Article 2 of 4 in the Lifeworks National Disability Employment Awareness Month Series
As co-workers both current and past gather around to enjoy cake and pizza amidst a sea of birthday gifts, it’s easy to see that Lifeworks Associate Carolyn Waataja has made quite an impression in her 19 years at Xcel Energy.
“Everybody loves Carolyn,” said Materials Coordinator Roxanne Johnson. “She’s pretty spoiled around here.”
While that may be true, Waataja also does some important work at their Maple Grove office.
“I help do the mail and I help with timesheets and other stuff,” Waataja said.
In order for Waataja to effectively complete her duties, which include sorting incoming mail and making sure it gets into the corresponding mailbox, Xcel made a small accommodation for her: lowering the mailboxes so that she can easily reach them.
“I’m short,” Waataja quipped with a smile.
With support from her co-workers and Lifeworks job coaches over the years, Waataja has built a successful career worth celebrating.
“She really knows her position and what she needs to do,” said Trina James, Waataja’s former job coach.
But her career isn’t the only thing that keeps her going. In addition to her job at Xcel Energy, Waataja volunteers regularly at Feed My Starving Children with other individuals served by Lifeworks.
Waataja also enjoys attending classes in the technology lab at Lifeworks Brooklyn Park, where she gets to use an iPad and socialize with her peers.
Because her co-workers at Xcel know how much she enjoys using the iPads at Lifeworks, they purchased one for her as a birthday present!
Whether it’s her job at Xcel Energy, the time she spends volunteering, or learning with her iPad, Waataja makes the most of it and does it with a smile.
Xcel Energy is one of nearly 300 Lifeworks employer partners in the Twin Cities and greater Mankato area. Interested in working with us to hire individuals with disabilities at your workplace? Visit our Employer Partnerships page for more information.