By Mary Elizabeth Dial, Staff Correspondent
The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) and the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities hosted their awards program for Etowah, Marshall and St. Clair counties on Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Gadsden Chamber of Commerce. The ceremony celebrated individuals and organizations that exemplified the cause of the committee over the past year. Honorees included people with disabilities who are currently gainfully employed, community partners and employers who have made their businesses accessible to employees with disabilities.
This year’s ceremony marked 71 years of service in the Etowah County community. Chef Crystal Dent and the Gadsden Job Corps’ Culinary Arts Program catered the event with brunch.
Business consultant Daniel Spencer and commissioner Jane Elizabeth Burdeshaw, who both spoke and presented awards, represented the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services. Award winners were announced as follows:
Employee of the Year at a Small Business was Amanda Cothran.
Employee of the Year at a Large Business was John Butts.
Employer of the Year at a Small Business was the Guntersville Public Library.
Employer of the Year at a Large Business was Gadsden Regional Medical Center.
Educator of the Year was Christy Yocum.
Advocate of the Year was Kevin Kidd.
Partnership of the Year was Marshall Medical Center.
Media of the Year was The Messenger.
Student of the Year was Kayla Hodges.
The Collaboration Award went to the Marshall County Project SEARCH team.
The Youth Leadership Award went to Emily Frederick.
The Public Service Award went to State Rep. Mack Butler.
The ceremony was also a celebration of progress and leadership within the community.
“Inclusion works because [it] means we’re treating everyone fairly,” Burdeshaw said. According to her, ADRS has placed 4,607 people with disabilities in competitive employment in the past year, signifying that the entire community thrives when those with disabilities are given an equal chance to participate in it.
Butler agreed with this sentiment, expressing his respect for the honorees.
“I don’t feel worthy to be in the same room as these people,” he said. “Anything y’all need at the state level, just give me a call.”
The Messenger was honored to be recognized at this event, and we look forward to the future partnerships with this part of the Etowah County community.