Disability:IN Wisconsin Celebrates 2023 Annual Inclusion Award Winners

For Immediate Release
December 15, 2023

MILWAUKEE – Disability:IN Wisconsin, the state’s business association dedicated to advancing,
improving, and expanding employment outcomes for people with disabilities, announced the
winners of the organization’s annual awards on Friday including the Derek Smith Leadership Award,
the Top Disability-Friendly Employer in Wisconsin(TM) Award, and the Disability:IN Wisconsin
Excellence Award.


Disability:IN Wisconsin is the state affiliate of Disability:IN, a global, non-profit, non-partisan
business-to-business network empowering businesses to achieve disability equity and inclusion.
Each year the organization recognizes individuals and employers who have made significant
commitments to advancing disability inclusion in the workplace and communities across the state.
“Recognizing the remarkable efforts of individuals and employers in advancing disability inclusion,
these awards are a testament to the commitment and innovation in creating inclusive work
environments,” said Disability:IN Wisconsin Executive Director Judy Quigley. “These awards not
only recognize the achievement of these individuals and organizations but also encourage others to
follow in creating a more inclusive society. Disability:IN Wisconsin remains dedicated to its mission
of fostering inclusive workplaces, and these awards reflect the progress being made towards this
goal.”


Levi Stein, Executive Director of The Friendship Circle of Wisconsin in Fox Point, was awarded the
Derek Smith Leadership Award. Since 2016 Stein has served as Executive Director of The Friendship
Circle of Wisconsin, which creates friendship in the lives of individuals with special needs and those
facing isolation while providing an opportunity to become a contributing member of the community.
Stein oversees the organization’s Employment Training Program, providing vocational training in
flexible, productive environments, and acts as an opportunity for adults with disabilities to continue
their education, as well as the organization’s adult programming division. In 2019 Stein
supplemented Friendship Circle services with the addition of Friendship Cafe & Bakery in Fox Point.
Stein is a licensed SafeTALK Suicide Prevention trainer and serves on the board of directors for the
Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) – Milwaukee County, The National Alliance on Mental
Illness – Wisconsin, and the Office of Children’s Mental Health.


Victor Agapov, Principal of Wallo Brands, was awarded the Disability:IN Wisconsin Excellence
Award. Wallo Brands is a founding member business of Disability:IN Wisconsin, and is a certified
Disability Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE). Agapov’s service as an inaugural member of the
organization’s Board of Directors and countless volunteer hours has been integral to the growth and
development of Disability:IN Wisconsin.


Festival Foods was recognized as the inaugural Top Disability-Friendly Employer in Wisconsin(TM)
Award. Headquartered in De Pere, Festival Foods has grown to 40 stores throughout Wisconsin and
more than 8,000 associates. Festival Foods has established a culture that fosters equal and accessible
opportunities for everyone including those with diverse abilities and skill sets in each of the
communities where they have a presence.


This past year, leaders teamed with Project SEARCH to conduct mock interviews and a Transitionto-
Work Program, as well as introducing “Mental Health Awareness Week”. The company works
closely with community partners to provide valuable work experience for those individuals with
barriers to employment who are interested in careers in the grocery business.


Nominations for the 2024 Disability:IN Wisconsin annual awards will open in early 2024, and
winners will be announced at the 6th Annual Disability:IN Wisconsin Summit on October 3, 2024, at
ManpowerGroup world headquarters in Milwaukee WI.


About Disability:IN Wisconsin
Disability:IN Wisconsin is the state affiliate of Disability:IN, the leading nonprofit resource for
business disability inclusion worldwide. Disability:IN Wisconsin promotes disability inclusion in the
workplace, marketplace, and supply chain by working with member businesses to advance, improve,
and expand employment outcomes for people with disabilities in Wisconsin.

Derek Smith Leadership Award
for Disability Inclusion
Levi Stein,
Friendship Circle of Wisconsin

Top Disability-Friendly
Employer in Wisconsin™ Award
Melissa Van Gheem,
Festival Foods

Excellence Award
Victor Agapov (right),
Wallo Brands

Media Contact:
Saul Newton, Executive Director
saulnewton@disabilityinwisconsin.org
(414) 207-6106