FORT WAYNE, Ind. — AWS Foundation will continue its financial support of Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc.’s disability inclusion efforts for the next three years. The services, which began in 2018 as an employment initiative, have expanded to also address workspace accessibility, leadership training, newcomers’ quality of life and connectedness, and many other issues. A recent grant from AWS Foundation will propel these efforts, which will continue under an updated name: the GFW Inc. Disabilities Initiative.
“Awareness, education, and understanding are the gateways to inclusion,” said Patti Hays, CEO of AWS Foundation. “GFW Inc. continues to bridge the knowledge gap connecting businesses that are hiring and people with a disability seeking employment and recognition as future leaders in our community. AWS Foundation is pleased to continue to provide funding for this important initiative that supports both individuals with disabilities and area employers.”
Going forward, the GFW Inc. Disabilities Initiative will feature components including:
- Providing local business leaders the knowledge and resources they need to hire and successfully employ individuals with disabilities.
- Offering assessments and insights that help businesses and other organizations create policies, programs, sites, and facilities that improve accessibility for employees and patrons of all abilities.
- Developing leaders of all abilities by reserving two scholarships in the Leadership Fort Wayne program for individuals with disabilities.
- Intentionally structuring the Onboard Fort Wayne program to help newly relocated professionals of all abilities (and their families) feel welcomed to Allen County and get connected to local service providers and resources.
- Specifically building pathways to careers in the skilled trades for students with disabilities via the MadeByMe program.
The initiative will continue to be led by Kevin Morse, GFW Inc.’s director of disability initiatives. In the last three years at GFW Inc., he has met with hundreds of local businesses to offer guidance and resources about disability employment, built a collaborative network of 12 agencies that assist people with disabilities, and partnered with the statewide Work to Include coalition to promote employment for Hoosiers with disabilities. He has also earned a SHRM-CP credential as a certified human resources professional, and has been accredited as a Certified Inclusivity Assessor by the State University of New York’s Inclusive Recreation Resource Center. Prior to joining the GFW Inc. team, Morse spent 14 years working in store management at Walmart, where he was actively involved in hiring and training personnel.
For many adults with disabilities, finding a job can be a challenge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities in 2019 was 7.3%, about twice the rate for individuals without a disability.
“When I meet with employers, it’s often a subtle change in mindset that makes a massive difference. They quickly learn that people with disabilities tend to be highly dedicated, hard-working employees who are true assets to their companies,” Morse said. “We’ve covered a lot of ground in three years, but we still have work to do. I’m looking forward to helping Allen County become a more inclusive community.”
“If we’re going to build a nationally recognized economy in Allen County, we must grow opportunities for everyone,” said John Urbahns, president and CEO of GFW Inc. “We’ve woven inclusion into everything we do as an organization, and it’s inspiring to see so many in the business community partner with us to do the same. We’re thankful to AWS Foundation for their continued support and leadership.”
About AWS Foundation
Founded in 2007, AWS Foundation supports a wide range of organizations and service agencies in northeast Indiana, working to develop a community in which people with enduring intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities are engaged fully and meaningfully in all aspects of community life. For more information, visit awsfoundation.org.
About Greater Fort Wayne Inc.
Greater Fort Wayne (GFW) Inc. serves Fort Wayne and Allen County, Indiana, as its metro chamber alliance and primary contact for economic growth. GFW Inc. focuses on prosperity and community vibrancy through economic development, advocacy, programs, and resources that support business success, leadership development, graduate retention, and community engagement.