DATE:  Nov. 9,  2001     NO: 01-87

CONTACT:  Velja Elstad PHONE: (907) 465-6932


Department of Labor and Workforce Development


News Release



Employers, Organizations and Individuals Recognized


On October 25, 2001, the Governor's Committee on Employment and Rehabilitation of People with Disabilities held its annual awards ceremony in Anchorage to honor individuals, organizations and businesses who have made a significant contribution to the employment of people with disabilities. This year’s ceremony was dedicated to the memory of Carolyn Peter, a former Committee Member and Director of the Alaska Center for the Blind, who passed away in September. This year's awards went to the following people and organizations: 

Th  Carolyn Peter Volunteerism Award. This award honors an individual for their extraordinary commitment and compassion in helping people with disabilities. Cindi Martin of Anchorage, who recently passed away, was the first recipient of this new award. Ms. Martin, a certified Braille transcriber and American Sign Language interpreter will be remembered as an outstanding contributor to the blind and deaf community.

Alaskan of the year award. Given to an individual with a disability, whose achievements inspire others, the 2001 winner is Sabine Becker of Wasilla.  Ms. Becker has a Master’s degree in social work, is an accomplished Alaskan artist and entrepreneur. In her business called "Special Feet," she creates a line of "Spirit Dolls" using her feet. She is a living example of not letting a personal disability get in the way of pursuing one's dream.

Governor’s Award. Recognizing the public, private or civic organization that has done the most to promote awareness of the abilities of people with disabilities, this year's award is presented to Outdoor Recreation and Community Access (ORCA), a program of Southeast Alaska Independent Living Center in Juneau. The program provides lifelong recreational opportunities and expanded horizons to individuals with disabilities.

Chairman’s Award. This award recognizes an individual or agency that has made exceptional efforts to increase the employment of people with disabilities. Tom Rentz, the manager of federal laundry facilities at Fort Richardson, is a pivotal figure in the employment of people with disabilities, and actively promotes the Disability Awareness Program on Post. 

The award also recognizes an individual who has made an exceptional effort to increase the awareness of the contributions people with disabilities make in society. This past July, Keegan Reilly, a college student from Kasilof, reached the summit of Colorado's 14,400-foot Mt. Elbert using a “climbing" wheelchair of his own design that enabled him to accomplish this incredible feat in spite of paralysis from the waist down. Colorado television stations featured him after his accomplishment.

Removal of Attitudinal Barriers Award. Recognizing the agency, company or individual that has made a significant contribution to reducing or eliminating attitudinal barriers facing people with disabilities, this award went to Beth LaCrosse of Ketchikan for her many years of advocacy on behalf of people who experience mental illness. She works tirelessly to dispel myths about mental illness.

Barrier Free Award. For the building, architect or owner whose facility design and construction demonstrates exceptional provisions for access and use by people with disabilities, this award went to Dan McDowell of Wasilla for building a unique “wheelchair accessible” riverboat that he uses in his tourist business on the Kenai River. He did this just because it made sense to him that people in wheelchairs should be able to enjoy river activities.

Hewitt Memorial Award. This award recognizes a rehabilitation specialist, whose work has been of extraordinary benefit to people with disabilities. This year’s honoree is Dave Quisenberry of Juneau, Chief of rehabilitation services for the Alaska division of vocational rehabilitation and a 27-year employee of the agency.

Large Employer of the Year Award. To recognize a business with more than 200 employees that has made an exceptional effort to employ people with disabilities, this year’s winner is REACH, Inc. of Juneau. REACH is one of the largest employers of individuals with disabilities in all of S.E. Alaska.

Small Employer of the Year. For a business with less than 200 employees that has made an exceptional effort to employ people with disabilities, this year’s winner is Dave and Maggie’s Café in Anchorage. Dave and Maggie Lefever, the owners promote the hiring of people with disabilities and those who are underemployed to other small employers around Anchorage.