Employment, Kids, News | Written By Northwest Center Staff

Rising To The Challenge: Northwest Center Keeps Services Coming Even When We’re Apart

​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

Collage of teachers on zoom

When Governor Inslee announced the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order on March 23, Northwest Center Early Learning centers closed their doors for the first time in our 55-year history. But as soon as our doors closed, our teachers got out their phones and got creative. They kept kids connected and learning rhyming, big muscle movements, and shape identification. They made videos to teach kids new vocabulary words, languages, alliteration, print concepts, relaxation techniques, and reading skills. They helped their students talk about what to do when they miss their friends, and why they can’t go to school right now. Above is teacher Nicole leading the Owls’ class Circle Time.
You can see all of our teachers’ videos—50 and counting!on the Family Resource page
Kids’ Services Didn’t Quit When COVID Hit
Kids learning on a video conference with teacher

Even when our Chinook and Greenwood Early Learning centers temporarily closed, our staff continued to connect with kids by sharing videos of teachers reading books, creating puppet shows, and hosting “circle time” live via Zoom. One of our parents shared the lovely photo above of their family listening to Cory Knudtson, one of our Early Learning teachers, read a story.
Meanwhile, our Early Intervention team had virtual visits for kids from babies to age 3 up and running shortly after social distancing began. Through videoconferencing, our therapists have continued working with families so that the children we serve continue to make progress.
Here is an email from another of our families: “The entire Northwest Center Kids team are doing incredible work, and we are so grateful for you. I want you to know your work and support is seen and appreciated. Your teachers are doing a wonderful job connecting with families and maintaining community even at a distance. I can’t tell you how much that has bolstered our spirits. To see the excitement on our daughter’s face when she got to interact with her friends and teachers over Zoom was amazing.” 
Northwest Center & WestSide Baby: Partnership that Provides
collage of baby items

Not only has our Northwest Center Kids team gone above and beyond, but staff members like Family Resource Coordinator Melinda Bourgette, shown here, are working with our valued partner WestSide Baby to ensure that families have the essentials such as diapers, wipes, formula, baby wash, and thermometers.  
Back to School
Teachers with safety supplies

​We’ve been able to reopen our Early Learning centers with changes and restrictions in place to keep kids, staff, and parents safe. Many Northwest Center employees and supporters donated fabrics for us to make more masks for our teams. Here our Director of Early Learning Programs Katrina Caron and Assistant Director Myla Salanga get ready to sort their supplies.
Employment Services

​Clients Stay Up to Date on Skills

Our Employment Services team understands the importance of the purpose and the social aspect of a job to people with disabilities. They’ve been meeting with clients every day of the pandemic to virtually keep job skills sharp and just to connect on a human level. When the COVID-19 crisis forced local businesses to shut down, our Employment Services team banded together to find ways continuing to provide vital services to clients. In this video, Northwest Center clients Sean and Silas work with their job coaches, Deb Tan and Cody Ryckman, on skill building exercises and job applications.
Keeping Up with Kyle
Man at work

To keep Kyle’s skills up to date, his job coaches brought pizza boxes to his home so he could practice assembling a new style. At the end of the week, he picked up some favorite ice cream at the end of the week to celebrate a job well done.
Paul Demonstrates the Details


​The proof is in the photos: Northwest Center client Paul demonstrated his start-to-finish dishwasher unloading skills for Elliott, his Employment Consultant. The work they do together shows the deep commitment to exploring every possible area of employment that is available and how our Employment Services team continues to set our clients up for continued success.
Paul also made sure to demonstrate his vacuuming skills for Regional Director Ryan Newell and Pod Manager Danielle McGuffin.
No Shifts Left Behind

Elmer is one of the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 crisis. With support from Job Coach Alec Aeschlimann, not only did Elmer continue working to keep the premises spotless at his job site in SODO, he added additional shifts to cover for clients and coaches who were unable to report to work.
He Put Off Retirement to Pitch In
Person standing in front of building

Another unsung hero of COVID-19 is Bob, an Employment Services client who worked for buildings along Pier 55, cleaning and sweeping. Though Bob originally planned to retire in April, once the pandemic hit, he decided to put off his retirement to pitch in while others were unable to work. Bob finally did take his retirement this past summer. Congratulations, Bob—and thank you for going above and beyond for your teammates.
Northwest Center Businesses

​Puget Sound Laundry Services Goes the Extra Mile 

people working in laundrymat

​There was no staying at home for most of our team at Puget Sound Laundry Services. This division of Northwest Center provides hospital-standard commercial laundry for medical facilities and some of the area’s top hotels. While tourism dropped off, and with it some hotel orders, our team stayed essential doing medical facility laundry—especially critical during a pandemic. Not only does Puget Sound Laundry Services support Northwest Center’s programs of inclusion, their workforce is made up of nearly 50% of people with a documented disability. Learn more at PugetSoundLaundry.com
David’s Unshakable Team Spirit
man working at laundrymat

COVID-19 cancelled everyone’s favorite summertime sports, but it didn’t stop one of our essential workers at Puget Sound Laundry Services from showing his team spirit: David’s love for the game is unbeatable, just like his work ethic. Here he loads and unloads our industrial laundry machines all while wearing needed PPE and his signature Mariners gear. He did take the time to answer a few questions:

Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
A: I enjoy watching all types of sporting events, especially Seahawks and Mariners games.

Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I like collecting jerseys from my favorite sports teams. I have a collection of Seahawks, Mariners, and UW jerseys.

Q: How would friends and family describe you?
A: True fan. I love and support my teams.

​Q: What’s the most interesting thing about you?
A: My closet. My clothes are organized by collection. Everything is set up according to team including my shoes.

The Big Blue Truck Moves Mountains
clothing donation trucks

While COVID-19 forced The Big Blue Truck to suspend many of our pickups, donated clothing and household goods were still coming in. Our BBT teams statewide (and in Idaho) kept hundreds of clothing-only donation bins serviced and managed to store donated goods, as seen here, while Value Village stores were still closed. Shown are members of the BBT team posing with a veritable mountain of donations: William Schauble, Matt Perkins, and Wayne Austin. Visit The Big Blue Truck for up-to-date information on donations.
Our Businesses: More Essential Than Ever
Collage of essential workers

Our businesses, including Northwest Center Building Services in the Seattle Area and  Argus Janitorial in Spokane, never stopped providing essential cleaning and sanitation services to the government and private buildings we service, especially as COVID-19 made those services more critical than ever. Several customers conveyed their appreciation to our teams for keeping services coming at a time when everything was uncertain, like this note from a customer of Argus: “I do appreciate you and your team—they are amazing.” We agree!
To learn more about all of the social enterprises that provide excellent service while support our programs, visit NWCenterBusiness.com, where you can also download a free guide to reopening your business safely