Valuable partnership with Occupational Development Center recognized by state disability organization as model for other employers; award presentation set for October 30 at 10:30 AM
Nominated by Occupational Development Center, the AmericInn hotel in Roseau was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation, MOHR, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October.
“Employers who hire individuals with disabilities and work crews are important partners in our efforts to provide person-centered services that improve people’s lives in Minnesota,” said Julie Johnson, president of MOHR. The organization represents more than 100 disability service providers across the state.
“Our community is very fortunate to have an employer like this that promotes ‘individuals with disabilities,’” said Roger Allen, division manager for Occupational Development Center (ODC) in Roseau. “His example of how an employer should be with individuals with disabilities exceeds our expectations.”
AmericInn General Manager Darrin Smedsmo said ODC has helped fill employment gaps at the hotel in a very tough labor market. “My business doesn’t employ services, we and ODC employ people,” he said. “I think back to many people we have had work here through ODC and they take so much pride in their work.”
The hotel manager said ODC has worked hard to choose the best individuals for the jobs that need to be done, people who will do it well. “The most rewarding part is to see these individuals excel and feel good about the job they have out in the community,” said Smedsmo. “I believe that by employing people with disabilities, we have all learned to appreciate those with disabilities more.”
One such employee placed by ODC, Loni, has worked at the hotel for more than 10 years. The constant smile on her face has earned her the nickname “Sunshine,” said Smedsmo. The manager said she loves to work hard and do a good job, and is reminded frequently that she needs to do a good job because that is what AmericInn expects.
Allen said AmericInn is the first employer that ODC goes to in promoting employment for people with disabilities in the community. “He (Smedsmo) is that much of an advocate for them and a friend. It is refreshing to see an employer put into action what he believes and to value the individuals we work with and serve daily,” said Allen.
Calm and communicating on a personal level, Smedsmo treats his employees with warmth and respect across the board, said Allen. “He is not afraid to joke with them and show them that he cares. He pays them directly and at higher than minimum wage, without hesitation,” he said.
“Let’s face it, we all have limitations, but I think I have learned that those limitations shouldn’t hinder anyone from doing the best job they can at whatever is before us,” Smedsmo said.
ODC will present the Outstanding Disability Employer Award in the lobby of AmericInn on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 10:30 a.m. Area dignitaries, including state representatives and senators, have been invited.
MOHR’s mission is to advocate and support its nonprofit members in providing meaningful services to persons with disabilities and communities served. Members are committed to respect for each individual, a person-centered approach and expanding work opportunities.
Celebrated every October, this year’s theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month is “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.” It celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. The national observance began under a different name in 1945.