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Terry Knapp first walked through the doors of Winding Commons Senior Living (WCSL) last year as part of PRIDE’s Employment Services internship program for people with disabilities. Over the ensuing weeks, Terry did such a great job that, upon his internship’s completion, he was hired immediately—his first job working independently in the community. Now, not only does he continue to enjoy the teamwork and welcoming support of his workplace, but he also enjoys regular interactions with WCSL’s residents.

 

Located in Carmichael, CA, Winding Commons has a sterling reputation for its caring staff, its clean and well-maintained facilities, its food, and its grounds. The senior-living facility frequently receives glowing reviews from both its residents and their families. With employees like Terry and his coworkers, it’s easy to see why.

Paired with PRIDE Job Developer

Referred to PRIDE Industries from the California Department of Rehabilitation, Terry was then matched with PRIDE Job Developer Caryl Balko—and the two immediately got to work. Terry started drafting his resume and filling out job applications. Caryl provided Terry with valuable feedback on both these projects and, further, went into the community to scout potential job positions and to meet with employers.

 

Soon, their efforts paid off when Terry earned an internship at Winding Commons, starting as a dishwasher and expanding his duties to include general cleanup, food preparation, and serving.

 

“We had to hand wash the dishes, and that was hard to keep up with at first,” Terry said. “But I got used to it and was able to pick up the pace.”

 

But speed isn’t the only job requirement. Because of COVID restrictions and protocols, positions like Terry’s have become more important than ever, with cleanliness held paramount.

Essential Worker

“All employees are expected to clean thoroughly . . . nothing goes out of the kitchen without being sanitized,” said Caryl. “When Terry or the other workers serve food, they wear gloves and masks and do not touch the items in the residents’ rooms.”

 

The addition of protective measures didn’t fluster Terry. In the midst of a pandemic and in the span of three months, he met each of his internship goals. During this time, he also met with PRIDE job coach, Diana Crawford, to ensure that he had all the support that he needed.

 

Terry was met with support at Winding Commons, too. Chef Dan Catanio provided thorough tutelage in meal preparation and was quick to offer praise: “Terry does an awesome job for us. He is an important part of our team.”

As for Terry, he’s just as happy to be at Winding Commons as his employers are to have him there.

 

“I’m glad I got the chance to do my internship with Winding Commons,” Terry said. “Employment has changed my life for the better, and I’m proud to contribute to the well-being of our community!”

How you can help

Generous donations to The Michael Ziegler PRIDE Industries Foundation are critical to helping individuals with disabilities gain an opportunity to start a career that is suited to their capabilities and interests.

“I love working with Winding Commons. We have such an awesome team. Whenever I need help, my co-workers step up, & when they need help, I’m able to jump right in!”

“My job is to make sure every employee knows they matter, and that they belong here,” says Adrienne Lawson, PRIDE’s Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Compliance. Adrienne joined PRIDE in November, and already she has led several initiatives to help employees connect with others across departments and geographic locations. In this brief interview, we asked Adrienne to tell us about PRIDE’s new programs for employees.  

 

PRIDEYou’ve been at PRIDE for about three months now. How has it gone for you? 

 

AdrienneWonderful. I knew I was going to like it here—the mission is so important—but the warm welcome I’ve gotten from everyone I’ve encountered here has exceeded my expectations. PRIDE employees really are special. And because everyone I’ve worked with has been so forthcoming, I’ve been able to assess PRIDE’s needs relatively quickly and come up with a game plan for promoting diversity and inclusion here at PRIDE. 

 

PRIDE: And what is your game plan? What are your top three priorities right now? 

 

AdrienneRight now, I’m launching our Diversity Advisory Council, as well as supporting the current Employee Resource Groups and working to create new ones. PRIDE’s senior leadership has also made mentoring a priority, and that’s driving the development of what we’re currently calling the Mentoring Academy. 

 

PRIDE: Let’s take those one at a time. What’s a Diversity Advisory Council? And how does it help PRIDE and its employees? 

 

AdriennePRIDE’s Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) is an interprofessional team of 15 people from across the various PRIDE locations. The DAC will play an important role at PRIDE, providing feedback and support to the executive team on potential policies and initiatives that support PRIDE’s inclusive culture. The DAC gives a voice to women and underrepresented groups. Its members will work together to publicize initiatives and promote programs that create a safe and welcoming workplace for everyone at PRIDE.  

 

PRIDE: Some might say that’s a tall order. 

 

Adrienne It is. And it’s important. In the same way that societies must resolve their underlying structural issues, companies do too. Sixty percent of PRIDE’s employees have a disability, so inclusion is part of our DNA. We have a long history of supporting individuals; we know how to do that. Now we need to increase our efforts to truly make progress in supporting all types of diversity. The Diversity Advisory Council must push diversity on all fronts: gender, race, age, nationality, sexual orientation and—of course—ability. The fact is, progress for one will lift everybody, creating a more inclusive mindset and removing obstacles. 

 

Addressing these issues directly benefits PRIDE, because the success of our teammates drives the success of our business. When our teams feel supported and inspired, they turn that creativity into innovation to support the mission and meet our goals. PRIDE is at its best when every member of our team feels respected, included, and heard—when everyone can show up as themselves and do their best work every day.  

 

PRIDE: Another one of your initiatives is the expansion of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). What are those? 

 

AdrienneERGs are employee-led groups that serve several purposes vital to PRIDE’s success. These groups offer employees an opportunity to network, address common issues and concerns, and receive support from those who share similar backgrounds, experiences, or interests. They’re a great forum for exchanging ideas and for mentoring. This makes ERGs an important tool for retaining employees, and as any business knows, employee retention is vital to success. 

 

PRIDE: What if someone would like to join an ERG, but doesn’t see one that represents their group? 

 

AdrienneThere are two answers to this questionFirst, I’m always available and interested in helping employees start a new ERG when there’s interest. Second, an employee can join a group with which they have an affinity, even if that group doesn’t describe them directly. They may have family members who belong to those groups, for example, or may simply want to expand their horizons and learn more about others.  

 

PRIDE: What ERGs are currently available? 

 

Adrienne: We have ERGs for veterans and women, and the people with disabilities ERG just opted to change their name to People of Possibilities (POP), as it more accurately reflects their lived reality. Right now, I’m also helping to launch a Millennial ERG and an African American oneI’m also hopeful that there will be interest in a LatinX ERG and one for LGBTQ+ people. If anyone is interested in an ERG or would like to know where they fit, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

 

PRIDE: You mentioned that ERGs—in addition to many other objectives—will also serve a mentoring role. So, then what is the role of the Mentoring Academy? 

 

Adrienne: The Mentoring Academy will have a more specific mission than the ERGs. The Academy’s goal is to support a culture of mentoring here at PRIDE, so that staff can reach their full potential, and we can foster interconnectedness across the companyStudies have shown that mentoring has a positive impact on both employee retention and career progression, and that of course helps advance PRIDE’s mission. 

 

The company has made a great start with its NextGEN program. Now we’d like to expand mentoring to people throughout the company, in as inclusive a way as possibleThe Mentoring Academy is still taking shape, and I’ll be looking to the Diversity Advisory Council for their input on this, since I want to make sure that we reach out to everyone who feels they could benefit from having a mentor.   

 

PRIDE: Are there any new policies you think PRIDE employees should know about? 

 

AdrienneThere are no new policies at this time, but I’d like folks to know that the Equal Employment Opportunity policy has been updated with more inclusive language. Additionally, PRIDE has a Trans policy and Disability and Accommodations policy that will be reviewed by the Diversity Advisory Council, so there could be some updates there as well. 

 

PRIDE: Your work here at PRIDE was recognized recently in an article in HR Daily. How did it feel to realize that the work you’re doing here has gained recognition beyond the company? 

 

AdrienneIt was gratifying, of course. I’m like everyone else—I appreciate the pat on the back. But more importantly, I was glad that I got to share some of what we’re doing here at PRIDE. I’d like to think that I’ve helped inspire another company to give one of our approaches a try and help their employees too.  

 

On December 20, 2019, America added its first new military branch in 72 years. To the general public, the creation of this service may have appeared spontaneous. But in fact, America’s new Space Force is the result of decades of planning and development.  

 

Space Force was created by absorbing the space operations of multiple service branches, including the Army and the Navy. But it drew most heavily from the Air Forcewhich has had the greatest influence on its development. In fact, Space Force drew its initial corps of 16,000 personnel entirely from the Air ForceIn the same way that the Air Force grew out of the ArmySpace Force is the offspring of the Air Force.  

 

In many ways, Space Force can trace its origins back to September 1, 1982, when the Air Force established the Air Force Space Command. As the name suggests, the USAF Space Command had space operations as its primary mission. It focused on missile warning, launch operations, satellite control, and space surveillance. Space Command played an important role in establishing the Global Positioning System (GPS), which was originally developed for military use and has since made its way into hundreds of commercial applications. 

 

If  humankind’s use of space had stayed as it was in 1982, there would probably be no Space Force today. But the world, and global technology especially, has changed considerably in the past four decades. 

The Rise of Satellite Infrastructure

The first cell phone call was made in 1973, on a phone that weighed 2.4 pounds and lost its battery charge after 30 minutes of use. Ten years later, around the time that the Air Force founded Space Command, cell phones became available to the general public. The phones were still big and heavy, and cost about $4,000—the equivalent of about $11,000 today.  

 

Over the next three decades, phones became smaller and lighter, and their capabilities exploded. The first cell phones could do nothing more than make scratchy phone calls. Today’s phones are minicomputers, filled with dozens of apps. And as the cell phone has become more useful, it’s also become essential to everyday life. 

 

We can now bank, get directions, and write letters on our phones. We get our information and entertainment from our phones. And of course, we make calls and send texts using our phones. All of this is made possible by a network of thousands of communications satellites.  

 

Satellites are also crucial for weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and other earth sciences. Your local ATM relies on satellite technology. Businesses use GPS to time-stamp credit card purchases. Engineers use satellites to monitor ground movement and ensure the stability of bridges and roads. Satellites are now a crucial part of every country’s infrastructure, which is why their defense has become so important.

Defending Assets in Space

In 1957, Russia launched the first artificial satellite. Today, nearly 3,000 human-made satellites are orbiting the Earth, and that number is expected to quintuple by 2030. In other words, the space surrounding Earth is getting crowded.

 

Compared to other types of infrastructure, satellites are particularly vulnerable. Since objects in orbit around the earth travel at thousands of miles per hour, if a satellite collides with even a small piece of debris—the size of a dime, perhaps—the collision can seriously damage or even ruin the satellite. And with more and more satellites going into orbit around Earth, accidental collisions are becoming more likely.

 

And there are intentional threats as well. Several countries are currently developing technology to disable or destroy satellites. Laser dazzler systems can confuse or damage a satellite’s optical sensors. Jamming systems can be used to purposely disrupt the data stream between satellites and facilities on the ground. This equipment can even send fake location data, rendering GPS systems useless.

 

Satellite infrastructure is threatened at the very moment it’s become indispensable to our modern way of life, which is why protecting the integrity of U.S. satellites is a core duty of the newly formed Space Force. It’s part of the service’s mission to preserve space as a global commons, and to protect its use for security, commercial, and social benefits.

 

This important mission is just the beginning for Space Force. The service will also play a role beyond the near-Earth, supporting NASA’s missions as the U.S. returns to space exploration. As General Jay Raymond, Chief of Space Operations, has said, “The sky is not the limit.”

PRIDE Welcomes All Veterans

For fifty years, PRIDE has welcomed veterans from all branches of the military. We know that the training they receive while serving our country makes them valuable employees once they return to civilian life. And PRIDE is not the only company to recognize the benefits of hiring veterans. PRIDE now helps companies across the U.S. find these sought-after employees through our Inclusive Talent Solutions initiative.


To seek out these highly valued employees, PRIDE offers an online tool designed specifically for veterans: the Military Skills Translator. With the Skills Translator, veterans can easily determine which civilian jobs—whether with PRIDE or another company—best correspond to the valuable experience they gained while serving our country.


As it has throughout its history, the U.S. military is adapting to a new environment. But no matter what changes come, PRIDE looks forward to many more years of welcoming veterans—including those from the United States Space Force.

Image: An Atlas V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral on March 26, 2020. It was the first Defense Department payload launched for the United States Space Force. Photo by Joshua Conti.

Atlas Rocket Launch
America’s new Space Force is the result of decades of planning and development

Every day, Quality Control Inspector Levar Alexander ensures that PRIDE Industries delivers quality landscaping and custodial services to our military customer at Travis Air Force Base. When Levar took this position with PRIDE in 2017, he was already familiar with the base, as he had just retired from a long military career. PRIDE is fortunate to have Levar on the team; he shares his story below:


“While growing up in the small town of Cadiz, Kentucky, I always longed for an opportunity to see the world and serve my country. I signed up for the U.S. Air Force during my last year of high school in 1996 and immediately left after graduating in 1997. I always had an interest in fixing airplanes, so the Air Force was a perfect option.


I began basic training, including combat arms instruction, at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. After that, I relocated to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, graduating from tech school and becoming an aircraft technician. Shortly after, I was stationed at McChord AFB in Lakewood, Washington.


My passion for repairing aircraft developed into a long, fulfilling career. I served as a 2A671 Aerospace Propulsion Technician for 20 years, repairing C-141, C-17, C-5, A-10, and F-16 aircraft. As I rose through the ranks, I became the Chief for F-16, F15, A-10, C-5, C-17, and C-141 aircraft.


During my service, I completed multiple tours in Kuwait, Afghanistan, and South Korea. While working overseas, I also teamed up with individuals from other countries, including Germany, Australia, France, Canada, Italy, and South Korea. This experience opened my eyes and made me realize that although others may not do things the way that I do, ultimately, the job gets done if we all work together.


My most memorable deployment was Operation Enduring Freedom. Finding out that I was going to Afghanistan was very sobering. I knew that this was a serious conflict and that sometimes people didn’t come back. While there, I was responsible for taking care of the aircraft; however, I knew I had to defend the base if we were under attack. We stayed on base, so I didn’t learn much about the local culture. But, from afar, I could tell that life moved at a slower pace, and the people were extremely appreciative of any assistance.


My favorite posting was Diego Garcia, a tropical island located in the Indian Ocean. The weather was amazing, and the water was crystal clear—it was paradise!


I retired from the military in 2017. I received multiple achievement awards and meritorious service medals, but I felt proudest when I fully returned to my family. Our separation was the most challenging part of my service. You miss birthdays, holidays, important events; life continues to move forward for others, even when you’re not there.

 

Fortunately, my transition to civilian life was smooth. I immediately found a new direction when I started working with PRIDE Industries. A good friend encouraged me to apply, and it has been an amazing ride working with the team here at Travis AFB. My colleagues inspire me every day, and I enjoy helping them be more proficient at their jobs. Ultimately, it’s been a smooth transition. I like that I can continue to serve the military through my job; it gives me an enormous sense of accomplishment.”

Attention veterans

Are you a veteran looking to start a career? Check out PRIDE’s Military Translator.

October 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Established by the Department of Labor in 1945, NDEAM celebrates America’s workers with disabilities and reminds employers of the importance of inclusive hiring practices.

 

This year’s NDEAM is especially significant, as 2020 also marks 30 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act prohibited discrimination based on disability, including in the area of employment. It also mandated reasonable accommodations and accessibility for people with disabilities.

 

In recognition of the ADA’s 30th anniversary, this year’s NDEAM theme is “Increasing Access and Opportunity.” That’s a goal that PRIDE embraces heartily, as it has been part of our mission for more than 50 years.

A Mission of Inclusivity, A History of Success

PRIDE Industries was founded in 1966 as a nonprofit with a straightforward mission: to create jobs for people with disabilities. Since its beginning, PRIDE has adhered to this singular goal, but the paths we’ve taken to carry out our mission have evolved over the years.

 

When few businesses would hire people with disabilities, PRIDE’s founders decided to create the jobs themselves, making PRIDE a rare entity at the time. Years later, in the early 1980s, PRIDE began selling services to other companies, thus transitioning to a nonprofit social enterprise. We are one of the earliest organizations to demonstrate how effective the social enterprise model can be.

 

One of the first services offered by PRIDE was kitting and fulfillment. This business line is still important to the company, employing hundreds of people with disabilities, but it is no longer the only service we offer. Today, our employees work in various fields across the country, manufacturing medical devices, maintaining buildings, managing inventory, performing sustainable environmental and custodial services, and providing technical support.

 

As a nonprofit social enterprise, 100% of PRIDE’s revenue directly supports our mission, allowing us to provide employment services to even more people across the nation. The money earned by our lines of business serves two purposes. It enables us to pay desirable wages and maintain PRIDE’s infrastructure, and it funds our network of support programs for people with disabilities. Today PRIDE employs more than 5,600 people, including more than 3,300 people with disabilities, making us the country’s leading nonprofit employer of people with disabilities.

 

PRIDE offers a wide range of services to help people who face employment barriers, a population that includes service-injured veterans and former foster youth. We provide job training, employee recruitment, and on-the-job coaching for people of all skill levels. And our personalized approach means that everyone who joins us benefits from a program designed to maximize their success.

A New Path: PRIDE Introduces Inclusive Talent Solutions

At PRIDE, we’ve long known that employees with disabilities can be highly productive. And our employees—through their hard work and dedication—have proven this to our many customers.

 

But perhaps the biggest proof of our success is the number of companies now seeking our expertise to develop a more inclusive workforce. They’ve realized that employees with diverse abilities make many valuable contributions, and they’ve seen the studies showing that employees with disabilities have high retention rates, low absenteeism, and a positive effect on workplace culture.

 

But while many companies are now interested in the advantages conferred by an inclusive workforce, few know how to create and maintain a diverse employee base. They lack the workforce planning expertise, internal training tools, or regulatory knowledge needed to work with a diverse population. Because of this, some companies are hesitant to pursue the goal of an inclusive workforce, despite its many advantages.

 

In keeping with our mission, PRIDE created a new service to help these companies. Inclusive Talent Solutions (ITS) recruits, trains, and provides ongoing coaching for people with disabilities at our partner companies. Our goal is to make it easy for businesses to create an inclusive workforce and decrease the barriers to employment faced by people with disabilities.

 

ITS represents a new path for PRIDE. It’s yet another way for us to fulfill our mission to support even more people with disabilities. That’s why we’ve chosen to launch this new service in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the NDEAM. The NDEAM is a celebration of the many contributions made by people with disabilities in the workplace. PRIDE is pleased to be able to help more companies benefit from these contributions.