EVANSTON — The annual Disability:IN awards celebration was decidedly different this year due to COVID restrictions, with a festive parade taking the place of the usual awards luncheon. Although the festivities looked different, the purpose was the same — to honor and recognize people impacting the lives of those with disabilities in Uinta County.
Award winners this year included employer of the year Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply; employee of the year Parker Merritt, working at Mountain West Business Solutions; and mentor of the year the City of Evanston Engineering and Planning Department.
Marny Huffaker with Murdoch’s said it “melted my heart” to learn the business had been named employer of the year. Huffaker said they currently have three “wonderful” employees through Disability:IN’s programs. “They make us all better,” she said. “They outwork me every single day.”
Dean Barker, City of Evanston Director of Engineering and Planning, said their department has been mentoring two individuals — Rielly Bienhoff and CJ Westenskow — this year. Barker said they haven’t been in a position to take someone on as an employee, but they’ve really enjoyed mentoring and sharing their knowledge with their mentees.
“We’ve really enjoyed it,” said Barker. “We’ve looked at manholes and water systems and engineering and things that some people don’t think are interesting, but we love talking about it and we’ve loved interacting with them.” Bienhoff has been a mentee of the engineering department for several years, said Barker, and loves to discuss all things related to engineering. As for being named mentor of the year, Barker said the recognition was unexpected but “great.”
Employee of the year Merritt has been working at Mountain West Business Solutions for several years. Company president Randy Barker said Merritt is an “important part of our office culture.” Merritt’s nomination letter said, “Taking on new projects can be intimidating but he always embraces the challenge and through hard work prevails. One of the greatest attributes he brings to our business is his attitude and friendship. He is a contagious personality and a bright light in our office. …We love Parker and our business is better because of him.”