Changing lives for the better

By Ellen Cooke

Just about three years ago, Mary Holzmann and the Enabling Disability Confidence Employee Resource Group (ERG) changed lives in a big way when they paired young college graduates with National Grid employees to give people with disabilities a chance to shine and our business a chance to be truly inclusive. Through the EmployABILITY program, some of these students were hired, full-time, for their benefit … and ours. [See the stories.]

Just about three weeks ago, Enabling Downstate NY leads Mary and Sue Bertrand changed more lives – again, in a profound way – when they held an Abilities Fair that gave employees the chance to meet with 25 local agencies that serve people with disabilities across Long Island.

“Many people still feel the stigma around having a disability, or a child with a disability, or a close relative or friend. And they may not know where to reach out for help, or have the time or information to find or research the resources they may need,” says Mary. “That’s why we held the fair and more than 100 employees took advantage in Melville Hub.”

Sue adds, “The idea we had was to make it helpful, fun and moving at the same time. We had a spirited atmosphere with balloons and a scavenger hunt for prizes. We had an amazing guest singing ensemble from one of our agencies – FREE (Family Residences and Essential Enterprises)* that inspired everyone in the room. We even had drinks, snacks and empanadas to enjoy.”

Kids from FREE also went around to cubicles with a cart of fresh-baked cookies, with one of the high schoolers saying, “I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies.” Employees seemed to agree.

And Ross Turrini, SVP, Gas Process and Engineering, stopped by to thank Enabling for all they do and greet fair participants.

Talia Sclair, Special Needs Outreach Coordinator for The Marion & Aaron Gural JCC, had this to say: We thought the whole fair was fantastic! It was great to touch base with people and let them know that there are resources available to them.”

And other participating agencies gave us kudos for giving employees the rare opportunity to get information they need, right at their workplace, during the work day.

“All of us have people in our lives affected by disabilities, one way or another,” says Learning & Development’s Sharron Green. “I had no idea there were so much assistance and so many resources for people to turn to. I was so enlightened by that day and shared information with someone in tears who was ecstatic. I hope they do it again.”

“The fair was great,” agrees Senior Supervisor Richard Banks. “It was a quick easy way to get information regarding my daughter’s hearing loss and the work options available to her. Everyone I spoke to was very helpful.”

*FREE Players Ensemble members: Mariel Costanzo, Kassandra Valcin, Jazmin Torres, Blessing Branch, Michael Korins, Wynn Gaylor, Peter (Pongo) Rotella, Justin Tsao. Supporting staff: Bridget Livingston and Rich Moody

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