Harford Commission on Disabilities honors employers, workers, organizations

The Harford County Commission on Disabilities hosted its annual Employment Recognition Luncheon Thursday at the Maryland Golf and Country Clubs in Bel Air, honoring several employers, individuals and organizations.

The luncheon's main 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."

"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.

Employee of the Year honors went to Katie Nicolucci who is employed by JoAnn Fabrics in Bel Air. In addition, an Employee Award of Merit was presented to Michael Thomas, employed by Arby's in Bel Air.

The 2013 Student Worker of the Year Award was presented to Tyrel Branch, who works at the Rock Spring McDonald's. Philip Mitchell, who works at Union Hospital in Elkton, received the Student Worker Merit Award.

Susie Mahone of the Bel Air branch of Harford County Public Library was an Employer of the Year, as was Bel Air Health and Rehabilitation. Coffee News of Harford County received an Employer Award of Merit.

The Accessibility/Inclusion Award was presented to Sgt. Paul Wilkinson of the Harford County Sheriff's Office for his annual efforts in the Disability Awareness Parking Campaign.

The Media Award was presented to Harford Cable Network for its commitment to covering resources and activities related to disabilities in Harford County.

The Ruth Helen Thompson Community Service Award was presented to P&J's Life Skills, a respite and social activity group for youth, teens and adults with disabilities in Harford County.

The Employment Committee also announced a new award this year.

The "Open Doors Award" recognizes an individual or organization, chosen by the committee, that "goes above and beyond in their unique contribution to bettering the lives of youth or adults with disabilities, thereby improving their employment outcomes."

The first "Open Doors Award" was presented to Terri Cooney, for her extraordinary efforts in providing programming and activities to citizens with disabilities, and to Harford Bike Camp, an annual week-long event that helps people of all ages and disabilities learn to ride a bike.

The theme for this year's luncheon was "Because We Are EQUAL to the Task." The luncheon kicked off a six-month local marketing campaign that aims to educate the public and local employers on the value of employing citizens with disabilities. The campaign will include posters around Harford County, as well as informational resources regarding such topics as youth, accommodations, mental health, veterans and aging in the workplace.

Thursday's keynote speaker was Jesse H. Bane, owner of Quality One Landscaping and a former Employer of the Year.

The Harford County Commission on Disabilities was established in 1995 to serve as the voice of the disability community in Harford County.

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