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Spirit of ADA awards, Rutland

Christine Larson’s story is all about overcoming adversity.
She didn’t let her disabilities — including attention deficit disorder and kyphoscoliosis, a spinal deformation — stop her from obtaining a degree in education from Castleton University.
And after college, Larson didn’t let her disabilities hold her back from getting a job she described as a perfect match.
For about the past four years, she has worked at Vermonsters Childcare and Learning Center in Rutland, doing everything from childcare support to kitchen help.
“I love it,” Larson said Tuesday after an award ceremony for her boss, Susan Kuc. “I wouldn’t trade it.”
Kuc, owner of Vermonsters Childcare and Learning Center, has four disabled employees, she said.
Kuc’s support of the disabled workforce earned her a nod from the governor’s disabled-employee committee.
Neal Meier, executive coordinator for the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, was at the ceremony to hand Kuc the 2015 Spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act placard.
“This is awarded to businesses and individuals who support people with disabilities as an overall employment practice,” Meier said Tuesday.
The group works with Creative Workforce Solutions, an employment-placement firm specializing in disabled clients find jobs.
Gloria Vitale, consultant with Creative Workforce Solutions, helps the disabled find jobs from the ground level.
After years of watching Kuc employ the disabled, Vitale nominated her for the award.
“She’s been very dedicated to us for over 14 years,” Vitale said of Kuc on Tuesday.
Kuc’s list of achievements include “progressive employment” opportunities for disabled individuals such as mock job interviews, job shadowing, work experiences and competitive employment, Vitale said.
Across Vermont, Creative Workforce Solutions operates 12 districts. For each district, one winning nomination for the Spirit of the ADA award is selected.
Rutland’s district comprised four total nominations.
“Every nomination is deserving, and we just talk through a lot of various nominations that come in,” said Christopher Loso, chairman of the governor’s committee.
Loso said his own janitorial business employees 85 people, 11 of whom have disabilities.
“I work through Creative Workforce Solutions to find me someone who is a good candidate,” he said. “That support is important for the businesses to get the resources they need and the people that are going to get the most out of it.”
Sam Liss, committee member and vice president for the Vermont Center for Independent Living, said Tuesday that the state’s economic development act recently underwent alterations to help disabled workers.
The changes included the removal of a $2,000 savings account cap placed on disabled employees with Medicaid, Liss said.
“This allows people with disabilities to accrue assets while maintaining their Medicaid eligibility,” he said.
Larson, now happily at work at Vermonsters, said she refused to let disabilities ruin her chances of a better future. With assistance from Creative Workforce Solutions and Kuc, Larson said she was able to fulfill that dream.
“If people want to find help, it’s something they’ve got to do,” she said. “You can’t force people to do something they don’t want to.”

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