PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Safeway on Lincoln Street was honored as the Governor’s 2017 Medium Private Employer of the Year for its efforts in hiring people with disabilities.
It was among six public and private employers honored Oct. 31 in Redmond by the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment.
Mike LaGrange, who manages the store, said he was honored to receive the award.
“It was amazing and it was humbling to listen to all the people with disabilities and understand what they overcame and what it means to them,” LaGrange said.
The Safeway employs 13 people with developmental disabilities who are supported by community organizations, making up nearly 10 percent of the approximately 160 employees.
LaGrange said since starting at the store 14 years ago, one of his goals has been to provide opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, but he doesn’t create new positions just for people with disabilities.
Instead, he puts them in positions that are needed and in which he knows they can do well, he said.
Finding the right job is what ensures happiness and self-respect for the employee, he said.
It is also a lesson LaGrange said other employees learn from.
“We do it because we want to reflect our community and want our employees to reflect the people around us,” he said. “We want to provide people the chance to excel, grow and enjoy their employment.”
Though many businesses in Clallam County hire people with disabilities, the store’s continued efforts in hiring people with disabilities were highlighted last month by the Clallam County commissioners.
The county commissioners last week read proclamations recognizing this month as Disability Employment Awareness Month and recognizing employers of individuals with developmental disabilities.
Commissioner Bill Peach attended the awards breakfast and said it is clear Safeway has done a fantastic job.
“You see people prefer the lanes that have the [developmentally disabled] people there,” he said. “I like the conversations. They are happy.
“It’s just wonderful they have a part of their life that is constructive and have a chance to have interaction with people.”
Peach said he appreciates the focus on developmentally disabled people.
Others who earned awards include Seattle Children’s, Bridgeways, City of Seattle Supported Employment Program, Northwest Trophy & Awards in Woodinville and the Seattle Mariners.
“Our award winners excel at using the diverse skills and abilities in the disability community, driving innovation and strengthening their businesses,” said Mandeep Kaundal, governor’s committee chairman. “They’re role models for the entire state.”
Gov. Jay Inslee did not attend the event but welcomed the nominees in a video.
He said every employer who was nominated deserved to be recognized.
“This celebration helps to disseminate best practices and to demonstrate to other employers how easily they, too, can be reaping the benefits of the culture of innovation fostered through the inclusion of people who have disabilities,” Inslee said.
LaGrange said Inslee’s office would reach out to the winners to give them an opportunity to meet the governor and for Inslee to recognize them in person.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].