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Greensburg man receives UniqueSource Achievement Award

Debra Erdley
| Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

He may speak softly in halting sentences and sometimes struggles to find the right words, but Michael Kissell's voice carries.

His big sister, Lori Monroe, smiles as her brother talks about his work in Westmoreland County Blind Association's document destruction workshop in South Greensburg.

“I like it here. I like my friends and I like my bosses,” Kissell says, explaining how he sorts and stacks documents for the shredder.

Over the last year, the pleasant 39-year-old Greensburg man, who has been a fixture at the workshop for more than a decade, has become an ambassador for the region's handicapped workers.

When changes in state and federal regulations threatened the future of the workshop, Kissell put on his traveling shoes and hit the road. He and Monroe accompanied local officials to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., where Kissell met with lawmakers to plead the case for the facility, where he and dozens of other handicapped workers ensure that legal documents and other correspondence are destroyed before they fall into the wrong hands.

“He became a political activist,” Monroe said smiling as she recounted how her brother met with members of Congress and the General Assembly.

Tim Miller, executive director of the Westmoreland Blind Association, said workers like Kissell were integral to the “My Work, My Choice” campaign to educate lawmakers about the value of facilities like the document shredding center and the workers who choose to work there. “Michael is an excellent worker. He's here five days a week and rarely misses a day,” Miller said.

This summer, Kissell put on his traveling shoes again, this time for a trip to Hershey, where he was one of 26 Pennsylvanians honored with the annual UniqueSource Achievement Award. “We had a nice dinner with very good chicken with a light sauce and mashed potatoes and sauce and wine. And I got a plaque and a check,” Kissell said, recounting that evening.

Vince Loose, president and CEO of UniqueSource Products & Services said his company likes to recognize workers like Kissell, who might otherwise go unnoticed in the community. Highlighting their accomplishments is important.

“Not because their story is about their disability but rather because of their personal mission, commitment and professionalism to not allow their disability to be their story,” Loose said.

Monroe couldn't agree more with that statement.

“Michael's come a long way,” she said, recounting how some doctors warned her parents their youngest child would never walk or talk.

But the family's pediatrician, the late Dr. Pascal Spino, had other plans and assured the Kissells they could put those predictions to rest.

“Dr. Spino told my parents, ‘You've got four other kids. You treat him like the rest of them, and we'll get him the special help he needs,' ” Monroe said.

Monroe said her parents, the late Raymond and Hallie Kissell, took Spino's advice and never looked back.

Today, she beams with pride as she talks of her brother.“He's been an inspiration for me,” the Mt. Pleasant woman said, explaining that her life with Kissell was the impetus for her to seek a career working with special needs children.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib

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