Melwood Employee, Tawana Freeman, Advocates on Capitol Hill for People with Disabilities
April 30, 2021
Melwood Calls on Representatives to Promote Meaningful Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities
UPPER MARLBORO, MD, April 30, 2021 – Tawana Freeman was among 50 individuals selected from across the nation to attend the annual SourceAmerica® Grassroots Advocacy Conference this week.
During the virtual event, Freeman spent five days sharing her employment story and met with legislative assistants from the offices of members of Congress, including Rep. Jennifer Wexton and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Senator Ben Cardin, and Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, to advocate for better job opportunities for people with disabilities.
“I feel so lucky and blessed to have my job,” Tawana said. “I have worked for Melwood for 25 years and through the dignity of employment I have learned to believe in myself, work hard for what I want, and treat others with respect. My goal now is to help others reach their dreams. I am so glad I have had the opportunity to tell my story this week.”
SourceAmerica, a leading job creator for people with disabilities and Melwood selected Freeman, a custodial professional who works at the USDA headquarters building in Washington, DC, because she has been employed with Melwood for 25 years. She has worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since it began and is passionate about sharing why it is important to provide fair employment opportunities to people with disabilities. She wants our representatives to know everyone matters and deserves to be heard.
“People with disabilities have historically faced barriers to competitive integrated employment due to misconceptions and stigmas,” said Larysa Kautz, President & CEO of Melwood. “Given the opportunity, our essential workers make a significant contribution to Melwood and our customers. It is time for every business to include disability in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and build a more inclusive workforce for all.”
The annual SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy conference brings nonprofit agency leaders and employees from across the United States to meet with members of Congress. Attendees will discuss barriers to employment in their communities and how the AbilityOne® Program, one of the largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the United States, has played a role in their employment journey.
Melwood is one of the largest employers of people with disabilities in the country, employing more than 1,600 workers – nearly 1,000 of whom are people with disabilities. Melwood offers job placement, job training, life skills for independence, and support services to more than 2,500 people each year in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Melwood also has an inclusive summer camp program for children and provides employment and support services to veterans and active duty military members who have experienced service-related trauma or injury. For more information, visit www.Melwood.org.
Vice President of Government Relations