Disability awards honor Michigan champions of Investing in Abilities - Supreme Court Justice Bernstein among winners

Contact: Bob Wheaton 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. – Champions who demonstrate outstanding commitment to Michigan’s public vocational rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities took home awards today at an annual ceremony.

Michigan Rehabilitation Services within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services collaborated with the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services to recognize employers, partners, customers and MRS employees.

MRS presented its eighth annual Champion Awards at an event at the Anderson House Office Building in Lansing.

This was the sixth consecutive year that MRS has expanded its highly successful award program to recognize not only employers but also partner programs, vocational rehabilitation customers with disabilities and MRS employees. MRS offices around the state nominated champion candidates. The consistent theme from those nominated was demonstration of the value of hiring and retaining vocational rehabilitation customers.

The event is in advance of Investing in Abilities Month in October, as proclaimed by Gov. Rick Snyder to encourage employers to hire qualified people with disabilities while focusing on their abilities and increasing the public’s awareness of the contributions and skills of Michigan workers with disabilities.

The 2016 MRS Champion Award recipients are:

Employers who have consistently employed or championed individuals with disabilities based on their abilities:

  • Phillip Elenbaas Millwork, Ben Elenbaas, president, Grand Rapids.
  • Redmond’s Automotive, Ken and Marilyn Redmond, owners, Saginaw.

Business partners who are working in innovative ways with MRS and its customers:

  • Haworth, Cassandra Volkers, manager of talent and recruitment, Holland.
  • Employment Group Workforce Solutions, Matthew Sullivan, vice president of operations, and Lisa Derr, senior recruiter, Grand Rapids.

Partners who have demonstrated a strong commitment to empower individuals with disabilities to take charge of their futures:

  • Elite Career Solutions, Dorian Jackson, owner/founder, Flint.
  • SE Transition Programs and Services, Ingham Intermediate School District, Sarah Winslow, supervisor, Mason.
  • Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, statewide winner.

Customers (including youth) who are motivated and committed to find jobs:

  • Timothy P. Brenner, Shelbyville.
  • Lah Thee, Lansing.
  • Candie Gale, Ecorse.
  • Christine Farrand, Lansing.

MRS employees who consistently meet or exceed all goals and expectations in providing outstanding service to customers, staff and community partners:

  • Kathleen Marsh, vocational rehabilitation counselor, Lansing.
  • Tonia Peterson, Amy Hayes, Cynthia Evans, Renee Lyon and Claudette Reid, Business Network Unit occupational therapists, statewide winners.

The MRS awards presented to the champions were engraved by students in the cabinetmaking/millwork program at the Michigan Career and Technical Institute, a vocational and technical training school operated by MRS in Southwest Michigan.

MRS assists more than 7,000 individuals with disabilities annually to achieve competitive employment and self-sufficiency. This is the 96th anniversary of the vocational rehabilitation program in Michigan.

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