Lifeworks hosted a reception at the Bell Museum on Dec. 7 to celebrate a successful 2023 and the partners that made it possible.
The Richfield based nonprofit helps people with disabilities find paid work and help them with finding volunteering opportunities and field trips. It works with an average of over 3,000 people with disabilities annually.
The Thursday reception provided the opportunity for Lifeworks’ CEO Ms. Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa to update partners on the nonprofit’s wins this year and to thank them for their partnership. Some of the key partners present that she thanked was Allianz, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota and Marsden, among others. These are some of the companies that offer paid work to those with disabilities that Lifeworks refers.
“These employer partners have embraced the notion that workplaces that fully include people with disabilities see two times more profit and higher productivity than their competitors,” said Matemba-Mutasa during formal remarks. “If you are here from a business that is not hiring people with disabilities, yet, we would love to talk to you and figure out how we can get that done,” she added.
According to Minnesota Compass, 11.6% of Minnesotans live with one or more disabilities, with almost 330,000 of them in the Twin Cities metro area.
Ms. Matemba-Mutasa is the only African-born person leading one of the Twin Cities’ 25 largest metro-area civic and cultural nonprofits, and one of only two Black people, the other being Mr. Rico Alexander of Parents in Community Action (PICA). For 2023, Twin Cities Business Journal ranked Lifeworks, which was founded in 1974, ninth largest in the Twin Cities with 2022 revenues of just over $90 million while PICA was number 25 with revenues of just over $39 million in 2022.
The CEO spoke with Mshale after her formal remarks and said one of the most existing things she is looking forward to that her organization is embarking on in 2024, is disability inclusion training for companies and organizations looking to integrate disability hiring as part of their hiring and human resource strategy. She said there is already a waiting list for the training.
“We can provide services all day long (for the disabled) but without disability inclusion training we are not going to really meet their needs,” she said.
Mr. Mamady Konneh, executive director of We Network Now which connects African professionals, said he was fully in support of Lifeworks’ mission and work in the community understood the value of what it brings to the community and not just to the disabled community. He however said he wished it was not such a taboo topic in many African communities to discuss those with disabilities.
“In the African community, disability is a taboo subject and some even hide it, and for me its services like the ones provided by Lifeworks that we can let the community know will help their loved ones live up to their full potential,” Mr. Konneh said.
Ms. Dawn Selle, vice president for community partnerships at the Sanneh Foundation, was one of Lifeworks’ partners that was attending the event. She said Lifeworks’ mission and activities in the community complement those of nonprofits like hers that also work to ensure individual reach their full potential.
“We are here to support them (Lifeworks), bring them up and to show that nonprofits don’t have to compete against each other and we do work together, especially for our people,” Ms. Selle said.
Tom Gitaa contributed to this story.