SHARE the Love: Shares Showcase celebrates local workforce

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Shares, Inc. plant manager Carol Lee poses along with Employee of the Year recipient Chuck Ward during Shares, Inc. Showcase open house. Friday, March 15, 2024.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — When his name was announced among the award recipients at the Shares Showcase in Greenfield on Friday morning, a 30-year employee named David was all smiles as he headed to the podium and proudly hoisted his framed award over his head.

The celebration continued as he returned to his seat and gave a thumbs-up to a friend somewhere in the crowd and then high-fived a woman passing by.

Such was the level of enthusiasm among those being celebrated at the annual open house for Shares, Inc., a not-for-profit that employs people with disabilities from throughout Central Indiana.

Friday’s open house at the Shares plant in Greenfield was the third consecutive open house for the regional Shares program, which held celebrations at its plants in Shelbyville and Rushville earlier this month in recognition of Disability Awareness Month.

The theme for this year’s showcase was Time to Change, which focused on changing the narrative on developmental disabilities in America.

“Today I stand before you to reflect on a transformational journey and evolution that has significantly shaped the landscape of how we as a society treat the people with disabilities in the United States. It’s a story of progress, resiliency and a collective commitment to foster inclusivity and equal opportunities for us all,” said Allison Isley, Chief Compliance Officer for Shares, Inc.

As she addressed the crowd, Isley reflected on how far the country has come in honoring and respecting people with disabilities, especially since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

“Not too long ago the narrative surrounding disabilities was one of exclusivity and segregation,” she said. “Today we celebrate the progress made. We witness the success stories of individuals with disabilities thriving as competitive integrated employees, breaking barriers and proving that given the right opportunity, they can excel in diverse fields.”

A number Shares participants were presented awards throughout Friday’s two-hour showcase, including those for attendance, longevity and Employee of the Year, which went to Chuck Ward.

Commercial Food Services of Indianapolis was named Customer of the Year, for its work with Shares, Inc. participants over the past seven months.

Marketing director Brett Bowman said working with Shares has been a great experience for the company, which pays participants to fill baggies with food which is distributed in nearby schools.

Jordan Turner, a social worker at the Shares plant in Greenfield, said about 80 employees in their 20s all the way to their 80s work at the plant any given week, with individuals working from a few hours to a full 40 hours each week.

Workers concentrate on a variety of tasks, from packing foam in shipping boxes to attaching O-rings to pipes.

Turner said the annual Shares Showcase is a great way to recognize participants for the hard work they do all year long.

Addressing the participants, staff, friends and families gathered Friday, Isley recognized the collective effort it takes to make programs like Shares, Inc. the success it is today.

After years of fostering a collective mindset that those with disabilities can’t contribute to society, “the realization dawned that individuals with disabilities can thrive in mainstream employee settings, contributing their skills and expertise in various industries. This shift has not happened overnight. It was propelled by the advocacy of countless individuals, families and organizations championing the rights of those with disabilities,” she said.

Isley said the Americans with Disabilities Act greatly contributed “to the recognition that every one, regardless of ability, deserves the chance to lead a self-determined life, one that includes meaningful employment and active participation in the community.”

And to that, David and his fellow Shares team members gave a resounding round of applause, and a few spirited hugs and high fives.

The following individuals and organizations were recognized at the March 15 showcase:

Chuck Ward — Pre-Vocational Employee of the Year

Commercial Food Services — Customer of the Year

Marissa Slater — Reach for the Stars award

John Rollins — Community Employment Participant of the Year

Boys and Girls Clubs of Hancock County — Community Employment Program Development Award

Blake Riley — 25 years service

David Barnes — 30 years service

Mike Tracy — 40 years service

Sharon Powell — Living Skills Participant of the Year

Danielle Patrick — Day Program Participant of the Year