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Goodwill cites Marriott, Bayer, Sweetwater, UPMC for job well done

| Friday, Oct. 26, 2001

Richard Williams is feeling like a star these days. That's a big turnaround for him, because not long ago, he was sleeping under the stars.

Williams, 52, was homeless and suffering from drug addiction until he received an opportunity for a new start from the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center hotel, where he now works as a lobby attendant.

Williams took center stage Thursday night as the Marriott City Center, Bayer Corp., Sweetwater Personnel and UPMC Health System were named winners of the 2001 Power of Work Awards by Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh. The awards honor companies that have made a special effort to help people with barriers find opportunities for meaningful employment.

"Each year, our Power of Work Awards program witnesses an enhanced scope of job opportunities for people with employment barriers," said Robert S. Foltz, president of Goodwill Industries. "We are proud to recognize employers that are dedicated to building an effective and diverse work force."

Williams helped accept the award for the Marriott City Center, capping a week where he also was named "Associate of the Month" and won tickets to see Janet Jackson in concert.

"This has been a great week," he laughed. "I'm starting to get used to this."

"We're really proud of Richard because he's been a great ambassador at this hotel," said Darlene Howley, director of human resources at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center. "He is not ashamed of where he's been in the past."

Howley noted that the hotel also employs a deaf housekeeper, Barbara Scott, and clients of Goodwill Industries in a number of capacities. The hotel also works in partnership with Pittsburgh Vision Services, the Salvation Army and through their own high school program, to introduce nontraditional groups to employment opportunities with Marriott.

The effort to hire workers with disabilities "has been a great success story for us," said Greg Babe, senior vice president at Bayer Corp. "The impetus, for us, is that it makes very good business sense for us.

"We've found those workers to be dedicated, reliable, and they make great contributions to the company," Babe continued. "These are some of our best employees."

Babe said that stepping forward to welcome employees with disabilities does not have to come at exorbitant cost to companies. "Obviously, we have done everything we can to make our work place more accessible," he said. "Some companies may view that as being a cost barrier. But we've found that the cost to equip an accessible work place is typically within a few hundred dollars of what we would spend anyway."

Babe noted that Bayer has specifically looked for workers with experience and skills in information systems. "They work on the help desk, as programmers, and we have one sight-impaired worker on international assignment in Europe. The possibilities are truly limitless."

Bayer also helped found the Pittsburgh Disability Employment Project for Freedom, which developed an information technology training program specifically for people with disabilities. To date, that program has graduated 79 students, with a 65 percent retained employment rate.

Sweetwater Personnel was recognized for its hiring of people with special needs, especially those with economic disadvantages, including coming off of welfare, ex-offenders, dislocated, under-employed, or those with disability.

UPMC Health System was recognized for its efforts to place nontraditional populations such as displaced workers, persons coming off of welfare, and those who have limited education and work experience into the health care field through on-the-job training, mock interviews and community- and school-based job fairs.

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