2022 Business Partner Awards

2022 employU Business Partner Awards

In 2021, employU launched the Business Partners Awards program where we shine a light on partners throughout our local communities who are dedicated to fostering a diversity-inclusive workforce by offering employment opportunities in welcoming and supportive environments for our clients. The 2022 awards continued in this effort. There were many nominations submitted by the employU staff who work directly with these partners, but ultimately, we narrowed it down to a select few who have gone above and beyond in the mission to provide our clients with meaningful work experiences. Learn about each of our 2022 award winners below.  


Pineapples AwardemployU presents the Advocate of the Year Award to Pineapples Restaurant.  

Pineapples is a restaurant, music venue, and rooftop bar housed inside of an old telecommunication building in Melbourne. An integral part of their community’s past and present, Pineapples was nominated by employU Area Manager, Glenna, and Transition Coordinator, Stacy, who praised them for their support saying, “Pineapples and its management and staff are very supportive of our clients. They have placed them in various positions from rolling silverware to serving customers. They give both positive and improvement feedback to help the client in achieving their goals. Our clients enjoy working there and always want to return for a second WBLE (work-based learning experience).” They also generously offered to be the host location for employU’s  Decade of U event to celebrate our ten-year anniversary. Pineapples has truly gone beyond in their partnership with us, and for that we are very grateful and honored to be able to give them something in return with this award.  


Parts House AwardemployU presents the Community Impact Award to The Parts House  

The Parts House in Jacksonville is an auto parts company that strives to provide expert knowledge and great service to their customers and staff alike. Our Adult Services Area Manager in Jacksonville, Jan, nominated this phenomenal business partner and said of them, “The Parts House has been open to [both] working with our clients through our OJT [on-the-job training] program and [also through] directly hiring our clients. They have been exceedingly open and comfortable in allowing our staff into their facility to coach and assist [sic] our clients for the most successful outcomes. The staff and management have always treated my staff as full partners with the utmost trust and respect. We are truly fortunate to have such an understanding and forward-thinking business partner.”  It is employU’s honor to give them this award in recognition of their contributions to our clients and the community as a whole.    


Amazon AwardemployU presents the Changemaker Award to Amazon Orlando 

Amazon, a partner of employU for many years, was named one of the “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” for the fifth year in a row. We are so proud to work with a company that values our clients at every level and continues to improve their own inclusion efforts. Amazon has truly gone above and beyond in terms of fostering a disability-inclusive workforce. With this award, we hope to show our gratitude for all of their continuing support as a whole, with special recognition of the Orlando Distribution Center.  


once upon a childemployU presents the Advocate of the Year Award to Once Upon a Child of Stuart and Martin County 

Once Upon a Child buys and sells gently used kids’ clothing, shoes, toys, and baby gear to help both families and the planet. Once Upon a Child has been an active participant with employU since 2020. Their dedication to our partnership and clients has not gone unnoticed. Michelle, the employU Senior Job Coach who nominated them, said, “Their want to provide a service to our community makes them different from many others. Our clients have learned how to sort gently used and new clothing according to size, season, and color. Our clients have learned how to place clothes on hangers and racks, and how to label boxes according to their sizes. Once Upon a Child has been a huge asset to our organization and an enormous help in teaching our clients about the retail world.” The good that Once Upon a Child has done for our clients, families, and the planet makes them more than deserving of this award. 


YMCA AwardemployU presents the Nonprofit of the Year Award to North Central Florida YMCA 

North Central Florida YMCA is a nonprofit organization that specializes in offering health, hope, and opportunity. It can be difficult to find a safe, nurturing environment for children to stay active and learn values, but the Y does just that. Scott, the regional Area Manager, nominated this charitable business for our awards this year. He explained, “[The North Central Florida YMCA] offers meaningful experiences to clients that have no work experience. Office OJTs [on-the-job trainings] are hard to find, and they do a great job at teaching our clients entry-level office skills. They have created programs to make permanent positions for our clients.” The Y is a place where people from all backgrounds and walks of life can come together to learn, explore their interests, connect to each other, and strengthen their community. It is our pleasure to reward all of their hard work and incredible accomplishments with this award.  


Advanced auto partsemployU presents the Community Impact Award to Advance Auto Parts Distribution Center in Lakeland, FL 

Advance Auto Parts Distribution Center has been supporting their customers’ automotive needs for both professional and do-it-yourself installations for over one hundred years. Working with both machines and people provides a one-of-a-kind experience for our clients and allows them to hone both types of occupational skills. They have provided employment experiences for a number of our clients throughout the years and are beyond deserving of this recognition. Advance Auto Parts has exceeded our expectations regarding education, employment, and support for our clients. We are happy and honored to award them for their continued partnership and commitment.  


hotel groupemployU presents the Changemaker Award to Hotel Development and Management Group 

Hotel Development and Management Group is a company that aims to positively impact the world around them by providing brilliance in the basics of hospitality using teamwork, innovation, communication, and knowledge. They have been an incredible partner for employU and provide a unique employment experience for clients of all backgrounds. employU Area Manager, Scott said, “They provide experiences for clients with a wide range of disabilities and carve [out] positions for permanent placements.” We are very proud to recognize Hotel Development and Management Group’s dedication to fostering an inclusive workforce and creating an environment that fuels success for their employees.  


employU presents the Changemaker Award to Ric’s Garden World

Located in Fort Pierce, Ric’s Garden World is a nursery that was established in 1981 and continues to have one of Florida’s largest selection of Florida roses today. Though roses are their specialty, you can also find exotic fruit trees, palms, bougainvilleas, shrubs, flowing bushes, veggies, herbs, and their own fertilizer among the inventory. Though the business itself is impressive, owners Denise and Ric have gone above and beyond to create a welcoming, inclusive work environment for employU clients. “Denise is a humanitarian who cares about people, not just business,” explains employU Employment Specialist, Susan. Susan recounts how Denise and Ric have taken in an employU client under their wing. Providing so much more than a job, but acting as an overall support to foster success. We are grateful to have business partners who truly care for our clients and are honored to give the Changemaker Award to Ric’s Garden World.


Hurricane ITemployU presents the Changemaker Award to Hurricane IT Solutions 

At employU we always strive to offer unique and enriching employment opportunities that allow our clients to gain the skills and experience they need to enter fast-growing industries, such as IT.  Hurricane IT Solutions is a telecommunications company, offering 24/7 IT coverage and management services to computer users, including Cyber Security, remote support, and on-site installations. Owner, Hunter Giambra, truly has a passion for helping others in the community. employU Area Manager, Frank explains “Hurricane IT Solutions has conducted numerous on-the-job trainings (OJTs) with employU over the years and also hired many individuals to join [their] talented team! Hunter is always willing to train associates, accommodate their specific learning needs, and help further build their confidence and skillsets for future employability.” employU is proud and grateful to have their continued partnership in diversifying our clients’ OJT and employment options.  


PossAbilities PlusemployU presents the Community Impact Award to PossAbilities Plus 

PossAbilities Plus is a center for learning, training, working, and socializing in the Atlantic Beach area. Their goal is to build life and occupational skills through their training and programs. They help us to build community for our clients and their families. Heather, the Transition Program Area Manager for Jacksonville who nominated them for this award, said,” At PossAbilities Plus, it is more than a thrift store. They provide training to build skills in self-advocacy and occupational competencies. Clients can also earn certifications food safety, first aid, etc. There are three on-site opportunities: a tearoom called Cup of Dreams, an upscale resale shop called Unique Boutique, and a social program called SociAbilities. They also offer classes such as Music Therapy, Educational Drama Club Enhancing Social Skills, Growing in the Secret Garden, Parent and Family Support and Resource Group, and Bible Club.” We at employU are grateful to work with such an engaging and supportive organization and are beyond excited to award them for all that they do. 


McDaniels AwardsemployU presents the Advocate of the Year Award to McDaniel’s Group 

For over 90 years, McDaniel’s Group (the parent company for Piggly Wiggly, Fresh for Less, and Food for Less) has provided excellent service and high-quality, affordable food options throughout most of the United States. In partnership with employU, these grocery stores have offered OJT (on-the-job training) experiences and hired multiple clients. They have shown their dedication to diversity inclusion time and time again through their continued support of our clients and partnership.  



For more information and to become a business partner with employU visit https://employu.org/business-partners 


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