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Alyson Wingert First-Ever Recipient Of Restoring Lives Award

When Alyson Wingert started the MAP (Manufacturing and Production) program two years ago, she was looking for community partners.

Alyson Wingert

One of those she found was the Bert Nash Center.

“In my mind, I thought we can make this work,” Alyson said. “I thought we could be really good partners because of the clients they serve and what we were looking for. That’s how it started.”

Alyson is the workforce expansion project manager for the MAP career training program at Cottonwood Industries a division of Cottonwood Inc. Cottonwood provides supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; however, this new program now allows people with mental health and medical disabilities to be hired directly following AbilityOne guidelines.

The partnership between the Bert Nash Center and Cottonwood has benefitted both organizations and the people they serve.

For her visionary efforts in developing and implementing the MAP program, Alyson will be the first-ever recipient of the Bert Nash Center’s Restoring Lives Award. The Restoring Lives Award was created to recognize the collaboration with employers who go above and beyond to provide meaningful employment opportunities for those on the road to recovery.

The Restoring Lives award is presented to an employer who strives to foster a sense of belonging, build self-esteem, and improves the quality of life for those members of community the Bert Nash Center serves.

The award will be presented today at the annual Pioneer Celebration. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. at Arterra Event Gallery.

MAP is a career training program that hires people with mental health or medical barriers to employment. Starting a new program is a big undertaking, especially during a pandemic. But the program has been a big success and continues to expand.

“Ninety-five percent of the people we hire for the program have mental illness,” Alyson said. “We’ve hired around 20 people for the program so far: most of them Bert Nash clients. Some people have moved on to full-time employment, which is the goal. So, this is kind of a stepping stone for some and much more permanent for others who want to take advantage of our upward mobility program.”

Alyson, who has been at Cottonwood for 22 years, was surprised when she was told she was chosen to receive the Restoring Lives Award.

“I was on a Zoom call with Sara (Godinez, Bert Nash Center Community Support Services program manager) and her team to talk about how things were going with the MAP program — and what a great team she’s got — and that’s when they sprung it on me,” Alyson said. “I was shocked. I thought, I’m getting an award for something I love to do. But I’m very honored.”

Alyson also thanked the Cottonwood staff for their support.

“Behind every person, there’s a team,” Alyson said. “And I have a great team, I’ll tell you.”


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