Four area businesses were recognized Thursday for their dedication to inclusivity in the workplace by the Owensboro Coalition of Workforce Diversity. The first of what are expected to be annual awards were presented by local agencies serving those with disabilities, and the coalition is working toward normalizing diverse work environments — including employing people of all abilities and backgrounds.
The awards were presented during a coalition luncheon held at the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce.
The coalition is a group of local professionals who meet every other month to discuss how to promote a more inclusive work environment through the hiring of those with disabilities, with criminal backgrounds, or other cases of diversity. The coalition is organized by Puzzle Pieces, which serves more than 400 clients with disabilities.
The coalition’s first initiative started in 2019 but the pandemic slowed them down. They’ve picked back up over the last 6 months to refocus and push forward their efforts.
“It’s open to the community,” said Amanda Owen, Puzzle Pieces Executive Director. “Really the idea is to bring together businesses and providers that are trying to build workforce diversity. We’re just kind of collaborating and connecting with each other.”
Owen said Thursday’s awards honored businesses that have been “the champion behind our efforts” in building diversity in the workforce.
Puzzle Pieces, Green River Area Down Syndrome Association (GRADSA), River Valley Behavioral Health, and Independence Place each presented an award to a business that they’ve worked to hire one of their clients.
GRADSA recognized Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, which has employed Colin Powers, who has Down syndrome, for more than 3 years.
“Southern Star has gone above and beyond to work with (Colin) for the last 3 years,” said Britt Cobb, GRADSA Executive Director. “And actually just recently, Southern Star said that he’s doing so well, they wanted to give him more responsibilities.”
GRADSA and Puzzle Pieces worked together to train Powers in his new role.
Josh Komarek, Manager of Information Governance at Southern Star, said they were very excited to have Powers as a member of their team and that he has thrived.
“We have been lucky to find him, and so he’s been just great for us,” Komarek said. “He really kind exceeded what our expectations were for our (diversity) program back in 2017 or 2018 when we started putting the pieces together of what this would look like.”
Powers said, “I have enjoyed working at Southern Star for over 3 years now. I have made lots of friends and I love working hard while I’m at work. I love to dance and a lot of our employees support me – either when I perform in person or for my YouTube channel.”
Other honors went to:
- Humane Society of Henderson County, recognized by Independence Place
- Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, recognized by River Valley Behavioral Health
- Donna Abel (an advocate working at Owensboro Community & Technical College), recognized by Puzzle Pieces