RESPECT of Florida awarding Thaddeus Wilkins a $12,500 Micro-Enterprise Grant

The Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities (Florida ARF) is a statewide professional association that serves as a voice for rehabilitation service providers. Florida ARF represents community rehabilitation providers (CRPs) throughout Florida with different levels of engagement with community employment. The association has been a consistent partner in efforts to change public policy and expand community employment.

RESPECT of Florida, the business arm of Florida ARF, creates job opportunities for more than 1,200 individuals each year through goods and services produced by individuals with disabilities and purchased by government entities. While the program evolved from a sheltered workshop model, today it creates real jobs that pay minimum wage or better where the majority of the work is performed in integrated settings.

In 2015, RESPECT of Florida created a program to encourage self-employment through microenterprise grants. Since 2015, grants of up to $12,500 have been made available to individuals with any disability receiving services from the CRPs it represents.
RESPECT informs people with disabilities, families, rehabilitation counselors, and other stakeholders of the availability of these grants, and people interested in starting or growing businesses apply through the CRPs from which they receive services.

The applicants work with the CRPs’ employment staff, their family members, business partners and others to develop business plans. The business plans are submitted to a panel of reviewers. The review process takes about one month before the winners are notified.

“All grant submissions have to come through and be supported by a RESPECT Employment Center,” explains Florida ARF’s president and CEO, Suzanne Sewell. “The employment centers are community rehabilitation provider agencies. They have to be nonprofit, charitable entities approved by RESPECT of Florida.”

RESPECT gives one or two awards per year based on availability of funds, and asks that each CRP submit no more than one application per year. Applications are scored on their own merits and the program is open to applicants with any disability. A selection committee is put together and the applicant proposals are scored. According to Sewell, “Staff look for creativity, sustainability, and sound business plans when evaluating the proposals.” The applicant with the highest score is selected.

Past award recipients

Eddie Rodriguez, owner of Ybor Eddie’s Hot Sauce
Thaddeus Wilkins, owner of Oceanspray Photography
Moira Rossi, owner of Moira’s Ventures
Jeff Shell, owner of Jeff’s Corner

For more information about RESPECT, contact Lindsey Davun at or visit