Wednesday, November 16, 2022 - 11:00pm

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

The agency and State Rehabilitation Council selected True North Equipment of Grand Forks as the 2022 North Dakota State VR Employer of the Year award recipient. The Standing Rock Community School in Fort Yates was recognized with the You Make a Difference Award.

True North Equipment was selected from among 12 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 VR office team member who nominated True North Equipment for this honor said it was because of their willingness to customize a position working with large machinery to meet an individual’s needs, interests and desire to build on-the-job skills and confidence.

“We are humbled and honored to receive this award and grateful to have found one of our employees through the VR program. He has been a great asset to our team,” said John Oncken, True North Equipment co-founder and chief executive officer. “Our mission is to improve our communities. Finding capable and enthusiastic employees fulfills that mission to a higher level.”

VR client Scott Hayden is grateful for the opportunity for employment at True North Equipment. “Every challenge is a step on my road to recovery,” he said.

Other nominees for VR Employer of the Year award that received honorable mention include: Pizza Ranch, Bismarck; Sanford Health, Bismarck; Crosby Kids Daycare, Crosby; Razor Consulting Solutions, Fargo; Don’s House of Flowers, Jamestown; Hugo’s, Jamestown; Newman Signs, Jamestown; Hilltop Home of Comfort, Killdeer; ProTech, Minot; Comdel Innovation CDI Services, Wahpeton; El Rancho, Williston; and Expanse Electrical, Williston.

The statewide You Make a Difference Award honors one business annually for consistently recognizing individuals’ unique abilities, providing work experience opportunities for students with disabilities, and actively supporting, developing and inspiring students to achieve goals in a competitive and integrated employment setting.

The Standing Rock Community School was recognized for providing Native American students with disabilities with work experiences in the school as well as at local businesses, tribal organizations and other community nonprofits.

One notable work opportunity involves several students who work at KLND, a community radio station for the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Nations. They produce a biweekly radio show called the Warrior Radio Show and record segments that are used by the station throughout the week.

Colette Fleck, transition coordinator at the Standing Rock Community School is grateful for the community’s support.

“The program has helped students succeed in adulthood and transition to productive lives. Many students are now either working or enrolled in college or a technical school,” she said.

The awards were presented to True North Equipment and Standing Rock Community School during an awards ceremony at VR’s annual training conference last month in Minot.

“It’s a pleasure to honor these North Dakota businesses for their continued work with our program to help people of all abilities reach their full potential in the workforce,” said Damian Schlinger, VR director.

The agency’s VR 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 VR 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 VR services is available online at or by calling 701-328-8950, toll-free 800-755-2745, 711 (TTY) or emailing