AWS Foundation announces grant for disabled workforce

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (ADAMS) – A new program will help open pathways to employment for people with disabilities. A collaboration by Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc., Old National Bank, Sweetwater Sound, and AWS Foundation, the Employing People with Disabilities Initiative is designed to bring individuals and employers together by providing support and access to resources and information on accessible workplaces.

AWS Foundation has awarded GFW Inc. a three-year, $245,000 grant to support the Employing People with Disabilities Initiative. AWS Foundation made a special check presentation Wednesday at GFW Inc.’s office to celebrate the new initiative.

“’Now hiring’ signs and advertisements are everywhere. We believe that many of those jobs can be filled through Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s inclusive hiring initiative,” said Patti Hays, CEO of AWS Foundation. “GFW Inc. will provide the missing link in how best to connect businesses that are hiring and people with a disability seeking employment. AWS Foundation is pleased to provide funding for this important initiative that supports both individuals with disabilities and area employers.”

Currently, when businesses make commitments to hire people with disabilities, no centralized information hub exists that identifies potential candidates and available support resources. As a result, many jobs may go unfilled or the commitment of the business may lapse due to a lack of knowledge and resources. The Employing People with Disabilities Initiative is a commitment to bringing together local employment opportunities and individuals with disabilities by providing focused and centralized employment services to GFW Inc. investor companies and job seekers.

The program will be led by Kevin Morse, who will serve as GFW Inc.’s disability employment services coordinator. Morse has spent the past 14 years working in store management at Walmart, where he was actively involved in hiring and training personnel. He represented Walmart at AWS Foundation’s Disabilities Expo and has assisted with youth projects and programs at Camp Red Cedar and the Tacumwah Sports and Recreation (now known as the ASH Center).

The disability employment services coordinator acts as an employment recruiter in the business community, connecting with nonprofits and relevant community resources to assist businesses that are committed to hiring people with disabilities. The coordinator will be employed by GFW Inc., but will work on behalf of business leaders to develop a roadmap to identify work-ready candidates who can successfully meet their employment needs.

The commitment and experiences of the initiative’s collaborators, Old National Bank and Sweetwater Sound, demonstrates that inclusive hiring is a win-win for everyone.

“We are committed to our company’s core values of diversity and inclusion, and we have several programs in place to ensure we live out those values,” said Dan Doan, Fort Wayne region president at Old National Bank. “This partnership is a new way to actively participate in making our community more diverse and inclusive.”

“We’re here to build a nationally recognized economy in Allen County. That means growing opportunities for everyone,” said Eric Doden, CEO of GFW Inc. “Working with our local business community, we will create more inclusive workplaces for people of all abilities.”