The following content is created in partnership with the Melwood organization. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Washington’s editorial staff.  Click here to learn more about Melwood.

As the fight continues to keep America running during COVID-19, front-line workers like health care professionals, grocery and pharmacy employees, transit workers, and law enforcement have been recognized for their sacrifices . . . and deservedly so.

Still, one type of essential worker has been overlooked—the kind no one applauds on the evening news. They’re the essential workers who clean some of the most crucial offices in our nation: the FBI, the Department of Justice, NASA . . . They’re sanitizing, disinfecting, doing extra cleaning—working to keep the virus off federal property and keeping essential workers safe.

Also, worth noting: Many of these teams are staffed with workers who have, what some may call, differing abilities: people on the autism spectrum; veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder or mild traumatic brain injury; and people with some level of developmental or cognitive disability.

“Melwood is proud of the hundreds of employees of differing abilities who wake up every day to provide our essential federal workers and members of the military a clean and safe work environment,” says Melwood President and CEO Cari DeSantis. (Melwood, sponsor of this article, provides jobs and training for a variety of career fields to thousands of people of differing abilities in the Washington, D.C. area.)

Everywhere from the Attorney General’s office to the FBI Gym
As recent headlines confirm, even a West Wing employee can wind up testing positive for COVID-19. As such, it’s urgent that top government offices be sanitized regularly.

“These jobs cannot be teleworked,” DeSantis notes. “Our customers need us to be on-site. Our staff, providing vocational support to the team, has learned to offer their support remotely, but the employees need to be there to clean. COVID-19 has not stopped us; with the proper personal protective equipment, we adapted because we know the federal government counts on us, especially now.” 

At the DOJ, Melwood employees clean everywhere, including the offices of the Attorney General and the FBI gym. Really, in these buildings, everything gets disinfected, from restrooms to conference rooms.

Melwood is one of hundreds of nonprofit organizations around the country that are part of AbilityOne—a federal set-aside program that holds more than three billion dollars of government contracts reserved for people with disabilities. Says DeSantis, “We love getting emails from the people we serve, whether it’s an FBI agent or Department of Justice lawyer who writes, ‘I see Tony here every day, and he makes my day because he’s happy. He knows my name. We talk every day.’ Our employees are often embraced like family at the job sites and it makes the environment better.”

The bottom line: While everyone else is sheltering in homes, this population—one generally written off and overlooked—reports to work daily to keep essential federal and military workers safe and the offices and military sites clean so they can carry on the nation’s business.

Looking to bring workers of differing abilities to your company? Melwood can bring you the people who can meet your needs. Visit the Melwood site to learn more.

Contact Us