By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Overcoming a disability can be an accomplishment worth recognizing.
Tenco Industries does that at their annual awards banquet, which is coming up in April. Marketing and Development Director Bob Morrissey will be attending his first banquet.
"It starts out as thanking those who have helped us, and recognizing them and our individuals, but one of the outgrowths of this recognition is that it helps draw attention to the good work we're about here," Morrissey said, adding that such positive attention can encourage others to assist in Tenco's mission.
Though there will be a light meal and entertainment, Morrissey said he's most looking forward to the awards presentation.
"That part, they tell me, is very emotional, especially with our individuals," he said. "They're extremely proud to be selected for the awards — and so are their families."
The individuals with disabilities who receive services through Tenco tend to be very honest with their emotions, Morrissey acknowledged.
The clients earn awards in various categories: The Top Effort Award recognizes personal growth, skill development and movement toward independence. The award in honor of a former disabilities advocate, the Mitzi Martin Inspirational Award, is presented to individuals who have overcome adversity and are an example to all of us that hard work and determination does lead to personal success. Then there's the Independence Award, which primarily recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding growth in socialization and becoming more independent in their living situation.
Independence is a goal now more than ever, Tenco director Benjamin Wright has said publicly. The sheltered work environment, where clients work sorting cans, for example, can get them started on the path to greater independence. Individuals would be guided through their work day, learn basic work skills, earn a check and feel a sense of accomplishment.
In fact, unlike some places of employment, Wright told the Courier in a past interview, snow on the ground results in "workers" calling to ask management to keep the business open. These clients want to come to work.
Yet it's not enough. Wright says Tenco individuals are being encouraged to find jobs out in the community.
Which is why business and industry is also a category for the awards.
And yes, said Morrissey, some of the region's employers are starting to see the benefit of having an employee, whether or not they have a disability, who loves coming to work every day.
"These are partners helping us better serve our mission," he said. "To provide opportunities for people with disabilities to develop and maintain independence in all areas of life."
The Tenco Awards Banquet will be at 6 p.m. April 11 in the Ottumwa High School cafeteria. Tickets are required, but there are only a limited number available.
News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark