A purpose, a paycheck, and a path to independence

By Tatiana Peralta 08/31/2021
A purpose, a paycheck, and a path to independence

A SourceAmerica network nonprofit in Virginia is providing people with disabilities three irreplaceable components for a fulfilling career – a purpose, a paycheck, and a path to independence. 

Located in Leesburg, nonprofit agency ECHO’s mission is to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve their optimal level of personal, social, and economic success. The organization is a proud participant in the AbilityOne® Program, one of the largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.  

Two AbilityOne employees, Laura Boyd and Michael Watson, have been working on a federal contract that ECHO first began supporting in 2005. Their employment journeys have followed slightly different paths, but they both find purpose in their work through the AbilityOne Program. 

Meet Laura Boyd 

Laura Boyd is one of ECHO’s most reliable employees. Daily, she reports to work with a federal agency promptly at 7:30 a.m. to

Laura Boyd
Laura Boyd

complete her mail duties and to run, scan, copy, and shred documents. She also stocks a variety of supplies in the employee break room and mailroom. 

Laura’s job gives her an opportunity to see and talk to people. “When they say thank you, it makes me feel good,” she says. Laura also credits her work with the federal agency for giving her purpose. “Having this job makes me very happy, because I’m working and I’m making money,” said Laura. “If I didn’t have this job, life would be boring, and I wouldn’t be able to go out to eat at my favorite restaurants like Manhattan Pizza and Subway.”  

With many of the almost 250 federal employees at the site working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Laura is learning to scan so that she can deliver mail virtually. The flexibility has helped Laura stay on her path to independence. In fact, ECHO Site Supervisor Adrienne Harris believes the opportunity to work has made it possible for employees like Laura to thrive. “The consistency and support have allowed her to demonstrate she is fully capable of performing all her job duties, making a contribution, and learning more,” she said. 

Get to know Michael Watson 

Michael Watson is both a veteran and a retired U.S. Postal Service employee who likes to stay busy. “I’m not a homebody,” he says. 

Michael Watson
Michael Watson

Although he can’t do everything he used to, his experience driving large vehicles during Desert Storm and Desert Shield have been useful in his position as warehouse staff within a federal agency. Michael’s role includes handling the shipping and receiving of FedEx and UPS packages. He also assists executive staff with preparing products for shipping from the agency’s warehouse to local destinations. Sometimes Michael is even called upon to assist administration with greeting clients and escorting new staff and vendors to their designated areas.   

“Life is special and being able to be a part of the workforce is a chance to make a change in not only your own life but someone else’s, big or small,” said Michael. “It’s the professional and personal connections that you establish that will last a lifetime.”  

Through the AbilityOne Program, ECHO is proud to create meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Laura and Michael are just two of the talented individuals the organization employs.  

To learn more about how you can employ people with disabilities at your organization, please email customerservice@sourceamerica.org