Monday, October 30, 2023 - 12:45 pm

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

North Dakota Health and Human Services (HHS) Vocational Rehabilitation division has recognized two businesses for supporting an inclusive workforce by hiring, training and inspiring people with disabilities to excel in the workplace.

The agency and State Rehabilitation Council selected Hugo’s Family Marketplace of Grand Forks as the 2023 North Dakota State VR Employer of the Year. Minot Automotive Center was recognized with the You Make a Difference Award.

Hugo’s Family Marketplace was selected from among 10 nominees and was recognized for efforts to support and inspire individuals with disabilities to achieve employment goals and reach their full potential in their community.

The Grand Forks Vocational Rehabilitation office team member who nominated Hugo’s Family Marketplace for this honor said it was because of their long-term commitment to help students with disabilities build job skills and gain valuable work experience in a welcoming and supportive environment.

“We are honored to receive this recognition. We believe all our associates have unique abilities that make them a valuable member of our team,” said Hugo’s Family Marketplace President and Chief Executive Officer Kristi Magnuson-Nelson. “Being able to provide job training and careers to individuals with disabilities is something that has been integral to our mission for many years.”

Other nominees for VR Employer of the Year award that received honorable mention include:

Dakota Center for Independent Living, Bismarck; Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Tribal Headquarters, Belcourt; MaryAnn’s Place, Devils Lake; Griffon Theaters, Dickinson; Community Living Services, Fargo; Hugo’s Family Marketplace, Jamestown; Kennbecks Jack and Jill, New Town; Cash Wise Foods, Tioga and Amy’s Angels Childcare, Williston.

The statewide You Make a Difference Award honors one business for providing work experience opportunities for students with disabilities that support, develop and inspire them to achieve their goals in a competitive and integrated employment setting.

Minot Automotive Company was recognized for providing students with disabilities work or job shadowing opportunities in the field of automotive technology. They also work with local high schools to provide learning opportunities for students.

Jake Adams, service manager at Minot Automotive Company is grateful for the opportunity to work with students to help them discover their strengths and interests.

“Every single one of us has talent,” Adams said. “Our job as employers and people in the community is to recognize that talent and help people grow their skills to support a strong workforce.”

Other nominees for the Make a Difference Award include Two Rivers Activity Center, Jamestown and Alexander Public Schools, Alexander.

The awards were announced during a ceremony at Vocational Rehabilitation’s annual training conference earlier this month.

“These businesses are model employers who understand what it means to meet the expectations of their customers and foster a positive and inclusive workforce,” said Damian Schlinger, Vocational Rehabilitation director.

The agency’s Vocational Rehabilitation team helps people with disabilities find and retain meaningful work or advance their careers. They also work with employers to help connect them with qualified applicants, retain trained workers whose abilities may have changed and find solutions to disability-related issues.

Rehabilitation counseling and consultation are available at no cost to qualifying individuals, businesses, nonprofits and government agencies.

To receive Vocational Rehabilitation services, North Dakotans must have a disability that is an obstacle to employment, and they must want to work and be available to work.

Information about Vocational Rehabilitation services is available online at or by calling (701) 328-8950, toll-free (800) 755-2745, 711 (TTY) or emailing