Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo recognized four local businesses and community organizations for their outstanding support of people with disabilities at a virtual awards ceremony: Independent Living Resource Center, Chevron Stations Inc., FluidStance, and the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
Against the backdrop of the global COVID-19 pandemic, these organizations rose to the occasion. The awards marked the 15th year of event, the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 75th year of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. A recorded presentation was given by keynote speaker Grace Fisher, disability advocate and founder of the Grace Fisher Foundation who spoke about access to equal opportunities and bringing arts to local children with disabilities.
Independent Living Resource Center, Inc. won the Non-Profit Award for embracing the spirit of inclusion and accessibility. The Independent Living Resource Center, Inc. (ILRC) provides services and supports to people with all disabilities, of all ages, and income levels living in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties. This year ILRC became part of a new initiative to support people with disabilities and older adults during the activation of a Public Safety Power Shutoff event or other emergency. Jennifer Griffin, ILRC Interim Executive Director, explained the initiative’s goal is to enable safety while helping individuals remain independent in their residences and communities. During the pandemic, ILRC also provided chrome books for people with disabilities as the world shifted online during state stay-at-home orders. They also connect people to a program for qualified applicants who need a hotspot so they can access the internet at an affordable cost.
Chevron Stations, Inc. was recognized with the Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Effort for going above and beyond to support people with disabilities. The Chevron Stations Inc. Diversity & Inclusion Hiring Initiative, a neurodiversity employment pilot program, has placed ten individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in positions at stations in California’s Central Coast region, including Santa Barbara. Julie Beltran, Business Consultant, North America Marketing, Chevron, thanked PathPoint, a nonprofit agency supporting people with developmental disabilities, for helping to develop the role of and supporting Station Support Representatives, tailored for the neurodiverse hires and responsible for cleaning, stocking, general maintenance and other station support.
FluidStance was presented with the Employment / Accommodation Award as an employer who reflects the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act in employment practices. The company which designs and manufactures its products in Santa Barbara believes balance is the great differentiator and has strived to have its team reflect the community, including employees with disabilities who have been hired to help with final assembly. Throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis, the company has worked hard to keep their team gainfully employed working from either home or special COVID-friendly work rooms with the support of job coaches. Founder Joel Heath accepted the award and acknowledged the great work of employee David Moreno who also attended the virtual event.
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County was designated this year’s Design/Accessibility Award winner for re-designing their programs to accommodate increased community needs and extra health and safety precautions due to COVID-19. The Mayor recognized the Foodbank’s mission of transforming hunger into health by eliminating food insecurity through good nutrition, food literacy, and distributing 12.5 million pounds of food last year. Judith Smith-Meyer, Foodbank Marketing Communications Manager, accepted the award on behalf of the Foodbank and acknowledged the work of its network of 300 nonprofit community partners and more than 2,000 volunteers. So far during the pandemic, they have already distributed twice as much food to twice as many people. It launched a host of COVID-19 response programs, including opening 50 SAFE food pantries to provide food in a safe environment, added four emergency warehouses, and made tens of thousands of home deliveries to seniors under quarantine.
This year’s event organizers include representatives from each of the following: California Department of Rehabilitation, City of Santa Barbara, Tri-Counties Regional Center, PathPoint, UCP Work, Inc., the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Pamela Gunther, Julie Holmes, and Dominick Trevethan.