Hennessey had a rough start in life. His father was killed when he was a toddler and his mother suffered a nervous breakdown, after which Hennessey was sent to live in a home for people with intellectual disabilities. When he turned 18, he moved to an assisted living facility in Lincoln. Soon after, he got a job at Goodwill and found his calling.
For 36 years, Steve Hennessey has been a custodian at the Robert V. Denney Federal Building in Lincoln, NE through Goodwill Omaha’s AbilityOne program. AbilityOne provides job opportunities to individuals with disabilities in a supportive, team-oriented work environment.
Hennessey is up at 4:30 a.m. to make sure he clocks in at 6:00 a.m. No matter what the weather – rain, sleet or snow – Hennessey walks more than a mile to his full-time job – every day.
Hennessey cleans everything from the bathrooms and daycare to the high-security offices of the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. He takes his allotted 15-minute breaks and 30-minute lunch, but is right back at it as soon as break time is over.
“My paycheck is important to me so I can pay rent and not live on the street,” Hennessey said. “I don’t want to be on welfare. I want to work a long time.”
This work ethic is one reason Hennessey was named Goodwill Industries International (GII) 2015 Achiever of the Year. He was recognized at Goodwill’s Delegate Assembly in June 2015.
Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, called Hennessey “an inspiration to us all.”
The GII achiever award is given to a person who has shown great progress in overcoming challenges to finding employment. It honors someone who still benefits from the Goodwill work environment or still receives services to support employment at a community site.
“Challenges to employment don’t exist in Steve’s world,” Gibbons said. “He demonstrates that meaningful work is something everyone deserves.”
Having a job is an important constant in Hennessey’s life. Goodwill is there to provide support which allows Hennessey to live independently and do what he does best … work.