For Warren Walker, the 2022 Peter J. Salmon Employee of the Year Award winner from Bestwork Industries for the Blind in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, being nominated by his co-workers as the agency’s employee of the year was particularly meaningful. Being selected by NIB as the national winner of the Salmon award is something he never anticipated.
The award, which honors employees who excel in their positions at NIB associated agencies, is named for the late Dr. Peter J. Salmon, who was instrumental in the passage of the Wagner O-Day Act and the formation of NIB.
Known among his coworkers as the “voice of the people,” Walker always knew that helping others was his life’s calling. After graduating from high school, he studied and earned his state certification as a nursing assistant (CNA).
For the next 20 years, Walker built a career working in local hospitals and assisted-care facilities in the Cherry Hill area. His life changed, however, in 2001, when his retinas detached and he suddenly lost his eyesight.
The evening it happened, recalls Walker, was like any other. He went to bed able to see, but when he woke up, he knew something was wrong. Walker drove to work that day, although he’s still not sure how he did it. Once there, he admitted to coworkers during a morning meeting that he could only see shapes and shadows.
Walker grieved the loss of his eyesight, but soon tapped into his inner resiliency. As a husband and father, he was determined to continue providing for his family and began working with rehabilitation specialists to learn the skills he would need to re-enter the workforce.
In 2002, Walker was hired as a sewing machine operator at Bestwork Industries. With his finger dexterity limited due to diabetes, he transitioned to a packaging role. Throughout the years, he has worked on various packaging lines, including packing clothing for the Navy. He takes great pride in his work, especially the ability to help support the military.
Walker serves on the agency’s Employee Relations and Safety committees, and since 2018, has been chair of the Quality Work Environment (QWE) committee, an initiative of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®.
“Warren has been a key player on the QWE committee,” says Human Resource Manager Linda Parker. “He is so outgoing and respected, he can ask questions of even the most reserved employees, people who wouldn’t normally talk to their managers, and gain valuable insight from them.”
Because Walker is so approachable, Parker has made him a central player in her tours of the agency.
“I often give tours to candidates before they even interview for the job, so they can get a sense of our work and mission. I always stop wherever Warren is because he is so welcoming. He tells candidates about his job and what it’s like to work here,” she explains.
“After a person is hired, Warren follows up to make sure they’re settling in. He would give the shirt off his back for his fellow employees.”
“Warren is an exemplary employee who goes above and beyond for his work and his coworkers,” says Bestwork Industries President and CEO Jon Katz. “It’s an honor to work with him, and we look forward to his continuing contributions.”