From Adversity to Achievement: Award Winner’s Life Exemplifies Path to Meaningful Employment

By SourceAmerica 03/14/2016

Media Contact
Kerry McGinley


VIENNA, Va. – In recognition of her career advancement as a person with a significant disability into a management role on an AbilityOne Program contract, SourceAmerica is pleased to recognize Francesca Eastland as this year's winner of the Evelyne Villines Award. Each year, SourceAmerica honors men, women, nonprofits, businesses and governmental entities that work to support its mission of creating jobs for people with disabilities.

Thirteen years ago, Eastland began working for Phoenix, a nonprofit organization in Huntsville, Alabama, that employs people with disabilities. At the time, the young mother and recovering addict with a criminal record and severe depression considered herself lucky to find a job as a custodian. Since then, she's completed her college degree and moved up through the ranks into a management position. (Read more about Eastland here.)

When she learned of the award, Eastland was overcome with emotion.

"I was in tears all day," she said. "Every time I'd dry the tears up and try to think about something else, I'd be crying again. I'm still trying to absorb it. It's a big deal for me."

According to Bryan Dingo, assistant vice president of Services for Phoenix, Eastland is a valued colleague who makes time to counsel and encourage coworkers in addition to leading her team.

"Knowing what it takes to be at the bottom so to speak, and knowing that you can overcome all those obstacles, all those past demons to grow personally and professionally … knowing she overcame all those things so she could coach and mentor and help lead other people who've been through similar situations," Dingo said. "To me, she was the perfect symbol of that award."

Eastland is one of nearly 115,000 people with disabilities employed in 2015 through the SourceAmerica network of more than 1,200 nonprofits.

"All of our award winners this year embody the spirit of our mission: creating meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities," said SourceAmerica CEO Steve Soroka. "Each of these men and women is an inspiring example for the rest of us. I applaud their talent, work and conviction."

Eastland, of Gadsden, Alabama, will be recognized at the SourceAmerica National Training and Achievement Conference April 25-27 at National Harbor, Maryland.

For more information, visit SourceAmerica's annual awards page.