Ben Bonanno Disability Advocate Award Presented to Stephanie Ravak, Goodwill Columbus Workforce Development Career Consultant

October 21, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) Commission in 2000 established the Ben Bonanno Disability Advocate Award to honor outstanding advocacy accomplishments by non-OOD employees. 

Goodwill Columbus is pleased to announce that this year’s award winner is Stephanie Ravak, a Team Leader in Goodwill’s office of Workforce Development.

Stephanie was nominated for the award by the Ohio Association of Goodwills Industries (OAGI). "Stephanie is a great representative of the work at Goodwill Columbus and all Goodwills across the state," said OAGI Executive Director Emily Turner. "Her incredible dedication to her clients has benefitted the lives of many, many people, and we are thrilled to see her work manifest when those she has assisted move into meaningful and fulfilling job opportunities." 

The Ben Bonanno Disability Advocate Award recognizes a person whose advocacy efforts have significantly improved the employment possibilities of Ohioans with disabilities in a manner that is consistent with OOD's mission.

"Stephanie is a dynamic and passionate contributor committed to helping young people build independence through the power of work," said Goodwill Columbus Director of Workforce Development Jennifer Marshall.

About OOD

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities is the State of Ohio agency that partners with Ohioans with disabilities to achieve quality employment and independence. They are also charged with making determinations on Social Security disability.

OOD works with partners in business, education and non-profit organizations to facilitate customized employment plans for Ohioans with disabilities; help Ohio companies recruit and retain employees with disabilities; and is the sole agency administering the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) & Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs in Ohio.

More about the award: http://www.ood.ohio.gov/About-Us/OOD-Commissioners/Commissioners-Awards

About Goodwill

Since 1939, the agency has dedicated itself to transforming the lives of individuals with disabilities and other barriers through pathways to independence and the power of work. The agency is the sixth largest nonprofit in central Ohio and is among the top 100 largest employers in central Ohio. Last year, Goodwill Columbus provided nearly 1.4 million hours of service to more than 3,000 individuals with disabilities and other barriers through day habilitation programs, community-based supported living services, employment training and job placement services. For more information, please visit our website at www.goodwillcolumbus.org.  

Read more from OOD

2015 Commissioner Awards

The Commission meeting on Wednesday also featured the presentation of the 2015 Commissioner Awards.

Stephanie Ravak, of Goodwill Columbus, is this year’s recipient of the Ben Bonanno Award for her work teaching, mentoring and coaching students with intellectual disabilities in Southwest City Schools. The Ben Bonanno Disability Advocate Award recognizes a person whose advocacy efforts have significantly improved the employment possibilities of Ohioans with disabilities in a manner that is consistent with OOD’s mission.

Stephanie created on-the-job and classroom experiences as well as lessons that provide students the skills and experience they need to work in the community. She developed a partnership with Giant Eagle to allow students to work in the store, learn a variety of jobs, and gain valuable insight into what it takes to work in a demanding customer service setting. Stephanie was a consistent and patient voice for her students and helped Giant Eagle staff better understand and be more open to working with individuals with disabilities.

 Jenny Ferguson, Director of Community Employment and Adult Services for the Hancock County Board of Developmental Disabilities, received the Denise Joanne Weisenborn Service Award.  This award honors non-employees of OOD who provide outstanding services to Ohioans with disabilities in order to make their participation in society more meaningful.

Jenny’s philosophy of exceptional customer service for each individual shines through in her work. Since starting her role, community employment for those with developmental disabilities in Hancock County has increased from 23 part-time employees to more than 100 individuals employed. This past year the average hourly wage has also increased from a little more than $9 per hour to $10.55 per hour.  Her partnership with the Lowe’s Distribution Center in Findlay has also resulted in 11 individuals being employed.

The Denise Joanne Weisenborn Service Award was established in memory of Denise Weisenborn, who served as Commissioner from 1997 to 2006. Kelli Grisham. Assistant Superintendent of Hancock County DD, accepted the award on Jenny's behalf.

Congratulations to Stephanie and Jenny for everything they do to serve individuals with disabilities in Ohio.They are making a real difference in people’s lives.