Celebrating success and saying thanks

By Tatiana Peralta 10/12/2021
Celebrating the success and saying thanks

SourceAmerica® is celebrating National Disability Employment Month! As part of this recognition, we are shining a spotlight on the nonprofit agencies in the SourceAmerica network and the people with disabilities they employ. 

A SourceAmerica network nonprofit in Boston, Massachusetts has stepped up to the plate to recognize and showcase the hard work of its staff and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. WORK, Inc.’s Director of Advocacy Andrea Mitsch spoke with SourceAmerica about its signature event and how the agency encourages other nonprofits to do to recognize employees during NDEAM and beyond.  

How did this year’s “Oh! What a Year!” celebration come to fruition? 

This year we made the difficult decision to cancel our in-person event due to COVID-19. Typically, we invite about 500 individuals from WORK, Inc., and the community to celebrate the year with us. This is less about the awards, and more about the work people have done. Our CEO, James Cassetta, wanted to host a virtual event that was engaging but didn’t require someone to take entire hours out of their day. He essentially just wanted people to pop in whenever they could. As I started thinking about the event, I was thinking about how difficult this year had been, so naturally the name of the event was “Oh! What a Year!” 

From there I interviewed many of our team members. I asked them what the last year has been like for them, and I learned so much.  

What was the goal of this year’s “Oh! What a Year!”? 

What our team really wanted to do was take in and spotlight everything that our departments have done throughout the year, including our AbilityOne® employees. We have the employment side of the house, day rehabilitation, residential, and more. Everyone is working around the clock to support people with disabilities in our community. So, I started thinking about how we can deliver the message of what has happened over the last year, identify the work that has been done behind the scenes, and recognize everyone involved.  

“Oh! What a Year!” incorporated federal leadership too. How did you get U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh involved in this project? 

Marty Walsh was the former Mayor of Boston and also a long-term support of WORK, Inc. If there’s anything I have learned in this line of work, it is to just ask - the worst thing they can say is no. I actually ran into Marty at the airport – he was coming out of the terminal and had all of his security around him. I approached him and we started talking about WORK, Inc. and the work we had done with him throughout the pandemic. I decided at that point to ask him to participate in this year’s event.  

What are some the biggest takeaways from this year’s event? 

Since this was a virtual event, our employees who are deaf really appreciated the fact that we had interpreters AND captions. That was big for them, so I would really encourage other organizations to make events as accessible as they can.  

I am very proud of the work we did over the last year. We were able to live and breathe our mission of making the lives of other people meaningful. Every time I work on a project of this magnitude it’s easy to have your own critiques, but this really was a humbling experience. I really saw the value of human connection; you go from one day of seeing everyone all the time and then the next day no one is there. But this project really made me realize how important we all are to each other. 

As it relates to celebrating NDEAM, what did this event show you? 

I think it really shows that the advocacy we continuously do for the employment of people with disabilities was strengthened by the dedication they showed every day. Even when times got tough and some of our sites closed temporarily, people with disabilities still wanted to work because they love what they do. It showed the pride and commitment that people have to their jobs and a meaningful life. I think this year’s NDEAM is about showcasing that.