Amanda Owen, executive director of Puzzle Pieces, the Owensboro-based nonprofit that serves individuals with intellectual disabilities, has been appointed by Gov. Andy Beshear to the Kentucky Employment First Council. This Council includes people with disabilities, family members, employers, government agencies, and other stakeholders, all with the shared intention of improving competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities in the Commonwealth.
“This appointment is a great honor for me,” Owen said. “I have dedicated my life to serving individuals with intellectual disabilities in my own community. I am excited to make a greater impact for the 10,000 individuals with intellectual disabilities across the state.”
Owen is just one of two from provider agencies appointed to the Council.
“Amanda Owen is in the business of making life better for others,” said Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Candance Castlen Brake. “In a short time, she and her dedicated team and board of directors have made a tremendous impact on the quality of life in Owensboro. It is only fitting she begin to lead on a state level. Her entrepreneurial approach and her tenacity will be a great asset to the Employment First Council. Amanda sees obstacles and figures out how to make them opportunities.”
Through Puzzle Pieces, which Owen established in 2012, she launched a division serving clients with supported employment. The division, Employment Opportunities, now employs one director and three employment specialists. This team has placed 20 individuals in the local workforce with another 12 in job development.
“I believe that individuals with disabilities should be included in every facet of their community, including the workforce, if that is their desire,” Owen said. “Our team ensures that clients find meaningful employment, while also contributing to the economic development of our community. Employers who have hired our clients have reported a boost in overall morale of their business and found unforeseen value added in hiring someone with a disability.”
It is the experience from win-win scenarios like this that Owen hopes to bring to the Council. She will meet quarterly with council members and will serve through June 2022.
For more information on the Kentucky Employment First Council, visit employmentfirstky.org.