BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Bittersweet Farms and its employees were recently recognized for their dedication to the organization and the people they serve.
Beth Kuntz-Wineland, a direct support professional at Bittersweet Farms, was surprised during the Bittersweet Music Vine Concert Series on September 16 with the news she would receive an award.
The Ohio Provider Resource Association named Kuntz-Wineland its Direct Support Professional of the Year for ORPA District 4 for her work with Bittersweet Farms, a place that provides individuals with autism employment opportunities in a holistic and healthy environment.
“I felt very humbled and just really honored and deeply grateful for the opportunity to receive the award and to be recognized for the dedication and passion that I have,” Kuntz-Wineland said. “I truly love working with people and I feel like this is my soul’s work.”
Kuntz-Wineland has a background in teaching and a degree in education, but when she moved to Northwest Ohio in 2017, she knew she needed work that allowed her to spend time outside – and grow food.
“When I heard about Bittersweet Farms and was reading more and saw the video on the website, I got really excited about the opportunity to work and help people develop to reach their full potential and lead meaningful lives,” she said.
The job would not be possible without the people she works alongside and for, Kuntz-Wineland said. She added she works with a great team of people who care for each other and are united in a positive mission.
“I am just deeply grateful for the opportunity to work here and impact lives every day,” Kuntz-Wineland said. “The people that I work with and support bless me and teach me more than I teach them. I feel like I gain so much more than I give here.”
In her time at Bitter-sweet, she said, she has been taught to slow down and appreciate the beauty around her. The job and the people she interacts with each day have made her recognize the joy in everyday life and to pay attention to what is most important.
Kuntz-Wineland will receive her award in October at the ORPA Fall Conference in Columbus.
In addition to the recognition of one of its employees, Bittersweet Farms itself also recently received recognition from the regional Better Business Bureau.
For three years, Bitter-sweet Farms was a Torch Awards for Ethics finalist and has now been named the winner, said Bittersweet Farms executive director Dustin Watkins.
Torch Awards are presented in the categories of nonprofit, small businesses, medium business, large business and extra-large business with leaders who meet a high level of personal character and the highest standard of ethics and are widely trusted within the community.
According to a statement from Bittersweet Farms, in order to be considered for a Torch Award, the nonprofit organization had to complete a charitable standards evaluation with the BBB and meet the BBB’s standards for charitable accountability.
Watkins said the organization was grateful for the award and happy to be recognized for the work each person puts in every day. He said it wasn’t just an award for the nonprofit, but for every member of the team.
“It’s a big award and it’s very nice to be validated and recognized for the awesome work that our team does,” Watkins said. “We have such an amazing team.”
Bittersweet Farms development director Julie Champa also credited the donors of the Bittersweet community for all of their help over the years.
“This honor is a reflection of the excellent work their gifts have made possible, and we hope it continues to inspire confidence as they invest in a bright future for Bittersweet,” Champa said.
Bittersweet Farms em-phasized its gratitude for the award and thanked the BBB for the recognition, especially in light of the hard choices staff has had to make since the beginning of the pandemic and the many changes they have dealt with over the past few years.
“At every level of our organization, we strive to do business and advance our mission in ways that reflect Bittersweet’s core values and instill trust in our constituents,” Watkins said. “This honor demonstrates that our team has achieved this incredible goal together. Thank you to the BBB, our dedicated employees and our loyal supporters.”