The Harford County Commission on Disabilities will host its annual employment awards luncheon at noon Oct. 18, at the Maryland Golf and Country Clubs in Bel Air. The keynote speaker will be Mary Kuhlmann, a former member of the Commission's Employment Committee, and recently retired from Harford County Public Schools Department of Special Education.

The luncheon's purpose is to "celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of people with disabilities who overcome obstacles in their pursuit of excellence," according to Committee Co-Chair Niki Biggs. "Their accomplishments are especially significant in this difficult job market," she said in a press release.

"The Commission also uses the event to recognize contributions made by employers, families, friends and organizations to change attitudes about employees with disabilities in the workforce," Biggs said. This year's theme, announced by the U.S. Department of Labor, is "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?"

"Employers who ensure that inclusive workplace policies and practices are woven into the fabric and culture of the organization create an environment that encourages all workers – including those of us with disabilities – to work to their full capacity and contribute fully to the organization's success," said Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, in a Harford County press release.


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Employee of the Year honors will go to Amanda Kaufmann, who is employed by Acadia Windows and Doors in Rosedale. Awards of merit will be presented to Eric Crites, Lauren Kennedy, Charles "Jim" Kramer, Amber Kyle, Tamika Morant and Samantha Szczepanski.

Famous Dave's of Bel Air will be recognized as Employer of the Year, while Alliance, Inc. at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Ripken Baseball, the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command and Weis Markets of Bel Air will receive awards of merit.

The 2012 Student Worker of the Year Award will be presented to Ashley Harris, who works at the Hickory Veterinary Hospital and Kennel. Derek Hess, who works at Bull on the Beach, will receive the Student Worker Merit Award.

The Accessibility/Inclusion Award will be presented to Upper Chesapeake Health in recognition of its system-wide support for the employment of persons with disabilities. The Bel Air Workforce Center/Susquehanna Workforce Network will receive an Accessibility Merit Award. The Media Award will be presented to representatives of the Harford County Health Department, the Harford County Public Library, the Harford County Emergency Operations Center, and the Harford County Department of Community Services for Emergency Preparedness public education displays at the library branches and the senior activity centers during September. The Ruth Helen Thompson Community Service Award will be presented to Linda Corea, who retired in June 2012 after more than 20 years as a job developer for The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region. Robert L. Coen will receive a Merit Award for Community Service for his years of volunteer service to the Harford County Commission on Disabilities and the Volunteers for Medical Engineering, now known as V-LINC.

The Harford County Commission on Disabilities was established in 1995 to serve as the voice of the disability community in Harford County. Members are appointed by the county executive, with the approval of the county council.

The Harford County Department of Community Services was established in 1979 via executive order and works daily to meet the needs of our seniors, youth, persons with disabilities and those struggling to overcome addiction. The department works with federal, state, local and private agencies to ensure our county continues to evolve and remains dedicated to providing the best possible services for our citizens and community.

For tickets to the luncheon, which are $20 per person, additional information, or to request disability-related accommodations, call 410-638-3389 (MD Relay 711).