Member Spotlight: Morningside – The Transforming Power of Work

How many times have you been asked at a party, “So what do you do?” Work is a central connector to your community. For individuals with disabilities, having this connection can be especially meaningful to their lives.

This month’s member spotlight is special. Beyond offering insights into nonprofit success, member organization Morningside also offers a challenge to nonprofits: “Be open to hiring a person with a disability.” Employers report that their employees with disabilities are dedicated, hardworking, and always enthusiastic to be at work. Plus, their presence creates a more positive work culture for everyone. What’s not to love?

Port Angeles Safeway

Since 1963, Morningside has been proving that when “everybody works, everybody wins.” Founded in 1963 by a group of parents as an alternative to an institution, the organization has evolved greatly over the years. After listening to the individuals they served, they shifted from a “sheltered workshop” model, where people with disabilities worked separately from others, to a system that placed individuals at positions in the community. In 2004, Morningside was one of the first organizations in the nation to close their sheltered workshop and became leaders in the connection to community movement.

Employer Michael LaGrange holding the Governor’s award with Governor Inslee.

Morningside offers a spectrum of programming aimed at including people with disabilities in the community around them. Programs include: employment planning and preparation, job development, school to work programs, and follow-on support and job coaching to those who need it once they’re employed. Importantly, they also advocate for their mission by dispelling myths about hiring people with disabilities and providing tools to those they serve so their voices can be heard. They participate in legislative work as well. Current issues include pushing to end subminimum wage and advocating for accessible transportation, an essential factor in breaking down barriers to employment for individuals with disabilities.

Jonathan Pleger, CEO, shares some insights from Morningside:

  • Use your network. Share best practices, talk about issues, and combine forces to make progress on legislative work. Morningside is a member of the Community Employment Alliance, a statewide advocacy organization made up of employment providers who help people with disabilities find and retain employment at or above minimum wage. Other Washington Nonprofits members in CEA include Cascade Connections, Holly Ridge Center, Work Opportunities, Sherwood Community Services, and Washington Vocational Services.
  • Focus on making your organization a great place to work. Pleger shares that their staff is their “biggest expense and biggest resource for achieving our mission.” They invest in their staff; their work requires a lot of training and certifications, so they can’t rely heavily on volunteers.
  • Like fundraising, employment services depend on building connections in the community and then continually working to sustain and steward them. Finding the right job match is “all about relationships.” As an organization, Morningside is spread throughout their service area (spanning six counties), and they are embedded in those communities as a way to support those connections.
  • When interacting with individuals with disabilities, focus on abilities. Maximizing strengths creates a more positive environment for everyone and enriches the larger community. This is a good reminder to any relationship!
  • “Everybody works, everybody wins.” Including an individual with a disability on your team not only benefits them by opening up access to work and connection to their community, but also the employer. Learn more about partnering with Morningside on their website and by watching the video below!
Morningside 2017 Outstanding Employer – Tacoma Metro Market

Morningside’s mission is to advance the employment and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities. Their service area includes Thurston, Mason, Lewis, Grays Harbor, Pierce, & Clallam counties. They served 1063 clients and placed 214 individuals into jobs in 2018. Morningside envisions a future in which people with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as all other citizens. They have been a Washington Nonprofits member since 2019.


In our monthly Member Spotlight, Washington Nonprofits features members who are doing something worth sharing. It can be a best practice, implementation of a new idea, or something that may help others to tackle a challenge. Do you have a story that you would like to share? Contact us! We would love to hear from you.
About Julia Hunter 41 Articles
Julia Hunter is the Membership Manager at Washington Nonprofits.