunity to progress to new skills and responsibilities. Ben is beginning to learn light carpentry skills as he continues to work at a construction job site. Stephen’s capacity for detail-oriented work opened him up to new projects. He’s learned how to scan documents, place them back in extra-large notebooks on multi-million-dollar projects, and then enter them on the computer server. It’s incredibly detailed and important work, and Stephen has proven more than equal to the task.
Both Ben and Stephen have found camaraderie and acceptance on the job, but even more important, they are doing work that is meaningful to them and to their colleagues—and Cornerstone is currently working to expand both employees’ hours.
“People see what Ben and Stephen have learned on the job,” says DEI Director Vicki Puckett. “Don’t underestimate what someone with IDD can do.”
Help Northwest Center Close the Employment Gap for People with Disabilities
The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is twice the national average. Your support can help more job seekers like Stephen and Ben find employment where they can thrive, and more employers like Cornerstone find the perfect additions to their workforce.
Volker “VW” Wellmann joins Northwest Center as Senior Vice President of Integrated Facility Services
Northwest Center is pleased to welcome Volker “VW” Wellmann as Senior Vice President of Northwest Center Integrated Facility Services (IFS). In this role, Wellmann will lead Northwest Center’s IFS division in providing a range of janitorial and building maintenance services to organizations throughout the U.S., spanning industries including Commercial, Retail, Institutional, Industrial & Distribution, Government and Exterior.
Wellman previously served as Vice President for Kellermeyer Bergenson Services (KBS), where he led the Operations leadership teams in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic area. Previously, he spent eight years with Fortune 200 service company Ecolab as Assistant Vice President, Corporate Accounts, managing commercial products and service programs for corporate-level clients in the facilities, hospitality and healthcare industries. Before joining Ecolab, he was Area Vice President, Field Sales and Service for Swisher Hygiene International, where he identified and brought to market new product lines and profit centers for a private equity group and led national sales and marketing initiatives.
As Senior Vice President, Wellmann will drive growth at Northwest Center Integrated Facility Services, one of Northwest Center’s key social enterprises with more than 30 years of experience providing expert commercial services to customers while also generating funds to support Northwest Center’s services for people with disabilities.
“I’m incredibly excited to have VW join Northwest Center,” says President & CEO Gene Boes. “His leadership, expertise, and energy will help us exponentially grow the IFS Division and in turn will accelerate our efforts to create the inclusive world we all deserve.”
To learn more about Northwest Center businesses including IFS, please visit NWCenterBusiness.com
Northwest Center Employment Services is now operating in the state of Idaho, an expansion that will allow us to begin helping people with disabilities find employment opportunities in Kootenai, Shoshone, Benewah, Bonner, and Boundary counties.
Northwest Center Employment Services serves both youth and adult populations at every stage in their careers, and our consultants will work with businesses to find solutions as well—and consultation is free!
“Northwest Center is proud and excited to expand our Employment Services into the state of Idaho,” says Ryan Newell, Regional Director. “With Idaho’s ever-growing economy and abundance of opportunity, we are able to expand our mission and help bridge the unemployment gap for people with disabilities. We are eager to serve.”
Our Employment Services are backed by more than 60 years of experience providing people with disabilities and their employers with support such as:
We may have to stay socially distanced, but Northwest Center services can’t stop—kids with disabilities still need therapy to reach their milestones, preschoolers need interaction with classmates and teachers, adults with disabilities need to keep their work skills sharp, and the businesses we partner with need essential services. Here are some ways the Northwest Center community has been rising to the challenge of COVID-19.
Northwest Center Kids
Learning in Circles: How Virtual Education Keeps Kids Connected
As a nonprofit at the forefront of employment inclusion since 1965, Northwest Center is always proud to be part of the Annual Diversity Employment Day Career Fair & Roundtables. This year, we were even more proud: the 20th annual fair honored our Director of Talent Strategy and Partnerships Rachel Cupples, as well as the Northwest Center Talent Acquisition Group, with the Diversity Spirit Achievement Award.
“This award is presented to those individuals, corporations, and government officials that have actively supported diversity in an outstanding way,” said Neal Morrison, Director of Diversity Recruiter’s Network.org. “It’s my pleasure to recognize Northwest Center for diversity and inclusion in their recruitment, hiring, and onboarding processes.”
Northwest Center’s Talent Acquisition Group is itself a diverse team of people where “inclusion and innovation go hand in hand,” Cupples says. “We find ways to leverage community and disability partnerships and reach out to diverse populations.
“Disability does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, gender identity, national origin, political affiliation, sexual orientation, marital status, or age,” she continues. “Neither does our recruitment process.”
Want to join the inclusion revolution with a job at Northwest Center? Visit our careers page now.
Our founding mothers understood how to harness the power of government to make the world more inclusive of people of all abilities. We’re pleased to connect with a growing roster of state, regional, and national legislators who, like us, understand that until all of us are allowed to engage and contribute, none of us will reach our full potential.
Last April, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan chose one of our Early Learning Centers, Northwest Center Kids at Chinook, to sign the Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise (FEPP) Levy into law. Including a first-ever exemption for Seattle’s most vulnerable taxpayers, FEPP promises seven years of publicly funded investments to increase access to and funding for education for people of all ages and abilities throughout Puget Sound.
In May, First Lady Trudi Inslee visited Puget Sound Laundry Services (PSLS), one of Northwest Center’s owned businesses. Operations Manager Ofelia Almanza led First Lady Inslee on a tour of the facility. Almanza told the story of the facility with pride: For more than 25 years, PSLS has provided superior quality laundry services and employed people of all abilities. Today, more than 60 percent of the staff at the facility has some form of disability. Following the tour, the First Lady talked with Northwest Center President & CEO Gene Boes, staff, and parents about making education and workforces more inclusive for people with disabilities.
In June, we were proud to host King County Executive Dow Constantine at Northwest Center headquarters for a discussion with our Kids team about our IMPACT™ program, part of the Child Care Health Consultation services funded by Best Starts for Kids, which funds programs for children across King County. Northwest Center Kids launched IMPACT in late 2018 to train regional preschool staffs how to welcome and educate children of all abilities. A little over one year into the program, IMPACT already surpassed a three-year goal of reaching 6,000 kids.
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal rounded out the year with a November visit to Northwest Center Kids at Chinook for a discussion on education and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. After a brief chat with students, staff, and clients, Congresswoman Jayapal met with Katrina Caron, Director of Early Learning, and President & CEO Gene Boes.
With each visit, meeting, and event, it’s clear that many of our local, state, and federal officials support Northwest Center’s mission to promote the growth, development, and independence of people with disabilities through programs of therapy, education, and work opportunity. We know how much there is to be done—here’s to making more connections in 2020.
It’s an audacious goal, and by its very definition is not something we’re likely to achieve in 2020, or on our 60th anniversary, or even by our 75th. But it is the ultimate, fixed North that we work toward at Northwest Center, no matter what moves or changes around us.
We are making great strides in the journey. Our Kids team launched the IMPACT™ program in 2018 with the goal of making inclusive early learning available to 6,000 more kids in King County in three years. They reached that goal before the program was even a year old, and are now well on their way to doubling that number as we progress into 2020.
Our Early Intervention, Early Learning, and Employment Services teams once again served a record number of kids and adults with disabilities in the past year. And with new, innovative approaches in place like the restructuring of our Employment Services into a scalable, geography-based “pod” structure, we’re poised to make inclusion part of even more workplaces and lives across the country in the coming years.
Our North goes hand-in-hand with the Strategic Plan we adopted two years ago. We’re continuing to build OneNWC by enhancing our workplace culture with more professional development opportunities, more sharing of our success stories, and more opportunities to connect across divisions.
Every step we take is designed to achieve significant, ongoing growth as an organization while ensuring a positive experience for our employees and our customers. Every step we take is toward our North. Because until all of us are included, none of us reach our potential.
Onward & Upward,
President and CEO
Northwest Center’s Donation Pickup Service The Big Blue Truck rolls out a Bold New Look
The Big Blue Truck has been driving change since 1967, picking up your donated clothing and household items to help fund Northwest Center’s services for people with disabilities. Now we’re unveiling a change of our own! We’re pleased to introduce a truck fleet with a fresh new look, now hitting the road across Washington state.
Our new look includes the new colors of Northwest Center’s refreshed brand look and represents our services from birth to career. Pictured is a cross-section of the children and adults with and without disabilities who benefit from our programs of inclusion from Early Intervention to Early Education to Employment Services.
The photo is shown against vibrant ripples that mirror the ripples in the icon of our updated logo. The bright blue conveys the positive energy created when people of all abilities learn and work together, while the ripples signify the lasting impact inclusion makes on the world. It all comes together against the classic blue color that has identified The Big Blue Truck since 1967.
You’ll be sure to spot The Big Blue Truck around your community soon, but there’s one way to be sure you’ll see it: schedule a pickup today! Simply enter your ZIP code at BigBlueTruck.org to get The Big Blue Truck rolling to you. When you do, you’ll be helping fund vital Northwest Center services AND helping us keep more than 17 million pounds of recyclable goods out of landfills every year!
Schedule your donation pickup today at BigBlueTruck.org.
When you give to The Big Blue Truck™, you’re not only keeping clothing and household goods out of landfills; you’re making employment possible for people of all abilities. Northwest Center and Value Village teamed up to give job seekers with disabilities even more interview confidence: Styled for Success, personal styling at Value Village. Jesse found the perfect interview clothing during Styled for Success, and then the perfect job in customer service at Sky Nursery.
“The next day, I started working,” says Jesse. “It's a great fit. I really enjoy it.”
Thank you for making it possible for great employees like Jesse to find jobs they love.
Watch Jesse in action in this short video below.
If you need to know how things work at the Amazon sortation center in Kent, ask Angela. Since hiring on in 2016, she’s aced two intensive training programs to earn the designations of Problem Solver and Learning Ambassador.
“I like to problem solve,” Angela explains. “If it’s a broken package, you scan it into the computer and say what’s wrong with it, then you repackage it into a new box and put it back on the conveyor belt.”
As a Learning Ambassador, Angela helps new hires with everything from finding the break room to operating a pallet jack.
Angela’s success makes Northwest Center’s Employment Services team proud—but definitely not surprised. Because their commitment didn’t end once she was hired: every Northwest Center client receives job coaching and support for as long as needed.
“The best example was when she was required to learn the ‘water spider’ function (wrapping and printing labels for pallets),” says Senior Pod Manager Phil Keating. “She was scared and asked if she could skip that task. We helped her work through it, and now she is a trainer in that process!”
There were some tasks Angela learned before she was even hired, because she took part in a working interview at a sortation center mockup complete with aisles, products, a conveyor belt, and scanners. Employment Services built the mockup, housed at our Puget Sound Laundry Services building, in 2015.
Since then, NWC has placed and supported 212 employees at Amazon. Those employees boast impressive retention rates, high productivity, and a quality rating 37% higher than their coworkers. Learn more in this Seattle Times article on Northwest Center’s Amazon placement success.
“I don’t have Down syndrome; it’s a lifestyle,” Barbie exclaims as she sorts through hundreds of fibers and yarn at Paradise Fibers in Spokane.
“My hobby is knitting and being able to work with yarn and fiber; every day is a dream come true,” says Barbie. “Working here makes me feel more independent and I can do stuff on my own and earn money and spend it the way I want to.”
Barbie’s dream of knitting and working with fibers every day became a reality right away when she visited Paradise Fibers. Her employment coach scheduled a day for her to meet the entire store team and she was hired on the spot. “We all loved her immediately,” said Karlene Oliver, shipping and purchasing lead at Paradise Fibers. “We decided on that day Barbie was going to be part of the team because of her terrific personality and great smile.”
Not only does Barbie organize yarn in the store among many other duties she has at Paradise Fibers, but soon her own knitting work will be offered as part of the store’s Fiber of the Month Club, a subscription service that sends special yarns and other goodies each month to more than 500 members. Barbie will design the March 2019 box in honor of Down Syndrome Day, and she has requested that all proceeds from the blanket she knits will go to Northwest Center and the Down Syndrome Foundation of Spokane.
It’s not the first time Barbie has used her knitting skill to help others. She was so moved by the movie “The Fisher King,” she decided she wanted to help the homeless.
“It gets so cold at night during the winter,” Barbie says. “My favorite things to knit are hats and scarves so I can hand them out to homeless people and the elderly, too. I wanted to make sure to keep them warm.”
When you give to The Big Blue Truck™, you’re not only keeping clothing and household goods out of landfills; you’re making employment possible for people of all abilities.
Dani works at Value Village to sort hangers and return clothes from dressing rooms. With the help of an employment coach from Northwest Center, Dani has found success at Value Village. In fact, when you ask her what she likes best about her job, her answer is “Everything!”
See Dani in action in this short video—and thank you for making it possible for great employees like Dani to find jobs they love!
It was a golden day at the 2018 Golden Hearts Luncheon at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle, where attendees gave from their hearts and raised more than $130,000 to support Northwest Center’s school-to-employment Transition Services. Now, more students with disabilities will have the support they need to find the perfect job.
Electronetics, a division of Northwest Center, Showcases Custom Magnetic Solutions at APEC 2018 (Applied Power Electronics Conference and Exposition)
Our team had a productive week attending APEC 2018 – The Applied Power Electronics Conference and Exposition – on March 4-8 in San Antonio, TX. As first-time exhibitors, we were immediately engaged by the variety of activities and professional training sessions made available to attendees.
On the exposition floor, we had a wonderful time meeting with customers, strengthening partnerships, showing off our capabilities, and checking out the competition. Our booth, which was strategically located next to the food and beverage area, was fully decked out with new signage, a variety of sample parts, fun giveaways, and, of course, free candy bars.
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.