Founders Award winner: ‘sasi is the bee’s knees’

Peg Welker spends much of her days sitting behind a desk, greeting people with a warm smile and a chipper “Hello.” In a way, she is the face of sasi, as hers is the one people see first when they enter the Supported Employment facility in Hamburg. It is important that she be friendly, helpful, and comforting.

But Peg is much more than a receptionist. She is known throughout sasi for being exceedingly kind and humble. She is the embodiment of support, giving people what they need to succeed and providing a little boost when they are down. She accepts people for who they are and treats everyone with dignity and respect. For those reasons, and for her years of dedication to the sasi mission, Peg was an easy choice to receive the 2023 Founders Award.

The Founders Award, presented each year at a celebratory breakfast, is based on the concept of good things coming from the germination of an idea coupled with determination, persistence, and hard work.

For nearly two decades, Peg has quietly waged a campaign to support anyone who needs it.

“Peg consistently help people to feel accepted and valuable,” Job Developer Lynn Conrad said. “Some folks who walk through the doors in Supported Employment are discouraged, lack confidence in their abilities, and oftentimes have fear of what comes next in their lives. Many have never worked in the community, and some have recently lost jobs, which can be a devastating life challenge, others do not even have appropriate clothing for interviews. These situations happen on a regular basis and can bring intense anxiety.

“Multiple times, Peg has been ‘caught’ leaving an interview-appropriate outfit in that person’s size, or clothes would appear for a person in need. She would casually say she ‘had it laying around and thought it might help.’ Afterwards, she never wanted recognition for herself, because it might embarrass the person in need. Peg likes to see people get to the next level in their lives whether it is an encouraging word, a welcoming smile, a cup of water, coffee, or donated items. She quietly makes a huge difference.”

Peg and her husband, Ron, are also known for creating oversized greeting cards that are unique, creative, and personalized to the recipient. Each of them is handmade and always appreciated.

“No one asks for these cards; Peg will just bring them in as needed and leave them for staff to sign,” Conrad said. “She pays attention to where encouragement is needed, and she takes action. They even provide the sharpie for signatures, and mail the cards at their expense. Many people have been on the receiving end of one of these cards after a tough situation and, for those lucky enough to receive one, most cannot tell you how much it meant to know that people at sasi cared.”

Last week, sasi President and CEO Jeff Paterson presented the Founders Award to Peg at the annual Founders Breakfast. While he has only known her a short time, he admitted to being greatly impressed by her.

“In my career, I have presented a lot of awards to people,” Paterson said, “and more often than not, the people who get these awards say ‘I don’t deserve this; I don’t do anything special; give it to somebody else.’ I have always enjoyed giving it to that kind of person the most. And that’s Peggy.”

Peg accepted the award, fittingly, with humble grace.

“I am very honored and humbled by this award,” she said. “It’s amazing. I must say that in the 19 years I have worked at sasi, it’s been great. The staff are wonderful. The people we support are wonderful.

“Sasi is the bee’s knees.”