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U.S. AbilityOne Commission

An Independent Federal Agency

Thomas D. Robinson, Chairperson
Tina Ballard, Executive Director

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2017

2016

August 3, 2016

Presidential Appointee Jennifer Sheehy Sworn In as Member of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Washington, D.C., August 3, 2016 – Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, was recently sworn in as a member of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. She was appointed to the Commission by President Barack H. Obama.

"I welcome Jennifer Sheehy to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission," said Chairperson James M. Kesteloot. "Her knowledge and expertise about the population we serve is invaluable. I look forward to collaborating with her as we transform the future of the AbilityOne Program."

Prior to her current position, Sheehy spent 10 years at the U.S. Department of Education in roles including Director of Policy and Planning in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), acting Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, acting Deputy Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of OSERS.

Sheehy came to the Department of Education from the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities where she was Senior Policy Advisor and served a detail as Associate Director in the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Before she joined the task force staff, Sheehy was Vice President of the National Organization on Disability, and Director of its CEO Council. Sheehy earned a BA from Cornell University and graduated with honors from Georgetown University, where she received her MBA.

Presidential Appointee Jennifer Sheehy
Presidential Appointee Jennifer Sheehy

June 17, 2016

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Signs Cooperative Agreement with National Industries for the Blind

June 15, 2016

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Signs Cooperative Agreement with SourceAmerica

April 27, 2016

Commission Update – Draft Cooperative Agreement with Central Nonprofit Agencies

March 18, 2016

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Issues Declaration in Support of Minimum Wage for All People Who Are Blind or Have Significant Disabilities

January 21, 2016

Statement in Response to CNN Story Aired January 21, 2016

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Washington, D.C., January 21, 2016 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® is not a party to the reported legal actions and does not comment on legal actions or ongoing litigation. We respect the authority of the Court and the legal process. When that process is complete, the Commission will evaluate the outcomes in accordance with its authorizing statute, regulations and policies. As previously stated, the Commission is committed to the integrity of the AbilityOne® Program.

2015

October 27, 2015

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Decides in Favor of Government and AbilityOne Program Regarding Bid Protest

July 28, 2015

Statement from the U.S. AbilityOne Commission in Response to CNN Story Aired July 27, 2015

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Washington, D.C., July 28, 2015 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® strongly emphasizes program integrity. We are unwavering in our commitment to the employment of people with significant disabilities. As CNN reported, we are exercising appropriate caution and respect of the court on information related to bid protest litigation, which appears to be the genesis of the CNN story. The Commission is dismayed by the misrepresentations and inaccuracies from sources identified after the initial airing as the unsuccessful bidder in the protest action. We find that the information reported needs more context. For example, all employment candidates must provide documentation of significant disabilities signed by a licensed medical professional, and this documentation is subject to multiple reviews and inspections. It is worth noting that as recently as May 2013, the Government Accountability Office examined the AbilityOne® Program including the SourceAmerica recommendation process and made no findings of fraud, waste or abuse.

July 8, 2015

James M. Kesteloot Elected to Lead Presidentially-Appointed Commission - Lisa M. Wilusz Elected Vice Chairperson

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Washington, D.C., July, 8, 2015 – James M. Kesteloot, Private Citizen, and Lisa M. Wilusz, Department of Agriculture (USDA), were elected to their respective positions as Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® at its July 2015 meeting. Their terms begin at the close of business on July 9, 2015.

The Commission is responsible for administering the AbilityOne® Program, one of the largest employment sources for Americans who are blind or have significant disabilities. Providing more than 45,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2014 alone, the AbilityOne Program delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and is an important part of the U.S. military industrial base.

“I am honored to serve as the next Chairperson of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission,” said Kesteloot. “I envision a strong team going forward as we work to find new and innovative ways to increase employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.”

Kesteloot has served as Vice Chairperson since July 2011, and is the Chair of the Employment Growth Subcommittee. Appointed to the Commission by President Barack H. Obama in September 2010, he is a private citizen representative who provides expertise on obstacles to the employment of persons who are blind. A long-time national advocate for employment of people who are blind, he recently retired as Executive Director and President of the Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired after a 40-year career with the 109-year-old agency. Under his leadership, the Lighthouse was transformed into a nationally acclaimed social service organization that is widely respected as being among the most comprehensive in the nation. He has consulted for many organizations and has served on numerous councils, including appointments by Illinois Governors James R. Thompson and Jim Edgar to the state Blind Services Planning Council, and an appointment by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to his Task Force for the Employment of People with Disabilities.

Wilusz currently serves as the Chair of the Customer and Employee Satisfaction Subcommittee. Appointed to the Commission by President Obama in November 2011, she is the USDA representative. A member of the Senior Executive Service, she serves as the Director of the Office of Procurement and Property Management for USDA. In this capacity, she is responsible for providing leadership, oversight and policy in the areas of procurement, property management, environmental stewardship and employee safety. Wilusz began her Federal career as a contract specialist in 1995 with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service; and later she worked as a procurement analyst with the Department of Transportation’s Research and Special Programs Administration. There she worked on issues involving procurement policy, small business programs and the implementation of an automated procurement system. She returned to the USDA in 2002 and has managed two enterprise systems in addition to working on various procurement related matters.

J. Anthony Poleo served as Chairperson from July 2011-July 2015. Poleo was appointed to the Commission by President George W. Bush in February 2007 and has served as the Department of Defense (DoD) representative for eight years. He will continue to serve on the Commission.

Kesteloot mentioned how working with Poleo had been an excellent experience for him. “I really appreciate how when he was Chairperson he involved me with everything so that we became such a strong team. I look forward to having that same kind of relationship with Lisa Wilusz,” he said.

Poleo ended the meeting by thanking the members and staff for their support during his time as Chairperson. “It was an honor and a privilege to serve in this role for the past four years. When I took this position, I committed to you all that I would give it my best shot,” said Poleo. “I look forward to continuing to be an active member of the Commission in my role as the DoD representative. The Commission is in great hands with the new officers, so the transition will be seamless.”

Left to right: Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo, Alley Award recipient Richard T. Ginman, and Executive Director Tina Ballard
Newly-elected U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson James M. Kesteloot and Vice Chairperson Lisa M. Wilusz.

May 18, 2015

AbilityOne Award Recipients Announced

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Washington, D.C., May 18, 2015 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® is pleased to announce the following 2015 AbilityOne® award recipients: Richard T. “Dick” Ginman, E.R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award; Jeffrey R. Brunner, Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne Awareness Award; and Cheryl A. DeLuca, Outstanding Contributions Award.

“Dick Ginman, Jeff Brunner, and Cheryl DeLuca are excellent examples of Federal leaders who do everything that they can to employ people who are blind or have significant disabilities on Federal contracts,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. “AbilityOne Program participants and Federal customers certainly have been, and will continue to be, the beneficiaries of their leadership and support.”

Left to right: Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo, Alley Award recipient Richard T. Ginman, and Executive Director Tina Ballard
Left to right: Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo, Alley Award recipient Richard T. Ginman, and Executive Director Tina Ballard.

The E. R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary achievement and sustained effort in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment opportunities. This is the highest award bestowed by the Commission, and only one is given each year. This year’s recipient is Richard T. “Dick” Ginman, former Director, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, Department of Defense. Ginman has been a strong advocate and supporter of the AbilityOne Program throughout his 44-year military and civil service career, implementing policies and solutions that have increased employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. He has signed and spearheaded several AbilityOne support memoranda, which were distributed to the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) acquisition workforce. By encouraging the AbilityOne contract management support program, he has enabled 14 nonprofit agencies to support nearly 80 DoD contracting offices, which resulted in more than 160 upwardly-mobile employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. He has also educated colleagues about AbilityOne through close collaboration with DoD Senior Procurement and Acquisition Executives.

Left to right: Poleo and Oz Day Award recipient Jeffrey R. Brunner.
Left to right: Poleo and Oz Day Award recipient Jeffrey R. Brunner.

The Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne Awareness Award is named in honor of a former private citizen Commission member who provided critical leadership in communicating the AbilityOne message to Federal customers and the general public. This year’s recipient is Jeffrey R. Brunner, Senior Acquisition Advisor, The Joint Staff. For nearly 40 years, he has advocated for the AbilityOne Program. His efforts have included public speaking engagements, use of websites and digital media, television coverage and special events dedicated to enhancing AbilityOne awareness in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. Most recently, he conceived of an “AbilityOne Day” for the local contracting community, featuring a panel of AbilityOne speakers, nonprofit exhibits, and veteran keynote speakers. Brunner created and emailed flyers to the DoD acquisition community and participated in a live evening radio talk show to promote the AbilityOne Program and the event. His enthusiastic support led to Virginia Beach Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr., proclaiming March 18, 2014, as “AbilityOne Day.”

Left to right: Poleo, Outstanding Contributions Award recipient Cheryl A. DeLuca, and Ballard
Left to right: Poleo, Outstanding Contributions Award recipient Cheryl A. DeLuca, and Ballard.

The Outstanding Contributions Award recognizes Federal employees for their efforts in creating employment opportunities on Federal contracts for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities under the AbilityOne Program. This year’s recipient is Cheryl A. DeLuca, Director, Natick Contracting, U.S. Army Contracting Command-Aberdeen Proving Ground. DeLuca has demonstrated unwavering support of the AbilityOne Program, overseeing staff members who have cumulatively worked on contracts resulting in employment for over 8,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities. She has created an environment that has continuously encouraged her team to reach and expand boundaries of traditional perspectives to consider AbilityOne for complex products and innovative contracting solutions.

“Our Federal customers are an important part of making the AbilityOne Program work,” said Commission Executive Director Tina Ballard. “We thank our Federal customers for all they do to help people who are blind or have significant disabilities have employment through AbilityOne.”

January 2, 2015

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Alley Award Call for Nominations

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Washington, D.C., January 2, 2015 – Today the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® announces its call for nominations for the E. R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award (Alley Award). The Commission is the independent Federal agency which leads and administers the AbilityOne® Program, the single largest source of employment in the United States, providing employment opportunities to more than 45,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities nationwide. The Alley Award is the highest honor the Commission bestows on a Federal employee.

The award was established in 1998 in honor and memory of Dick Alley, who provided more than 25 years of dedicated service to the AbilityOne Program as the Deputy Executive Director of the Commission staff. The award recognizes extraordinary achievements and sustained efforts of individuals in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment and training opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

Only one Alley Award is given each year. Eligibility and criteria information can be found online at www.abilityone.gov. Nominations, which must be submitted in an accessible electronic format (i.e., Word, Word Perfect or accessible Adobe PDF), must be submitted to Ms. Stephanie Lesko, Public Affairs Specialist, at slesko@abilityone.gov or awards@abilityone.gov by January 27, 2015.

The 2015 Alley Award recipient will formally be announced the award at both the SourceAmerica® National Training and Achievement Conference in May 2015, and the National Industries for the Blind National Training Conference in October 2015.

2014

November 19, 2014

AbilityOne Awards Presented

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Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Michael Gilliam (center).
U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right), with Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot (left), presented FDR Award for Service and Leadership to recipient E. Robert Chamberlin (center).

Poleo (right) presented Outstanding Contributions Award to recipient Dennis Lockard (left).
Poleo (right) presented Outstanding Contributions Award to recipient Dennis Lockard (left).

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Michael Gilliam (center).
National Industries for the Blind CEO Kevin Lynch (right) presented a plaque to Chamberlin (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.

SourceAmerica CEO Chamberlin (right) presented a plaque to Lockard (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.
SourceAmerica CEO Chamberlin (right) presented a plaque to Lockard (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.

Lynch (right) presented a plaque to Lockard (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.
Lynch (right) presented a plaque to Lockard (left), for his service to the AbilityOne Program.

Poleo (right) and Kesteloot (left) spoke about their experiences with Chamberlin (center).
Poleo (right) and Kesteloot (left) spoke about their experiences with Chamberlin (center).

Washington, D.C., November 19, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® (Commission) is pleased to announce the following AbilityOne® award recipients: E. Robert Chamberlin, SourceAmerica® President and CEO; and Dennis Lockard, Commission General Counsel.

“Over the years, numerous Commission members and staffers have relied on input and advice from both Bob Chamberlin and Dennis Lockard,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. “Their legacies will live on, well after their departure from the program. We appreciate all that they have done to serve the AbilityOne Program and people who are blind or have significant disabilities.”

The FDR Award for Leadership and Service recognizes sustained, extraordinary accomplishment related to the agency and the AbilityOne Program. This award honors an outstanding leader who consistently demonstrates integrity and a relentless commitment to public service. The award is given sparingly, and may be presented to a current or former member of the Commission or staff.

Among Chamberlin’s notable achievements, as Rear Admiral and Principal Deputy Director of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), he served as the Department of Defense Commission member from 1998-1999. During his time on the Commission, he encouraged DLA to market AbilityOne and SKILCRAFT® products, and provided high level of support for educational and promotional AbilityOne events, small business fairs, and other procurement conferences. He became President and CEO of SourceAmerica in 2000 and encouraged the development of two new brands (AbilityOne and SourceAmerica), a new program website, national advertising campaigns, and grassroots advocacy conferences. Under his leadership, SourceAmerica also focused on developing strategic business lines and fostering customer partnerships in areas such as secure document destruction, laundry, secure mail, warehouse and distribution, fleet management, and total facilities management. Chamberlin will retire from SourceAmerica in early 2015.

Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot said, “I remember meeting Bob when he was on the Commission. It was really special that he chose to visit people who are blind at the Chicago Lighthouse, while an admiral in uniform. His visit was a real spark to employee morale.”

The Outstanding Contributions Award recognizes Federal employees for their exceptional efforts in creating AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts.

Among Lockard’s notable achievements, he has been a member of the Commission staff’s Executive Leadership team since joining the Commission in September 2007 as General Counsel. He played a major role in the AbilityOne brand development, regulatory agenda and legislative initiatives, Freedom of Information Act adherence, and litigation practices and record management. He also shepherded the Commission in several groundbreaking legal areas, including the first AbilityOne trademark agreement and implementation of new agency policy. Lockard will retire from the Commission in January 2015.

“Dennis’ keen legal advice and insights have been critical to the success of AbilityOne,” said Poleo. “No matter the situation, he has always maintained a calm demeanor, a key quality of a legal advisor. His contributions to this program have not gone unnoticed. He will be missed.”

October 8, 2014

AbilityOne Nonprofit Agency Leaders Receive Honors

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Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Michael Gilliam (center).
Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Michael Gilliam (center).

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson  James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Billy Sparkman (center).
Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (right) and Vice Chairperson James A. Kesteloot (left) with recipient Billy Sparkman (center).

Washington, D.C., October 8, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® is pleased to announce the following AbilityOne® Chairperson’s Award for Leadership recipients: Michael N. Gilliam, President and CEO, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind; and Billy Sparkman, Executive Director, Alabama Industries for the Blind (AIB).

“Mike Gilliam and Billy Sparkman are excellent examples of AbilityOne nonprofit agency leaders who do everything that they can to employ people who are blind,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. “Our program and the people it serves certainly have been, and will continue to be, the beneficiaries of their leadership and support.”

The Chairperson’s Award for Leadership recognizes AbilityOne nonprofit agency leaders who consistently meet or surpass the Commission’s statutory and regulatory requirements, fulfill its guiding principles for a Quality Work Environment, and exhibit business acumen that leads to increased employment opportunities for the AbilityOne constituency.

Among Gilliam’s notable achievements, he has led the Lighthouse to being selected as the “Best Place to Work in San Antonio” by its local media for three years running, against a field of private sector employers. He has demonstrated his leadership in the areas of Base Supply Center operations and reciprocal purchasing among AbilityOne nonprofit agencies; and he has actively contributed to the Commission’s CEO Forums.

Among Sparkman’s notable achievements, AIB has become a $30 million retail and manufacturing organization, employing 320 staff and production workers, of which 210 are legally blind. He has been innovative in his leadership in the development of service-related jobs for people who are blind; and he actively participates in the Quality Work Environment Steering Group.

October 8, 2014

Presidential Appointees RADM Jonathan A. Yuen and Virna L. Winters Sworn-In as Members of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission member RADM Jonathan A. Yuen, Department of the Navy.

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission member RADM Jonathan A. Yuen, Department of the Navy.

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission member Virna L. Winters, Department of Commerce.

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission member Virna L. Winters, Department of Commerce.
Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo swears in Commission members RADM Jonathan A. Yuen, Department of the Navy, and Virna L. Winters, Department of Commerce.

Washington, D.C., October 8, 2014 – Today, Rear Adm. Jonathan A. Yuen, Department of the Navy, and Virna L. Winters, Department of Commerce, were publicly sworn-in as members of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® (Commission). Both Yuen and Winters were appointed to the Commission by President Barack H. Obama.

"I welcome RADM Jonathan Yuen and Virna Winters to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission," said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. "I look forward to collaborating with them on new and innovative ways of increasing AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts. People who are blind or have significant disabilities are reliable, dependable, and capable of meeting or exceeding industry standards."

The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, a public law that requires the Federal Government to purchase certain products or services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing more than 45,000 job opportunities nationwide. At the same time, AbilityOne delivers quality product and service solutions to civilian and military Federal customers, providing critical support for combat, disaster, and humanitarian relief operations.

Yuen is Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command and 47th Chief of Supply Corps, a position he has held since 2013. Previously, he served as Commander, Global Logistics Support from 2011 to 2013. Yuen's Supply Corps sea duty assignments include tours on the USS Narwhal and USS Constellation and as Supply Officer on the USS Nassau. His shore assignments include Aide to the Director of the Supply, Programs and Policy Division in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and Executive Assistant in the Defense Logistics Support Center, Defense Logistics Agency. Yuen's joint assignments include serving as Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the Joint Contracting Command - Iraq/Afghanistan, headquartered in the International Zone of Baghdad, and Director, U.S. Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. His personal awards include three Legions of Merit, a Bronze Star, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, and two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. Yuen received a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

Winters serves as the Director for Acquisition Policy and Oversight in the Office of Acquisition Management at the Department of Commerce. In this position she is responsible for providing acquisition leadership, policy and oversight for the Department's procurement operations. Winters has over 20 years of Federal acquisition experience where she has led integrated solutions teams in order to implement new initiatives and demonstrated an ability to produce positive results through strategic planning, implementation and evaluation of programs and policies. She began her Federal career as a contract specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 1992. She joined the Department of Commerce in 2003 as a procurement analyst and has served in various acquisition positions. Winters received a B.S. in Business from the University of North Texas.

May 8, 2014

Presidential Appointee Thomas D. Robinson Sworn-In as Air Force Member of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot swears in Thomas D. Robinson, Commission member representing the Air Force
Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot swears in Thomas D. Robinson, Commission member representing the Air Force.

Washington, D.C., May 8, 2014 – Today, Thomas D. Robinson, Department of the Air Force, was publicly sworn-in as a member of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® (Commission). Appointed by President Barack H. Obama, Robinson began serving on the Commission in October 2013.

“Tom Robinson brings a wealth of experience to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission,” said Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot. “With his decades of Federal procurement experience, he will be an asset to our team as we strive to increase AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.”

The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, a public law that requires the Federal Government to purchase certain products or services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing nearly 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2013 alone. At the same time, AbilityOne delivers quality product and service solutions to civilian and military Federal customers, providing critical support for combat, disaster and humanitarian relief operations.

Robinson is the Executive Director for the Air Force Installation Contracting Agency (AFICA) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB), Dayton, Ohio. He assists the commander of AFICA in the leadership of more than 800 personnel, $3.9 billion in annual execution, $33 billion total contract portfolio, and enterprise-wide installation strategic sourcing efforts for the Air Force. The contracting authority and guidance he provides extends to eight Major Commands and their 71 units.

Commissioned in the Air Force in 1984 as a contracting specialist, he served 28 years on active duty status and acquired extensive experience in operational, major weapons system, and logistical contracting. Prior to his current position, Robinson served as senior contracting official for Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. In this role, he was the primary acquisition advisor to the PACAF Commander and staff and provided theater-wide contingency contracting support and serviced as one of the principal advisors to the Combatant Commander United States Pacific Command on Operational Contracting Support. He also held several other key positions including Director of Contracting Ogden Air Logistics Center and Chief Contracting Division, Air Education and Training Command. Robinson retired from active duty and entered Senior Executive Service in July 2012 as the Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary (Contracting) for Headquarters U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., until entering his current job in November 2013.
Robinson received his B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Canisius College in 1983. In 1987, he earned a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from Northern Michigan University. In 2006, Robinson also earned a Master’s in Military Studies at the Air War College on Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

May 15, 2014

AbilityOne Award Recipients Honored

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Washington, D.C., May 15, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® is pleased to announce the following AbilityOne® award recipients: Janet Samuelson, ServiceSource (Chairperson’s Award for Leadership), William Sproule, Department of the Air Force (Most Valuable Liaison Award), and Vicki Taft, Air Force (E.R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award).

“All of our award winners demonstrate outstanding knowledge and understanding of the AbilityOne Program. We truly appreciate everything that they do to support people who are blind or have significant disabilities,” said Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot. “Congratulations to all AbilityOne award recipients!”

The Chairperson’s Award for Leadership recognizes AbilityOne nonprofit agency leaders who consistently meet or surpass the Commission’s statutory and regulatory requirements, fulfill its guiding principles for a Quality Work Environment (QWE), and exhibit business acumen that leads to increased employment opportunities for the AbilityOne constituency. This year’s recipient is Janet Samuelson, President and CEO of ServiceSource, an authorized AbilityOne nonprofit agency.

When Samuelson first joined ServiceSource in 1993, the organization employed approximately 300 people with disabilities. Under her leadership, it has grown to include affiliation with four other nonprofit organizations and offer programs and services in nine states and the District of Columbia. ServiceSource now directly employs more than 1,500 individuals with disabilities and is known for its innovation and performance excellence. ServiceSource has been highly praised for its execution of the Total Facilities Maintenance contract at the Mark Center complex. At that location and many others, ServiceSource is the prime contractor and works with many AbilityOne nonprofit subcontractors. Under Samuelson’s leadership, ServiceSource has been a consistent voice in CEO Forums, has adopted the QWE initiative, is active in the National Council of SourceAmerica Employers and the American Congress of Community Supports and Employment Services, and contributes to grassroots advocacy. Among its progressive practices, ServiceSource has a Warrior Bridge program that it has used to successfully bring dozens of wounded warriors and veterans into the AbilityOne workforce. Samuelson has ensured that ServiceSource has a wide range of work settings, both facility and community based.

The Commission’s Most Valuable Liaison Award recognizes Federal employees, who in their roles as liaisons demonstrate valuable effort in creating AbilityOne employment opportunities. This year’s recipient is William G. (Bill) Sproule, Chief, Installation Support, Pentagon, Air Force.

A proactive supporter of the AbilityOne Program, Sproule has served for nearly four years as the AbilityOne Liaison to the Air Force Commission member. In addition to representing the Air Force at all Commission meetings and at National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica conferences, he also works with senior NIB and SourceAmerica representatives to identify new AbilityOne opportunities. Through his preparation of annual spend analyses to determine Air Force needs, he regularly identifies opportunities for growth within the AbilityOne Program. Moreover, he has been instrumental in the Air Force’s utilization of AbilityOne contract closeout work.

The E. R. “Dick” Alley Career Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary achievement and sustained effort in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment opportunities. Vicki L. Taft, Section Chief, Base Support Section, Tinker Air Force Base, is this year’s recipient.

For more than 25 years, Taft has worked to procure service contracts that employ people with disabilities at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. She has also actively worked to promote base purchasing of SKILCRAFT® products. As a result of her efforts, she has enabled more than 350 people who are blind or have significant disabilities, including service-disabled veterans, to find meaningful employment at Tinker. She is the driving force behind the expansion of AbilityOne services at Tinker and other bases across the country, whose commanders she has educated about the program. Most recently, she invited AbilityOne representatives to attend the March 2014 Tinker “Industry Day” to further encourage procurement of AbilityOne products and services. She has been directly instrumental in creating jobs for several lines of business, located at numerous locations, and involving both NIB and SourceAmerica nonprofits and the people they serve.

The Alley Award will be presented to Taft later this year.

For more information about AbilityOne awards, contact Stephanie Lesko at awards@abilityone.gov.

April 2, 2014

AbilityOne “Oz” Day Award Recipient Honored

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Award recipient Karone Blondin, GSA PBS Industry Relations Manager (third from left); with Bob Chamberlin, SourceAmerica CEO; Joan Smith, U.S. AbilityOne Commission staff; and Andrew Blumenfeld, GSA PBS Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Acquisition
Award recipient Karone Blondin, GSA PBS Industry Relations Manager (third from left); with Bob Chamberlin, SourceAmerica CEO; Joan Smith, U.S. AbilityOne Commission staff; and Andrew Blumenfeld, GSA PBS Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Acquisition.

Washington, D.C., April 2, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® presented its Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne® Awareness Award today to Karone Blondin, Industry Relations Manager, Public Buildings Service (PBS), General Services Administration (GSA), at the annual GSA PBS meeting in Vienna, Va.

“Karone has outstanding knowledge and understanding of the AbilityOne Program. We truly appreciate all that she has done since 2002 to support people with significant disabilities,” said Joan Smith, U.S. AbilityOne Commission staff.

The Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne Awareness Award is named in honor of Osborne Day, a private citizen member of the Commission who provided critical leadership in communicating the AbilityOne message to Federal customers and the general public.

For more than 12 years, Blondin has overseen the Strategic Alliance between GSA PBS and the AbilityOne Program. During her tenure, she has facilitated the creation of more than 500 AbilityOne custodial jobs. She also promotes AbilityOne by providing training presentations on the GSA/AbilityOne Alliance.

March 20, 2014

AbilityOne Award Recipients Honored

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Washington, D.C., March 20, 2014 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® announced its AbilityOne® award recipients at its March meeting. Recipients include: Nancy Heimbaugh, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA); Karone Blondin, General Services Administration (GSA); Michael A. Cowley, DLA; Albert Munoz, Department of Agriculture (USDA); and Edward R. Guthrie and Michael N. Gilliam, leaders of two AbilityOne-authorized nonprofit agencies (NPAs).

"All of our award winners have high integrity and outstanding knowledge and understanding of the AbilityOne Program. We truly appreciate all that they do to support the people we serve," said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo.

Left to right:  U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo with Recipient Nancy Heimbaugh
Left to right: U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo with Recipient Nancy Heimbaugh

The E. R. "Dick" Alley Career Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has provided extraordinary achievement and sustained effort in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment opportunities. Nancy Heimbaugh, Director, DLA, Acquisition Management, is this year's recipient.

"Throughout her career, Nancy has provided invaluable acquisition advice and leadership," said Poleo. "Not only has she been a strong partner in the effort to employ people with disabilities, but she has been an excellent colleague as well."

Over the course of her career, whether managing the field contracting for the Navy Supply Systems Command or leading the immense DLA Acquisition system, Heimbaugh drove policies and practical solutions that led directly to increased employment for personnel who are blind or have significant disabilities. From 2007-2009, she was the Senior Procurement Executive at DLA Troop Support, which represented over 85% of all DLA procurement. DLA was the number one contributor in the Department of Defense to the AbilityOne Program during her tenure. Since 2009, she was very active in her support of the program via regular meetings, a DLA policy in support of AbilityOne that led to an increased number of product purchases by DLA, and the awarding of contracts in contract management, warehousing and distribution, package reclamation and help desk services. Her efforts created nearly 170 jobs.

"I am deeply honored to receive this award on behalf of all of DLA. The commitment the DLA team has made to the AbilityOne Program over the years has been profound and has involved many, many people in all of the primary-level field activities," Heimbaugh said. "This award is gratifying both personally and professionally."

Left to right:  Chairperson Poleo with GSA Commission member William Sisk, Deputy Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service
Left to right: Chairperson Poleo with GSA Commission member William Sisk, Deputy Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service

The Osborne A. "Oz" Day AbilityOne Awareness Award is named in honor of Osborne Day, a private citizen member of the Commission who provided critical leadership in communicating the AbilityOne message to Federal customers and the general public. This year's recipient is Karone Blondin, GSA Industry Relations Manager, Public Building Services (PBS).

For more than 12 years, Blondin has overseen the Strategic Alliance between GSA PBS and the AbilityOne Program. During her tenure, she has facilitated the creation of more than 500 AbilityOne custodial jobs. She also promotes AbilityOne by providing "road show" training presentations on the GSA/AbilityOne Alliance.

GSA Commission member William Sisk, Deputy Commissioner, Federal Acquisition Service, accepted on Blondin's behalf; and the award will be presented to Blondin at her worksite.

Left to right:  Chairperson Poleo, recipient Michael A. Cowley, and Ruben Filomeno, Director, EEO Office, DLA Troop Support
Left to right: Chairperson Poleo, recipient Michael A. Cowley, and Ruben Filomeno, Director, EEO Office, DLA Troop Support

The Outstanding Contributions Award recognizes Federal employees for their exceptional efforts in creating AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts. This year's recipient is Michael A. Cowley, Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist, DLA Troop Support.

Since 2005, Cowley has been the driving force at DLA Troop Support, promoting and accomplishing successful AbilityOne Day events, especially during National Disability Employment Awareness Month. He handles all onsite logistics to ensure space, security, and other nonprofit agency needs are met in preparation for the events. He also develops and coordinates the base publicity as the events approach. As a result of his efforts, AbilityOne has consistently attracted more than 600 DLA personnel who visit 40 National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and SourceAmerica nonprofit agency exhibits, as well as 10 community service organizations that support people who are blind or have disabilities.

Left to right: Chairperson Poleo, recipient Albert Munoz, and USDA Commission member Lisa Wilusz
Left to right: Chairperson Poleo, recipient Albert Munoz, and USDA Commission member Lisa Wilusz

The Commission's Most Valuable Liaison Award recognizes Federal employees, who in their roles as liaisons demonstrate valuable effort in creating AbilityOne employment opportunities. This year's recipient is Albert Munoz, Procurement Analyst, USDA.

During his many years of support, Munoz has been credited with efforts that led to adding 65 AbilityOne jobs to the Procurement List. He provides direct support to the USDA Commission member, and continually collaborates with Commission, NIB, and SourceAmerica staff on such projects as the Employee and Customer Satisfaction Subcommittee pilot customer service survey.

Left to right:  Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot, Recipient Edward R. Guthrie, and Chairperson Poleo
Left to right: Vice Chairperson James M. Kesteloot, Recipient Edward R. Guthrie, and Chairperson Poleo

The Commission presents the Chairperson's Award for Leadership at the annual central nonprofit agency (NIB and SourceAmerica) annual conferences. This award recognizes AbilityOne nonprofit agency leaders who consistently meet or surpass the Commission's statutory and regulatory requirements, fulfill its guiding principles for a Quality Work Environment, and exhibit business acumen that leads to increased employment opportunities for the AbilityOne constituency.

At the May SourceAmerica Annual Conference the Commission presented the award to Edward R. Guthrie, Executive Director of Opportunity Village. Since 1994, Guthrie has led the agency to become one of the most recognized and respected provider of services for people with disabilities in the United States. Providing training and employment to more than 1,000 people with disabilities each day, Opportunity Village serves more than 325,000 meals each year to military personnel, and the Opportunity Village PaperPros division is the second largest document destruction firm in the Las Vegas valley. Opportunity Village has developed a number of leading edge rehabilitation programs and arts and enrichment programs in which people with disabilities fuel their creative passions through fine arts, music, theatre and dance.

At the October NIB Annual Conference, the Commission will also present the award to Michael N. Gilliam, President and CEO, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind. Under his leadership, San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind pays its employees minimum wage or higher. Employees on the NPA's contract management service contract earn wages up to $30-$50K per year, and the NPA successfully demonstrated the Program's capability to close out contracts which led to the Procurement List addition for many more NPAs. His organization has been named one of the 50 best places to work in San Antonio by local media for three years in a row. In terms of business acumen, he has shown true leadership by bringing his NPA to financial health.

March 20, 2014

Harry P. Hallock Sworn-In as Army Member of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Washington, D.C., March 20, 2014 – Today, Harry P. Hallock, Department of the Army, was publicly sworn-in as an appointed member of the U.S. AbilityOne®(Commission). Hallock was appointed to serve on the Commission by President Barack H. Obama in August 2013.

“Harry Hallock brings a wealth of experience to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. "Already a strong supporter of AbilityOne, he will be an asset to our team as we strive to increase AbilityOne employment opportunities on Federal contracts for people who are blind or have significant disabilities."

The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, a public law that requires the Federal Government to purchase certain products or services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have other significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing nearly 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2013 alone. At the same time, AbilityOne delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and provides critical support to U.S. military customers, for combat, disaster and humanitarian relief operations.

In July 2013, Hallock, a member of the Senior Executive Service, was appointed as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army (Procurement). In this role, Hallock manages the Army’s procurement mission including development and dissemination of policies, processes and contracting business systems. He directs the evaluation, measurement and continuous improvement actions for more than 270 Army contracting offices worldwide, executing contracts for major weapons systems, base logistics support, construction and wartime operational contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the Functional Career Representative for Contracting, Hallock oversees the recruitment, training, certification, and professional development of the Army’s contracting workforce. Hallock also provides staff supervision and support to the Multi-National Forces through the U.S. Central Command to support Joint Force Combat Operations, humanitarian relief, reconstruction, and security of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hallock received his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Delaware in 1979, and earned a Master of Science in Program Management from Naval Postgraduate School in 2001. Hallock has received numerous awards and honors, including the Superior Civilian Service award in 2013 and the Commander’s Award for Public Service in 1997.

Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (left) swears in Harry P. Hallock (right), as new Commission member representing the Department of the Army
Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo (left) swears in Harry P. Hallock (right), as new Commission member representing the Department of the Army.

2013

October 31, 2013

Superior Performance in DOD Mentor-Protégé Program Earns 2013 Nunn-Perry Award for AbilityOne Partner, Northrop Grumman

Springfield, Va.-based MVLE Inc. is a protégé partner and AbilityOne Authorized Provider.

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Arlington, VA, October 31, 2013 – Industry partner and long standing supporter of the AbilityOne® Program and mission, Northrop Grumman Corporation, received the 2013 Department of Defense (DOD) Nunn-Perry Award* that recognizes teamwork resulting in superior quality in products and services, technical assistance, return on investment and protégé development. Northrop Grumman’s partnership with MVLE Inc., an AbilityOne nonprofit organization that encourages professional growth for people living with disabilities through employment and support services, represents the first time a prime contractor has entered into a mentor-protégé agreement with an AbilityOne services provider. The DOD Mentor Protégé program encourages major DOD prime contractors to develop the technical and business capabilities of small disadvantaged businesses, qualifying organizations employing people with severe disabilities, service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and businesses with other special class designations.

Northrop Grumman has 13 current mentor protégé agreements and has worked with more than 110 protégé agencies over the life of the program. The company has received 22 DOD Nunn-Perry Awards for participation in the DOD Mentor-Protégé program, more than any other company in the program.

Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman also received the SourceAmerica® national award for Commercial Business Partnership in support of the AbilityOne Program. Northrop Grumman was again honored for its partnership with MVLE Inc., a service provider in the AbilityOne network. AbilityOne is the single largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the U.S. and currently provides employment opportunities to nearly 50,000 people nationwide.

Tina Ballard, Executive Director and CEO of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® said, “Partnering with Northrop Grumman in advancing our complementary missions has been exciting, as it has grown the capabilities of our local service providers, expanded our outreach and education efforts, and helped create more jobs for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. The award is well deserved. “

*The Nunn-Perry Award is named in honor of retired U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, who sponsored legislation to enact the Mentor-Protégé Program in 1991, and former Secretary of Defense William Perry. Nunn-Perry awards are the highest honor companies can receive in the program. Northrop Grumman received two of the seven awards given this year.

October 31, 2013

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Issues 75th Anniversary Commemorative Magazine

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Arlington, VA, October 31, 2013 – Bringing its 75th anniversary celebration of the AbilityOne® Program to a close, the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® has just released Volume 4 of AbilityOne Program Magazine. The October 2013 issue serves the dual purpose of educating Federal customers and partners about working with the AbilityOne Program and wrapping up the year-long festivities honoring the 1938 legislation that led to the Program’s creation. The theme of the celebration is, “AbilityOne - It Works!”

Among the inspirational AbilityOne success stories and historical elements explored in this issue are:

  • Hurricane Katrina to the Boston Marathon bombing: How AbilityOne unites us when tragedy strikes
  • Trained in contract closeout, AbilityOne Program employees who are blind or have significant disabilities identify $538 million for return to Federal agencies
  • AbilityOne Program employee receives her first paycheck at the age of 42
  • More than 3,500 AbilityOne products and services help meet the ever-changing requirements and specifications of government initiatives, including environmental protection
  • AbilityOne agencies support warfighters during their active service and return to civilian life
  • Illustrated 75-year timeline reveals growth, challenges, and changes to the AbilityOne Program
  • Results of a year-long social media campaign to raise public awareness about the Program

Tina Ballard, Executive Director and CEO of the Commission said, “It is fitting as we enter the 76th year of the AbilityOne Program’s operation that we recognize the importance of the enacting bill and recommit ourselves to the mission set for us by visionary Congressional leaders. Although the AbilityOne Program is a highly successful government effort to create jobs for people who are blind or have significant disabilities, we still have a long way to go. The urgency of the situation is underscored by the August 2013 release of a report* from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which shows that nearly 80 percent of persons with a disability do not have jobs. It is essential to the health and well being of both these individuals and our economy that we dramatically improve this situation.”

For the complete issue of the October 2013 AbilityOne Program Magazine in fully accessible PDF format, go to http://www.abilityone.gov/media_room/documents/AO_Magazine_2014_508_WEB.pdf.

*For the full Bureau of Labor Statistics report, PERSONS WITH A DISABILITY: LABOR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS – 2012, go to http://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm

August 28, 2013

Labor Day: Major Implications For People With Significant Disabilities

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WASHINGTON, DC, August 28, 2013 – The annual Labor Day holiday salutes the working people of our nation. Through their efforts and productivity, our society remains strong and resilient. However, according to the Department of Labor website www.dol.gov/odep, the July 2013 Labor Force Participation Rate for people with disabilities was 20.3%.

These data underscore the decades old problem of too few employment opportunities for upwards of 11 million people with disabilities. The impact of this reality hits hardest on people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

The good news is that their employment playing field is being broadened by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, a small, independent federal agency created in 1938. The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program with assistance from two central nonprofit agencies: National Industries for the Blind and SourceAmerica®, and a network of nearly 600 participating local nonprofit agencies across the country.

In 2012, AbilityOne contracts with federal agencies to provide thousands of products and services resulted in creating nearly 50,000 jobs for men and women who are blind or have a significant disability. The jobs they filled run the gamut of blue collar and white collar employment including contract management services, fleet maintenance, grounds keeping, and contact center services.

What does having a job mean to someone with a significant disability? Here are just two perspectives provided by AbilityOne employees.

To Jeffrey Files, an AbilityOne stock clerk responsible for issuing, receiving, inspecting, and accounting for $45 million in military gear at Fort Drum, it’s much more than just a paycheck. Files says, “It’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life… I personally take pride in giving the Soldiers the best possible equipment they can get their hands on... It is a privilege and an honor to work here.”

Ryan Frasier, National Passport Information Center customer service representative has this to say: “During [international] crisis operations, I take calls from Americans overseas on passport issues… assist people with illness and injuries, and connect them with loved ones at home. AbilityOne gives me the opportunity to… provide my fellow citizens with a truly useful service when they need it most.”

For more information about the AbilityOne Program please visit: www.abilityone.gov.

August 19, 2013

DOD, AbilityOne Recognize NAVAIR Support Of People With Disabilities

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Members of NAVAIR's contracts team and the Aircrew Systems Program Office recently received "Commitment in Action" certificates for their work supporting an AbilityOne® Program. From left, Jim Meade, Janice Woehrer, Dan Ratcliff, Kimberly Zeich, Capt. John T. Palmer, Sheila Milburn, Greg Szczyglowski and Tara Capecci.
Courtesy photo by AbilityOne Members of NAVAIR's contracts team and the Aircrew Systems Program Office recently received "Commitment in Action" certificates for their work supporting an AbilityOne® Program. From left, Jim Meade, Janice Woehrer, Dan Ratcliff, Kimberly Zeich, Capt. John T. Palmer, Sheila Milburn, Greg Szczyglowski and Tara Capecci.

by Stephanie Lesko U.S. AbilityOne Commission

August 19, 2013 – Members of Naval Air Systems Command's contracts team aboard NAS Patuxent River and the Aircrew Systems Program Office recently received "Commitment in Action" certificates for their work supporting an AbilityOne® Program, the nation's largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

In 2011, the Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR, 2.0 Contracting Team used its ongoing relationship with the AbilityOne Program to procure a new aircrew endurance vest for Navy and Marine Corps aircrews to wear while flying. Peckham Inc., a nonprofit agency employing people with significant disabilities in Lansing, Mich., designed and prototyped the new vest ensemble. The vest, an improved replacement for the PRU-70 vest, provides a means of carrying flight and survival equipment and body armor.

By working with Peckham, NAVAIR sustained approximately 20 jobs for people with significant disabilities who previously made the PRU-70 vest.

AbilityOne employees also support NAVAIR in other areas. An AbilityOne nonprofit agency, Rappahannock Goodwill Industries Inc., has performed laundry services and linen rental at Patuxent River Naval Air Station Medical Laundry for Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River since September 2006.

On May 2, 2012, Industries for the Blind, Milwaukee, another AbilityOne nonprofit, opened its IB Express Servmart in building 4024 here to be a one-stop on base office supply vendor.

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Deputy Executive Director Kimberly Zeich co-presented the certificates with Capt. John Palmer, NAVAIR deputy assistant commander for contracts, to Tara Capecci, Michael Denny, Lori Frame, Capt. Roger Ligon, James Meade, Dan Ratcliff, retired Lt. Cmdr. Martin Rios, Greg Szczyglowski and Janice Woehrer.

The AbilityOne (Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act) Program uses the purchasing power of the federal government to buy products and services from participating, community-based nonprofit agencies nationwide dedicated to training and employing individuals with disabilities. For more information, visit www.AbilityOne.gov.

July 11, 2013

Tony Poleo Re-Elected to Lead Presidentially-Appointed Commission
Jim Kesteloot Re-Elected Vice Chairperson

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Left to right:  U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo and Vice Chairperson James M. (Jim) Kesteloot.
Left to right: U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo and Vice Chairperson James M. (Jim) Kesteloot.

Washington, DC, July 11, 2013 – J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo and James (Jim) Kesteloot were unanimously re-elected to their respective positions as Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, the operating name of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, at its July 2013 meeting. Poleo and Kesteloot were first elected to their positions in July 2011.

The Commission is responsible for administering the AbilityOne® Program, the single largest employment source for Americans who are blind or have significant disabilities, which provided nearly 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2012 alone. The AbilityOne Program delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and is an important part of the U.S. military industrial base.

“I am honored to again serve as the Chairperson of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, and I look forward to continuing my partnership with re-elected Vice Chairperson Jim Kesteloot,” said Poleo. “To me, while maintaining program integrity remains paramount as we go forward, we must intensify our effort to preserve existing opportunities and find new ones in this increasingly austere fiscal environment.”

Poleo was appointed by President George W. Bush in February 2007, as the Department of Defense representative to the Commission. Poleo currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer, Defense Logistics Agency.

Kesteloot was appointed to the Commission by President Barack H. Obama in September 2010, as a private citizen representative providing insight into the obstacles to employment of persons who are blind.

“As Vice Chairperson, I will continue to work with Chairperson Tony Poleo in advancing the Commission’s strategic direction and creating jobs of the future, consistent with my appointment and President Obama’s goal of empowering people with disabilities,” said Kesteloot.

July 11, 2013

Lowman Receives AbilityOne Honors

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Left to right:  U.S. AbilityOne Commission Executive Director Tina Ballard, Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman, and U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo.
Left to right: U.S. AbilityOne Commission Executive Director Tina Ballard, Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman, and U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo.

Washington, DC, July 11, 2013 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® presented its Executive Director’s Award for Enduring Leadership to Dr. Carol E. Lowman, former Deputy to the Commanding General Army Contracting Command, who served on the Commission from October 2011 through August 2012.

The Enduring Leadership Award is the Executive Director’s award presented to senior leaders for truly outstanding contributions to, and support of, the AbilityOne Program. As a result of her leadership, Contract Management Services (CMS) is a well-established line of business for the AbilityOne Program. From 2010 to the present, 107 employees who are blind or have significant disabilities were employed, including 27 veterans and wounded warriors, have found employment in this line of business. Since the launch of CMS, these employees have delivered 119,000 contracts to contracting officers for signature, achieved a greater than 99% quality rate, and identified $191 million in recovered funding.

“For many years, Carol Lowman has distinguished herself as an AbilityOne® advocate, consistently supporting and encouraging the sale of SKILCRAFT® and AbilityOne products and by sponsoring a pilot for Contract Management Services,” said Executive Director and CEO Tina Ballard. “After decades of distinguished Federal service, Carol retired from the government and resigned from the Commission; and yet, her exceptional work continues to make a difference in the lives of our population and the success of AbilityOne. Her acts of leadership are enduring.”

“Throughout her career, Carol has provided invaluable acquisition advice and leadership which resulted in the creation of 2,000 jobs for people with significant disabilities,” said Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo. “She thinks ‘out of the box’ all the time. She is very deserving of this award and recognition.”

As the Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting and Acting Director of the Military Installation and Contracting Command, Lowman and the command demonstrated extraordinary commitment to AbilityOne by being the first to act on the Department of Defense / AbilityOne Commitment Card initiative. Results are already being achieved. There were no AbilityOne services at Ft. Rucker four years ago; today laundry, document management, and hazardous materials management services are now under development. Support from Lowman also fostered a greater emphasis within the Army to work with AbilityOne on other contracting opportunities, such as Department of Public Works Total Facilities Management projects.

Lowman said, “I am honored and humbled to receive this award. I truly am appreciative of everyone behind me who helped make this happen.”

The Commission, National Industries for the Blind, and SourceAmerica® also recognized Dr. Lowman during the meeting for her service as the Department of Army representative on the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, from October 2011 through August 2012.

Left to right:  Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo.
Left to right: Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and U.S. AbilityOne Commission Chairperson J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo.

Left to right:  Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and National Industries for the Blind President and CEO Kevin A. Lynch.
Left to right: Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and National Industries for the Blind President and CEO Kevin A. Lynch.

Left to right:  Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and SourceAmerica President and CEO E. Robert Chamberlin.
Left to right: Honoree Dr. Carol E. Lowman and SourceAmerica President and CEO E. Robert Chamberlin.

April 30, 2013

U.S. AbilityOne Commission FY2012 Annual Report Published

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Washington, D.C., April 30, 2013 – The U.S. AbilityOne Commission® today released its FY2012 Annual Report to the public.  Published under the theme “AbilityOne-People Above All,” the report chronicles key highlights of the AbilityOne Program in the past year, and features 14 profiles of exemplary individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities and are employed through the AbilityOne® Program. The publication also highlights the 75th anniversary celebration of the AbilityOne Program’s founding legislation which runs through October 2013.

AbilityOne is the single largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities and currently provides employment opportunities to more than nearly 50,000 people nationwide. The Program is administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, an independent Federal agency, with assistance from National Industries for the Blind (NIB), and NISH-Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Significant Disabilities.

To view the U.S. AbilityOne Commission FY2012 Annual Report, click here.

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March 29, 2013

AbilityOne Producing Agencies Win Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Food Service Awards

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Washington, D.C., March 29, 2013 – AbilityOne® Authorized Providers recently won three out of four awards for land-based food service operations in the U.S. Navy’s 2013 Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Food Service Awards.

Award Award Naval Base Nonprofit Agency
First Place Captain Edward F. Ney Ashore General Messes Representing Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Large General Mess Category Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Chesapeake Service Systems, Inc.
First Place Captain Edward F. Ney Ashore General Messes Representing Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Small General Mess Category Naval Base Kitsap, Washington Skookum Educational Programs
Runner Up Captain Edward F. Ney Ashore General Messes Representing Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) Large General Mess Category Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Florida GINFL Services, Inc.

 

The Ney Awards, co-sponsored by the International Food Service Executives Association (IFSEA) encourage excellence in Navy Food Service Programs with the objective of improving the quality of life for Navy personnel.

AbilityOne is the single largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities and currently provides employment opportunities to nearly 50,000 people nationwide. NISH (www.nish.org) is one of two national nonprofit agencies designated by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® to support nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program.

To view the full announcement, visit http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/reference/messages/Documents/ALNAVS/ALN2013/ALN13019.txt

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February 20, 2013

U.S. AbilityOne Commission Highest Honor Call for Nominations

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Washington, D.C., February 20, 2013 – Today the U.S. AbilityOne CommissionTM announces its call for nominations for the E.R. "Dick" Alley Career Achievement Award (Alley Award). The Commission is the independent Federal agency which leads and administers the AbilityOne® Program, the single largest source of employment in the United States, providing employment opportunities to nearly 50,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities nationwide. The Alley Award is the highest honor the Commission bestows on a Federal employee.

The award was established in 1998 in honor and memory of Dick Alley, who provided more than 25 years of dedicated service to the AbilityOne Program as the Deputy Executive Director of the Commission staff. The award recognizes extraordinary achievements and sustained efforts of individuals in utilizing the Federal procurement system to create AbilityOne employment and training opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

Only one Alley Award is given each year. Eligibility and criteria information can be found online at www.abilityone.gov. Nominations, which must be submitted in an accessible electronic format (i.e., Word, Word Perfect or accessible Adobe PDF), must be submitted to awards@abilityone.gov by March 15, 2013.

The 2013 Alley Award recipient will formally be presented the award at both the NISH National Training and Achievement Conference in May 2013, and the National Industries for the Blind National Training Conference in October 2013.

January 30, 2013

First AbilityOne Executive Director Passed Away at 92

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Washington, DC, January 30, 2013 – It is with a great sense of loss that the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which operates as the U.S. AbilityOne CommissionTM, acknowledges the passing of its former and first Executive Director, Charles William Fletcher, BG (Ret) US Army. A life-long humanitarian and proponent of people who are blind or have significant disabilities, Fletcher died on January 2, 2013. He was 92.

After graduating from West Point in 1941 and engaging in a prestigious 30-year military career, Fletcher became the first Executive Director of the independent Federal agency now known as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program, the largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the United States.

“For nearly two decades Charlie Fletcher served with distinction as the first Executive Director of the U.S. AbilityOne Program,” said Tina Ballard, current U.S. AbilityOne Commission Executive Director. “His willingness to open new doors of opportunity for people who are blind or have significant disabilities set a high bar for subsequent Executive Directors. We collectively thank him for what he did to advance the program mission and improve the lives of the population we serve.”

During his 17-year tenure, Fletcher tirelessly dedicated himself to providing jobs to people who were blind or had significant disabilities through the manufacture of products and services for the Federal Government, under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (the enabling legislation for the AbilityOne® Program). By the time of his retirement from civil service, he left the program with a then-record-high 13.5 million direct labor hours and $58.7 million in wages paid. The program minimum wage was $4.61 per hour, slightly higher than the prevailing wage of that period in time. From 1971-1988, he was a driving force in increasing program employment from 4,000 to nearly 20,000 people who were blind or had severe disabilities.

“In addition to his program accomplishments, Charlie Fletcher was also known to his staff as a kind, warm-hearted individual, who will be missed dearly,” said Ballard.

2012

December 18, 2012

Department of Defense Contract Will Create More Than 200 New Jobs for People with Disabilities through the AbilityOne Program

Contract will focus on providing opportunities for wounded warriors.

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Vienna, VA – Dec. 18, 2012 – NISH--Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Significant Disabilities, announced today that one of its member nonprofit agencies has received a $120 million five-year contract to consolidate units of the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) which supports all Defense Human Resources Systems. The contract will be serviced through InspiriTec, Inc. under the Federal AbilityOne® Program and over the next several years will create around 240 jobs at Fort Knox, KY, for wounded warriors and people with significant disabilities.

The DMDC supports active duty, Reserve, Guard and retired military members and their families, as well as civilian contractors who work at the Department of Defense (DOD). The call center serves to verify military benefits as well as providing identity management for the DOD. Originally, this contract was serviced by three call centers in different locations. This consolidation will not only save money by eliminating overlaps, but will also increase customer satisfaction by having a “one stop” approach to customer service.

“This contract award is an affirmation of the potential of people with disabilities to perform at a high level when given the opportunity and support to succeed,” said John Connolly, president & CEO of InspiriTec. “We are especially pleased to be working with the disabled veterans and wounded warriors’ community as we look to staff several contact centers and help desk analyst positions.”

Currently, InspiriTec manages a Human Resources Contact Center for the U.S. Army at Fort Knox where all employees are wounded warriors or people with significant disabilities. Given that AbilityOne’s turnover rate is one-third that of commercial sector service providers, this contract is projected to provide higher quality and productivity rates for our service members. Moreover, this contract provides wounded warriors an opportunity to continue to contribute to their military community.

“Working in this military environment allows me to utilize my military skills and experiences. This job gives me a real sense of accomplishment and provides me a chance to take care of others again like I did in the Army,” said Jeff, a customer service representative at InspiriTec in Fort Knox. “I hope other vets with disabilities will hear my story and see what’s possible.”

DOD Human Resources Activity created the DMDC in 2009 to consolidate the three separate contact centers: the Personnel Security Assurance Help Desk, the DMDC Support Center and the DMDC Support Office. The goal is to provide a single contact experience for the customer that will eliminate overlap and maximize customer satisfaction.

“The Department of Defense needed a solution. Through the AbilityOne Program in collaboration with InspiriTec we were able to provide one. This contract will not only represent 20% to 30% savings for the DOD, but also a huge increase in productivity,” said Bob Chamberlin, president and CEO of NISH. “Furthermore, together we are all working to achieve our shared mission to ensure that people with disabilities are given the opportunity to achieve upward mobility and professional success, and contribute with their skills not only to the workforce but also to their communities.”

AbilityOne is the largest single source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities and currently provides employment opportunities to more than 50,000 people nationwide. NISH (www.nish.org) is one of two national, nonprofit agencies designated by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission™ to support nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program.

New employees at Inspiritec will join the more than 131,000 people with significant disabilities who are already employed through NISH affiliated nonprofit agencies across the country.

November 28, 2012

Survey Shows Greater Acceptance, Confidence and Support for Employing People Who are Blind or Have Significant Disabilities

Private Sector and Individuals, Along with the Federal Government and Nonprofits, Have Important Roles to Play.
New AbilityOne 75th Anniversary Website Now Available.

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 28, 2012 – According to a survey released today by the U.S. AbilityOne CommissionTM, Americans have growing confidence in the work capabilities of people who are blind or have significant disabilities, and they support programs such as the AbilityOne® Program even more strongly than results revealed in a similar study conducted in 2009.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the AbilityOne Program is a public-private partnership through which community-based nonprofit agencies training people who are blind or have a significant disability can develop and deliver products and services for the U.S. government. More than nine out of every 10 Americans believe the Federal Government should support employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

In this year’s study, nearly half of all (48 percent) respondents reported knowing a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker who is blind or has significant disabilities. Survey respondents resoundingly affirmed the importance of across-the-board support for the AbilityOne Program and its mission. The study also reveals a growing awareness of both general and employment-specific challenges and opportunities for Americans who are blind or have significant disabilities.

“As we start our year-long 75th anniversary celebration and awareness campaign, we are using this survey to increase the American public’s awareness of the AbilityOne Program. We ask that the private sector join government and nonprofit communities to support the AbilityOne Program and its mission by employing these very capable individuals,” said J. Anthony Poleo, Chairperson, U.S. AbilityOne Commission. “Awareness and education are fundamental precursors to shifting the employment figures for these highly capable yet chronically underemployed individuals in a positive and meaningful way.”

In fact, the unemployment rate for working-age persons who are blind or have a disability is disproportionately high, and fewer than 32 percent participate in the labor force at all, compared to nearly 77 percent of their peers who are not blind or have a disability.
The national survey, conducted in October, polled 1,000 Americans, 18 and older, regarding their attitudes and views on the capabilities of people who are blind or have significant disabilities to create quality products and services.

More specifically, highlights of this year’s survey include:

  • Major jump in highest level of comfort with private sector hiring of individuals who are blind or have other severe disabilities.
  • 64 percent (versus 52 percent in 2009) reported they were very comfortable with business in general, and their company in particular, hiring a person who is blind or has other severe disabilities.
  • Significant jump in highest level of confidence in work products of Americans who are blind or have severe disabilities.
  • 61 percent (compared to 52 percent in 2009) reported they were very comfortable with the abilities of people who are blind or have other severe disabilities to make quality products for the government and the military. Likewise 62 percent (versus 52 percent in 2009) reported being very comfortable with government purchasing products and services made by people with disabilities.
  • Increased acceptance among Americans that people who are blind or have other severe disabilities are capable of producing quality products and services.
  • 84 percent (versus 78 percent in 2009) said they were comfortable with the abilities of people who are blind or have other severe disabilities to make quality products and services for the government and military.
  • Additionally, nearly nine in 10 people surveyed (87 percent) said they were comfortable with the government purchasing products and services made and sold by people who are blind or have other severe disabilities.
  • Across-the-board participation is essential and the degree of support is strengthening. More than nine in 10 affirmed it is important for each of four sectors – individuals, businesses and the private sector, government and the armed forces, and nonprofits/civic organizations/schools/other community groups– to support the AbilityOne Program and its mission. Further, there was a significant increase in the strength of belief that individuals and the private sector should support employment opportunities for people who are blind or have severe disabilities:
  • 58 percent say it’s very important for individuals to support AbilityOne and its mission, up from 41 percent in 2009.
  • 62 percent say it’s very important for businesses and the private sector to support AbilityOne and its mission, up from 56 percent in 2009.
  • Growing awareness of challenges, opportunities, and resources for people who are blind or have other severe disabilities.
  • 50 percent (vs. 37 percent in 2009) reported being knowledgeable of the general challenges and opportunities for people who are blind or have other severe disabilities;
  • 45 percent (vs. 28 percent in 2009) were knowledgeable of the employment challenges and opportunities for people who are blind or have other severe disabilities, and
  • 38 percent were knowledgeable of the private sector and the public sector resources available to people who are blind or have other severe disabilities (versus 24 percent and 27 percent, respectively, in 2009).

75th Anniversary Website Launched
As part of AbilityOne’s year-long 75th anniversary celebration and awareness campaign, which began last month, the U.S. AbilityOne Commission™ launched a website www.abilityone.gov/75 where visitors can learn about the history, growth and success of the AbilityOne Program. “Through the site we hope to open even more doors for individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities, gain new customers and partners, and inspire others to replicate and help evolve the AbilityOne model,” added Poleo

October 23, 2012

AbilityOne Program Celebrates 75 Years of Success

Largest Single Source of Training and Employment for Americans Who are Blind or have Significant Disabilities.
Year-Long Celebration to Include Commemorative Publication, Microsite and Special Events.

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WASHINGTON, DC, October 23, 2012 – The U.S. AbilityOne CommissionTM today announced the start of a year-long 75th anniversary celebration for the AbilityOne® Program and the enactment of the landmark legislation that created it.

“The AbilityOne Program is a shining example of government at its best – bringing together nonprofits, businesses and government agencies to honor our nation’s most treasured resource,” said J. Anthony “Tony”Poleo, Chairman, AbilityOne Commission and Chief Financial Officer, Defense Logistics Agency. “We felt it fitting to celebrate the 75th anniversary for an entire year and in doing so, tell the amazing AbilityOne story.” In the coming months, the AbilityOne Program will celebrate its long and proud history, sharing the remarkable stories of its employees, and paying tribute to its partners, while educating the country about the model program.

Under the theme “AbilityOne: It Works!” the celebration begins this week with distribution of the annual edition of AbilityOne Magazine. “In addition to chronicling the history of the AbilityOne Program, the publication highlights some of the employees, advocates, partners, products and services that make AbilityOne a resounding success,” said Tina Ballard, Executive Director and CEO of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. Throughout the year, a wide variety of AbilityOne success stories from across the country will be shared, an AbilityOne 75th anniversary microsite will be launched, and special events will be held, culminating in October, 2013 with a reception commemorating the signing of the original founding legislation.

People who have disabilities are the most chronically underemployed segment of working-age Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Persons with a Disability: Labor Force Characteristics — 2011, there are 15 million working-age Americans with disabilities. Many are willing and able to work, yet nearly 70 percent do not have jobs, compared to 23 percent of those with no disability.

The AbilityOne Program can be traced back to 1938, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Wagner-O’Day Act directing the Federal government to purchase products made by individuals who are blind. The act, now known as the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, was amended in 1971 to include people with severe disabilities to participate, and called for the provision of services to the federal government.

The AbilityOne Program is a Federal initiative to help people who are blind or have significant disabilities find employment by working within a national network of more than 600 nonprofit agencies that develop and sell products and services to the U.S. government. Today, the Program, administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission in partnership with National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH – Creating Opportunities for People with Significant Disabilities, is the single largest source of training and employment for Americans who are blind or have significant disabilities, employing more than 50,000 Americans, including 3,000 veterans and wounded warriors.

July 12, 2012

RADM Mark F. Heinrich and Anil Lewis Sworn-In as Members of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Washington, DC, July 12, 2012 – Today, RADM Mark F. Heinrich, Department of the Navy, and Anil Lewis, Private Citizen, were publicly sworn-in as members of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which operates as the U.S. AbilityOne CommissionTM (Commission). Both were appointed by President Barack H. Obama.

“Mark and Anil each brings his own experiences to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, from both the Defense procurement arena and the disability community. We need both of these perspectives to increase employment opportunities for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo.

The Commission administers the AbilityOne® Program under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, a public law that requires the Federal Government to purchase certain products and services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have other significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing more than 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in Fiscal Year 2011 alone. At the same time, AbilityOne delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and is an important part of the U.S. military industrial base.

Rear Admiral Mark Heinrich became Commander, Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) and 46th Chief of Supply Corps in July 2011. Previously, he served as Commander, NAVSUP Global Logistics Support headquartered in San Diego, Calif. His additional flag officer assignments include extensive Joint experience: Director, Logistics Operations and Readiness (J-3/4) for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Va; deployed to Kuwait June-December 2008 as Director of the United States Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center at Camp Arifjan, where he applied deployment and distribution expertise to enable the planning and execution of Joint and combined force military operations. His first flag officer assignment was as Commander, Defense Supply Center Richmond, Va., now known as DLA Aviation. The Admiral was commissioned in the Navy Supply Corps following graduation from the Naval Academy in May 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering. He also holds masters' degrees in Business Administration and Petroleum Management from the University of Kansas. He attended the Kellogg Graduate School of Management Advanced Executive Program. He is a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps. His personal decorations include two Defense Superior Service Medals, two Legions of Merit, a Defense Meritorious Service Medal, and various other awards. He is a qualified Surface Warfare Supply Corps officer and a Naval Aviation Supply officer. The Admiral is the recipient of the 2011 Osborne A. “Oz” Day AbilityOne Awareness Award.

Anil Lewis was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) at age nine. Originally mislabeled as “educably mentally retarded,” Lewis excelled academically and became the first member of his family to attend a four-year college. Lewis became blind from his RP in 1989, while pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in Computer Information Systems at Georgia State University (GSU). Currently employed as the Director of Strategic Communications for the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, Lewis is responsible for a variety of public relations, governmental affairs, and strategic programs; and most notably, the NFB’s Blind Driver Challenge™, an innovative research project to develop nonvisual access technology that will make it possible for a blind person to safely and independently operate an automobile. Starting as President of the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter in 1993, he eventually served as President of the NFB of Georgia for eight years and was elected to the NFB Board of Directors.
He was appointed by the governor as a Board Member and President of the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) of Georgia, served as the Founding Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Disability Law and Policy Center (DLPC) of Georgia, and was an independent disability consultant until 2010. Lewis has received numerous awards for his work in the disability community - 1997 GSU Outstanding Alumnus award; 2002 recipient of the Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship, used to obtain his 2003 GSU Master’s degree in Public Administration with emphasis in policy analysis and program evaluation; 2003 GSU Torch Bearer of Peace Award recipient; 2004 American Bar Association Paul G. Hearn Advocacy Award; and 2006 Leadership DeKalb Alumnus of the Year. Lewis is also a 2008 graduate of the Leadership Georgia program.

RADM Mark F. Heinrich
RADM Mark F. Heinrich

Anil Lewis
Anil Lewis

 

January 12, 2012

Carol Lowman, Jan Frye, and Karen McCulloh Sworn-In as Members of U.S. AbilityOne CommissionTM

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Washington, DC, January 12, 2012 – Today, Carol Lowman, Department of the Army; Jan Frye, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Karen McCulloh, Private Citizen were publicly sworn-in as members of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which operates as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission (Commission). All three members were appointed by President Barack H. Obama.

"Carol, Jan, and Karen bring a wealth of experience to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, from both the Federal Government and the disability community," said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo. "I will draw upon their knowledge to help increase employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities."

The Commission administers the AbilityOne Program® under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, a public law that requires the Federal Government to purchase certain products and services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have other significant disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing more than 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in Fiscal Year 2011 alone. At the same time, the AbilityOne Program delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and is an important part of the U.S. military industrial base.

Dr. Carol E. Lowman is the Executive Director of the U.S. Army Contracting Command (ACC), a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. She previously served as the Deputy Director for ACC, which is headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Ala. As Executive Director, she oversees the Mission and Installation Contracting Command, the Expeditionary Contracting Command, and six major contracting centers. ACC provides global contracting support to warfighters through the full spectrum of military operations. With more than 5,700 military and civilian personnel worldwide, the organization awards and manages more than 240,000 contractual actions valued at an estimated $86 billion per year. Dr. Lowman has also served as the Director and Principal Assistant Responsible for Contracting and Chief, Business Systems Division for the Army Contracting Agency Southern Region at Atlanta, GA.

Jan R. Frye is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition and Logistics for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Frye is a retired U.S. Army Colonel, after serving on active duty for 30 years. During his Army career, he served in senior acquisition command and staff positions in the United Kingdom, Republic of Korea, Hungary, and the U.S. He also served as the Chief of Contracting at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Contract Management Association.

Karen J. McCulloh consults as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist with businesses and nonprofit organizations to educate on the inclusion of people with disabilities into the labor force.  She was the founding Executive Director of disabilityworks, a project of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, from 2005 until 2010.  Appointed by the Secretary of Labor to sit on the Job Corps Advisory Committee from 2006 until 2008, she served as Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Disability.  In 2003, she co-founded the National Organization of Nurses with Disabilities, served as President from 2003 to 2005, and is now serving as the Immediate Past President.  Ms. McCulloh also served as the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago.

Jan Frye, from the Department of Veterans Affairs, is sworn-in by Chairperson Tony Poleo, as a member of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled
Jan Frye, from the Department of Veterans Affairs, is sworn-in by Chairperson Tony Poleo, as a member of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled

Carol Lowman, from the Department of the Army, is sworn-in by Chairperson Tony Poleo, as a member of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled
Carol Lowman, from the Department of the Army, is sworn-in by Chairperson Tony Poleo, as a member of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled

Karen McCulloh, a private citizen, is sworn-in by Chairperson Tony Poleo, as a member of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled
Karen McCulloh, a private citizen, is sworn-in by Chairperson Tony Poleo, as a member of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled

For more information contact
Stephanie Lesko
slesko@abilityone.gov
703-603-2146

2011

October 12, 2011

Letter to the Editor - Dorchester Reporter (PDF)

October 6, 2011

William Sisk, Assistant Commissioner, GSA, Sworn-In as Newest Member of U.S. AbilityOne Commission

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Chairperson Tony Poleo administers the oath of office to William Sisk, GSA
Chairperson Tony Poleo administers the oath of office to William Sisk, GSA

Washington, DC, October 6, 2011 – Today, William (Bill) Sisk, Assistant Commissioner in the Office of General Supplies and Services for the Federal Acquisition Service of the General Services Administration (GSA), was sworn-in as the newest member of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which operates as the U.S. AbilityOne Commission (Commission).  Sisk was appointed by President Barack H. Obama.

“I welcome Bill Sisk to the Committee, and I am confident that he will do well in his position,” said Chairperson J. Anthony Poleo.  “His knowledge of Federal procurement will be an asset to the AbilityOne Program, and I look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.”

The Commission administers the AbilityOne Program under the auspices of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, a public law that directs the Federal Government to purchase certain products and services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have other significant disabilities.  The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing more than 50,000 job opportunities nationwide in FY2010 alone.  At the same time, the AbilityOne Program delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers and is an important part of the U.S. military industrial base.

Sisk has more than 20 years of experience at GSA.  As Assistant Commissioner in the Office of General Supplies and Services for the Federal Acquisition Service, Sisk leads GSA’s acquisition of a wide range of commodities and services used by Federal agencies.  In this position since June 2011, he is responsible for the diverse business line programs of Global Supply Operations, Acquisition Operations and Personal Property Management.  He is also responsible for the FAS Emergency Management function that is focused on solutions to Federal Government’s disaster response capabilities.  Sisk leads an organization of over 1,200 Government employees and contractors with $23 billion in annual business volume.  Prior to his current position, in 2007 Sisk was the Regional Commissioner for the Federal Acquisition Service where he represented GSA’s Assisted Acquisition Services, Fleet Management, Network Services, Personal Property and the Customer Accounts and Research Division. 

The swearing-in ceremony was held at the Commission bi-monthly meeting held in New Orleans, LA.

For more information contact
Stephanie Lesko
slesko@abilityone.gov
703-603-2146

July 14, 2011

Tony Poleo to Lead Presidentially-Appointed Committee Jim Kesteloot Vice Chairperson

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Chairperson Poleo, left, shakes hands with Vice Chairperson Kesteloot
Chairperson Poleo, left, shakes hands with Vice Chairperson Kesteloot

Washington, DC, July 14, 2011 – J. Anthony (Tony) Poleo, Chief Financial Officer, Defense Logistics Agency, was elected Chairperson of the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (Committee) at its July 2011 meeting. Poleo was appointed to the Committee by President George W. Bush in February 2007, as the Department of Defense representative.

“I am honored to serve as the next Chairperson of the Committee, and look forward to collaborating with newly-elected Vice Chairperson Jim Kesteloot on this worthwhile employment program. Much has been accomplished, but much more progress needs to be made to better serve individuals with disabilities. And, I am confident that the Committee members and our dedicated staff will continue to pursue this important mission with the highest integrity,” said Poleo.

The Committee is responsible for administering the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, a public law that directs the Federal Government to purchase certain products and services furnished by nonprofit agencies employing individuals who are blind or have other severe disabilities. The AbilityOne Program is the single largest employment source for Americans with disabilities, providing more than 50,000 job opportunities nationwide. At the same time, the AbilityOne Program delivers quality product and service solutions to Federal customers, and is an important part of the U.S. military industrial base.
Poleo currently serves as the Chief Financial Officer, Defense Logistics Agency. The Defense Logistics Agency, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, is responsible for providing the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and other Federal agencies with a variety of logistics, acquisition and technical services in peace and war. These services include logistics information, materiel management, procurement, warehousing and distribution of spare parts, food, clothing, medical supplies and fuel, reutilization of surplus military materiel and document automation and production. This worldwide mission is performed by approximately 27,000 civilian and military personnel with an annual budget of approximately $42 billion. From 2001 to his selection as CFO, Poleo was the Principal Deputy Comptroller, DLA Directorate of Financial Operations. He holds Defense Financial Management and Government Financial Management certifications; and he has also completed the Program for Senior Executive Fellows at Harvard University and the Leadership for a Democratic Society program at the Federal Executive Institute.

James M. Kesteloot, of Chicago, Ill., was elected Vice Chairperson. He was appointed to the Committee by President Barack H. Obama in September 2010, as a private citizen representative providing insight into the obstacles to employment of persons who are blind. A long-time national advocate for employment of people who are blind, he recently retired as executive director and president of the Chicago Lighthouse after a 40- year career with the 104-year-old agency. Under his leadership, the Lighthouse was transformed into a nationally acclaimed social service organization that’s widely respected as being among the most comprehensive in the nation. He has consulted for many organizations and has served on numerous councils, including appointments by Ill. Governors James R. Thompson and Jim Edgar to the state Blind Services Planning Council, and an appointment by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to his Task Force for the Employment of People with Disabilities.

“As Vice Chairperson, I look forward to working with newly-elected Chairperson Tony Poleo in advancing the Committee’s strategic direction and creating jobs of the future, consistent with my appointment and President Obama’s goal of empowering people with disabilities,” said Kesteloot.

Andrew D. Houghton completed his term as Committee Chairperson from July 2006 - July 2011. Appointed to the Committee by President George W. Bush in March 2003 and reappointed in May 2006, he served as a private citizen representing the interests of nonprofit agency employees with severe disabilities. Houghton was the first private citizen and first person with a significant disability to serve as Chairperson in the Committee’s 70-year history.

For more information contact
Stephanie Lesko
slesko@abilityone.gov
703-603-2146

July 13, 2011

Hopf, Gilmartin Receive AbilityOne Nonprofit Honors

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Left to right: NISH COO Dennis Fields, Committee COO Kimberly Zeich, Honoree Gidget Hopf, Chairperson Andrew D. Houghton, Honoree Rich Gilmartin, and NIB COO Scottie Knott
Left to right: NISH COO Dennis Fields, Committee COO Kimberly Zeich, Honoree Gidget Hopf, Chairperson Andrew D. Houghton, Honoree Rich Gilmartin, and NIB COO Scottie Knott

Washington, DC, July 13, 2011 – The Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled (Committee) presented its inaugural Chairperson’s Award for Leadership to A. Gidget Hopf of ABVI-Goodwill of Greater Rochester, New York, and Richard (Rich) Gilmartin of Lakeview Center, Pensacola, Florida.

“AbilityOne authorized nonprofit CEOs demonstrate exceptional leadership and results; I’ve often recognized how essential they are to the success of this employment program, and now we have an award to officially honor their contributions,” said Chairperson Andrew D. Houghton. “Both Gidget Hopf and Rich Gilmartin embody the spirit and mission of the AbilityOne Program. To me, a leader is someone who does more than simply comply with the basic requirements. Leaders have vision, quality work environment principles, strong business acumen, and national impact.”

The Chairperson’s award was designed to recognize leaders who consistently meet or surpass the Committee’s statutory and regulatory requirements, who fulfill its guiding principles for a Quality Work Environment (QWE), and exhibit business acumen that leads to increased employment opportunities for the AbilityOne constituency. These individuals also demonstrate leadership on behalf of the AbilityOne Program that has impact across the entire AbilityOne community and the nation. Two such awards may be given to AbilityOne nonprofit agency CEOs each year – one nonprofit CEO associated with National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and one associated with NISH-Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Significant Disabilities.

During her 25 years as President and CEO, Gidget Hopf has transformed ABVI-Goodwill into an industry leader of vision rehabilitation services. Through her service on the AbilityOne Enterprise CEO Forum, NIB Board, and National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind (NAEPB), she has been a strong advocate for the AbilityOne Program. She was instrumental in establishing the original celebration for the Program’s enabling legislation, “JWOD Week.” Her work on other constituency boards, such as the General Council of Industries for the Blind and the Board of the American Foundation for the Blind has been extensive. An early adopter of the Committee’s QWE, in fulfilling the Committee’s guiding principles, she ensured ABVI was among the first 10 NIB-associated agencies to complete the self-assessment and roll-out. She continually meets or exceeds the statutory and regulatory employment requirements of the Committee and places emphasis on upward mobility through continual ABVI production goals. Over the past several decades, through her efforts, ABVI has become a model nonprofit agency, establishing a track record as an innovator. Hopf and ABVI were the first leader to develop a co-branding initiative with industry and they set the model for seeking affiliation with other nonprofits, such as Goodwill Industries, International.

Under Rich Gilmartin’s leadership, Lakeview Center (operating as Gulf Coast Enterprises) continually meets or exceeds the statutory and regulatory requirements of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act. Lakeview Center was one of the QWE initiative early adopters, with Gilmartin one of its main proponents. His expertise was essential while serving on the QWE Steering Group, identifying inclusion practices, and chairing the subgroup on physical and cultural barriers. He also shared his knowledge as a leading member of the CEO Forum on implementing the statutory “Definition of Disability,” and he has actively and positively participated as a speaker at multiple events, including the National Council of Work Centers regional conferences and NISH National Training and Achievement Conferences. Gilmartin is an active participant in the AbilityOne division of ACCSES, which represents more than 80 partner organizations across the country as the voice of disability service providers. With his management expertise and business acumen, Lakeview Center has established a multi-state footprint in several business lines, creating employment for hundreds of individuals with significant disabilities and with widespread acclaim for quality performance.

The AbilityOne Program is the largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the United States, providing more than 50,000 job opportunities at 600 nonprofit agencies nationwide in FY 2010 alone. The AbilityOne Program is administered by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, an independent Federal agency, with assistance from National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH Creating Employment Opportunities for People with Significant Disabilities. The Committee is comprised of 15 Presidential appointees, with 11 representing Federal agencies, and four serving as private citizens who are knowledgeable about the obstacles to employment of people who are blind or have other significant disabilities.

For more information contact
Stephanie Lesko
slesko@abilityone.gov
703-603-2146

 

2010

November 9, 2010

Elwyn California and National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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2010 brings considerable excitement to the AbilityOne® Program and its extensive network, so October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is always a good time to share positive news with our customers. 40K+ individuals with significant disabilities are employed through AbilityOne, and Elwyn CA is privileged and proud to have 32 jobs (plus coaches & management) available through 6 federal contract sites. Over the past year, the Contracts Dept. has worked diligently with other agencies to add Veterans (with disabilities) to the AbilityOne teams. As an outstanding partner, DOD has committed to doubling the available Ability One jobs around the US. Elwyn CA has elevated its overall expertise and labor skill sets so we are well positioned to participate in most any federal, state or commercial venture; we too are eager to double (& more) jobs for Elwyn workers!

On Oct. 13, Elwyn CA staff and a Veteran contract employee worked an information booth in front of the Commissary on the Joint Forces Training Base (JFTB), Los Alamitos. A digital frame scrolled photos of the many success stories at Elwyn, and we offered tasty, fresh from the oven donuts. It really struck this writer as to the diversity of reasons people use the JFTB from around SoCal. And a humorous tidbit, don’t take donuts when military employees are prepping for their physicals… but none were left!

Tatyana Alvarez of the Military Personnel Services in Bldg 15 (JFTB), stopped by. Elwyn workers clean their building, and Tatyana pledged that she would put the word out about Elwyn. Tatyana also shared information with the DSPS at Cypress College for potential students who may have interest in job opportunities with Elwyn. Tatyana “likes the work Elwyn clients do, and she looks forward to seeing them.”

The AbilityOne Program operates under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. The last substantial amendments to the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act were enacted in 1971. After several years of tenacious effort, we finally have H.R.5983 and a fantastic opportunity to modernize all facets. This is crucial in order to align the law and the AbilityOne Program with today's federal acquisition environment In addition to creating more jobs for people who are blind or have significant disabilities, the bill will: increase the quality and diversity of employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities; promote greater employment integration and upward mobility; streamline procurement processes, and allow the Ability One Program to be more responsive to our Federal customers; and ensure more focused oversight and compliance for all. Please encourage your Congress representatives.

Elwyn CA is most appreciative for all of its many customers, supporters, and quality staff. Together we have “made a difference” and turned disadvantage into wonderful success stories around Southern CA. This is also a time of celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the ADA. In these challenging times, when so many social services are under threat, we must continue to advocate for those with softer voices.

Elwyn, CA. Staff

October 18, 2010

Rep. Susan Davis Visits Workers with Disabilities Employed at MCRD

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San Diego – During a busy lunch hour at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) on Monday, October 18, Congresswoman Susan Davis visited with developmentally disabled employees who provide food services to the Marine recruits and maintain the grounds at MCRD.  The workers are employed by The Arc of San Diego and are responsible for serving up to 18,000 meals a day.

“The collaboration between the Marines at MCRD and the staff at The Arc of San Diego to provide on-site job training for people with developmental disabilities is so impressive,” said Davis, Chairwoman of the House Military Personnel Subcommittee.  “It was inspiring to see this face-paced, valuable program in action during peak lunch hour at one of our nation’s largest Marine Corps mess halls.”

The Arc of San Diego is the largest local nonprofit providing services to people with disabilities, employing 275 people with developmental challenges to work at the Arc’s MCRD Food Service Program.  Arc employees not only provide meal service to Marine recruits, but are also are responsible for grounds maintenance for MCRD.  More than 90% of the employees performing these services are individuals with disabilities, making MCRD one of the largest employment sites of people with disabilities in San Diego County.

Congress has designated October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month in recognition of the millions of Americans in our workforce with disabilities.

 

September 29, 2010

October proclaimed AbilityOne Month

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Representatives from the Center for Human Services in Marshall appeared for a proclamation signing Tuesday, Sept. 28, by Mayor Pro Tem Ronald Duvall. Duvall proclaimed October as AbilityOne Month in the City of Marshall. This falls in conjunction with National Disability Awareness Month, designated by Congress.

AbilityOne is a federal program that instigated the month-long celebration of community-based organizations that provide employment opportunities to "people who are blind or have other significant disabilities." These celebrated organizations also provide a variety of goods and services to the Federal Government.

According to the proclamation, the Center for Human Services provides "employment opportunity and training for 17 people" with disabilities. It also reads that the center's services help these employees have more community participation and market their skills into public and private sector jobs.

Pictured in the back row from left to right are Carl Anthony Bloodgood, Program Coordinator Brandy Welch, Executive Director Ann Graff, Stacy Fisher and Vocational Trainer Rachel Fizer. The front row includes Gina Chevalier and Mayor Pro Tem Ronald Duvall.
Pictured in the back row from left to right are Carl Anthony Bloodgood, Program Coordinator Brandy Welch, Executive Director Ann Graff, Stacy Fisher and Vocational Trainer Rachel Fizer. The front row includes Gina Chevalier and Mayor Pro Tem Ronald Duvall.

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September 21, 2010

October is National Disability Awareness Month

August 5, 2010

Hill Air Force Base recognizes AbilityOne Program employees

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – It takes people with all different kinds of backgrounds, educations, skill sets and abilities to ensure Hill Air Force Base is able to accomplish its multi-faceted mission.

That’s the message to be shared at a picnic and recognition event being held here from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 6 when the base honors its 148 employees whose jobs are the result of the AbilityOne Program.

AbilityOne is the nation’s largest single provider of jobs for people who are blind or have significant disabilities, and it’s executed by two organizations – the National Industries for the Blind and NISH-Creating Employment Opportunities for People with significant disabilities.

Both organizations help enable people who are blind or have other significant disabilities acquire job skills and training, receive wages and benefits, and gain greater independence and quality of life.

“Hill Air Force Base is a proud supporter of the AbilityOne Program and its noble mission of providing employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities,” said Col. Roger Westermeyer, Ogden Air Logistics Center director of contracting. “America is known as the land of opportunity and the AbiltyOne Program expands that dream.”

The base works with four different AbilityOne vendors. Enable Industries employs two people who conduct laundering services for the 309th Maintenance Wing; the Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center employs 134 disabled persons who perform custodial services and scrap metal recovery for Hill AFB and the 309th MXW; IB Milwaukee employs approximately six employees and operates IB Express, the base supply and individual equipment store; and Utah Industries for the Blind also employs six visually impaired people who perform package reclamation for the 309th MXW.

“Providing a hand up instead of a handout is what this program is all about, and we need to personally thank each and every one of our AbilityOne employees for a job well done,” Col. Westermeyer said.

 

January 19, 2010

Quality Work Environment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities

AbilityOne Commission Affirms Groundbreaking Recommendations

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The Commission voted unanimously to affirm recommendations developed to ensure AbilityOne employees will have: choice, improved workplace supports, competitive wages, a clear career path, ongoing training, and several other key benefits.

These core principles of the Quality Work Environment (QWE) initiative reflect the Commission’s vision to enable all people who are blind or have other significant disabilities to achieve their maximum employment potential.

The QWE initiative has identified and will promote best practices for the program’s nationwide workforce of more than 45,000 Americans. This will involve the more than 600 nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program through two Central Nonprofit Agencies: National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH (Creating Employment Opportunities for People with significant disabilities). Commission Vice Chairperson James Omvig said, “This is an important day in the history of the AbilityOne Program, demonstrating our commitment to continuously enhance the work environment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.”

Since the Commission’s approval of the QWE concept one year ago, a collaborative “bottom up” process commenced, led by a QWE Steering Group composed of nonprofit agency (NPA) leaders and subject matter experts. NIB President and CEO Kevin Lynch and NISH President and CEO Robert Chamberlin sent a memorandum from Tina Ballard, Commission Executive Director and CEO, to the newly appointed steering group with the charge to take the leadership role in developing the Central Nonprofit Agencies’ QWE business plan recommendations. The steering group completed an intensive review of current best practices from industry and nonprofit organizations. As a result of this research, the steering group developed an implementation plan including core and progressive guidelines that foster a quality work environment.

These guidelines, supported by management tools, will be made available to all AbilityOne NPAs, allowing them to initiate their own individual work plans. The Commission envisions all AbilityOne nonprofit agencies will embrace and adopt individual QWE plans by the end of 2012. As part of this process, NIB and NISH will assist their producing nonprofit agencies in implementing this initiative. “The outstanding effort of this group will live on well into the future, opening the doors of opportunity wider for Americans who are blind or have other significant disabilities, “said Andrew Houghton, Chairperson, Commission.

The Commission formally recognized the QWE leaders – Neil Romano, former Department of Labor Committee representative; John Miller, Steering Group Chairperson and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin; and Robert Hanye, Steering Group Vice Chairperson and CEO of the Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment in Binghamton, NY for their efforts. Other recognized steering group participants include Jerry Bettenhausen, CEO of Work Services Corporation, Wichita Falls, TX; Rich Gilmartin, Vice President for Vocational Services at Lakeview Center in Pensacola, FL; Lou Moneymaker, CEO of BOSMA Enterprises in Indianapolis, IN; Steve Perdue, CEO of Grand Traverse Industries of Traverse City, MI; Deborah Russell, Manager for Outreach and Employment Services for Walgreens in Deerfield, IL; Bobby Silverstein, Counsel for the American Congress of Community Supports and Employment Services, also known as ACCSES, in Washington, D.C.; and Robin Usalis, CEO of the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Cincinnati, OH.

Left to Right: Houghton, Romano, Miller, Hanye, Omvig
Left to Right: Houghton, Romano, Miller, Hanye, Omvig

2009

November 7, 2009

AbilityOne® was a proud sponsor of the 6th Annual American Freedom Festival

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AbilityOne was a proud sponsor of the 6th Annual American Freedom Festival, a concert event that features country music performers, actors, athletes, and other supporters, joining together to help support our nation's wounded warriors and their families. This year's success enabled the foundation to make contributions exceeding $200,000 and nearly $600,000 in total giving since its inception.

The resources will be used for a mentoring program designed for military through Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Easter Seals Community One Source program that connects veterans to community resources during their reintegration. Contributions will also aid in vision restoration for America's heroes, build and renovate homes for veterans, provide support to families of fallen and recreation and rehabilitation services to wounded warriors and their families. Contributions directly benefit the men and women that serve our great Nation and their families.

Posting of the Colors and National Anthem by Christal Rheams, 6th Annual American Freedom Festival.

6th Annual American Freedom Festival - Posting of the Colors by Virginia National Guard's Commonwealth Challenge Program. National Anthem by 16 year U. S. Army veteran, Christal Rheams

 

October 22, 2009

Survey Shows Wide Acceptance for Capabilities of People Blind, significantly Disabled, Despite 60 Percent Unemployed

Federal Workers Play Strong Role to Help Increase Job Opportunities

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ARLINGTON, VA (October 22, 2009) — As part of October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month, the AbilityOne Program’s central nonprofit agencies are releasing survey results that demonstrate Americans have an overwhelming acceptance of the work capabilities of people who are blind or have other significant disabilities. The survey findings also reveal that more than 9 out of every 10 Americans believe the government should support employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities through programs like the federal AbilityOne Program.

This strong support of people who are blind or have other significant disabilities is an important part of the efforts to reduce the unemployment rate of people with disabilities, which hovers above 60 percent.

The national survey, conducted by Greenfield Online®, polled 1,000 Americans, 18 to 55+ years of age, regarding their attitudes and views on the capabilities of people who are blind or have other significant disabilities to create quality products and services. Results show:

  • Broad acceptances among Americans that people who are blind or have other significant disabilities are capable of producing quality products and services. A majority of people surveyed (78%) said they were comfortable with the ability of people who are blind or have other significant disabilities to make quality products and services for the government and armed forces. Additionally, 8 out of 10 people surveyed (80%) said they were comfortable with the government and armed forces purchasing products and/or services made by people who are blind or have other significant disabilities.
  • Overwhelming belief that the government should support employment opportunities for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. Almost all of the survey respondents (92%) say it is important for the government and armed forces to support the AbilityOne Program.

“The AbilityOne Program is the largest source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities” said Robert Chamberlin, President and CEO of NISH – Creating Employment Opportunities for People With Significant Disabilities.
Products for purchase from AbilityOne include: military uniforms, TSA gloves, airplane parts, office and computer supplies as well as environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies. Services include call center management, contract administration, fleet management, laundry services, as well as warehouse, shipping.

“Federal workers should feel incredibly empowered that they are helping to reduce unemployment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities by purchasing AbilityOne products and services. With every purchase of AbilityOne products and services, federal procurement officers literally create and sustain more jobs for this underutilized, but qualified workforce,” Kevin Lynch, President and CEO, National Industries for the Blind said.

The AbilityOne Program is supported by the National Industries for the Blind and NISH, both organizations work with more than 600 nonprofit agencies to provide employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. These agencies sell products on through the federal procurement process to 40 government agencies, the U.S. military; and, to military personnel through 133 base supply centers. In Fiscal Year 2008 alone, $2.3 billion of products and services purchased by the Federal Government were made by people who were blind or have other significant disabilities by way of the AbilityOne Program.

In an effort to educate the American public about issues related to disability and employment, Congress designated each October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

About the AbilityOne Program
Providing employment opportunities to more than 50,000 people, the AbilityOne Program is the largest single source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the United States. More than 600 participating nonprofit organizations employ these individuals and provide quality goods and services to the Federal Government at a fair market price. The AbilityOne Program is administered by the Commission, an independent federal agency, with assistance from National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH-Creating Employment Opportunities for People with significant disabilities.

About NIB
In the United States, seven out of 10 people who are blind are not employed. At National Industries for the Blind (NIB), it is our mission to enhance the opportunities for economic and personal independence of persons who are blind, primarily through creating, sustaining and improving employment. NIB and its associated agencies serve as the largest program responsible for the employment of people who are blind through the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act. For more information regarding how the NIB and NIB-associated agencies continue to provide opportunities to blind Americans, please visit: www.NIB.org.

NISH–Creating Employment Opportunities for People with significant disabilities
Established in 1974, NISH (www.nish.org) is one of two national, nonprofit agencies designated by the Commission to support nonprofit agencies (NPAs) participating in the AbilityOne Program.
NISH provides employment opportunities for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities by procuring federal contracts for goods and services. Headquartered in Vienna, Va., NISH supports a network of more than 1,300 NPAs as well as federal customers by providing legislative and regulatory assistance, communications and public relations materials, information technology support, engineering and technical assistance, and extensive professional training needed for successful contract management.

September 30, 2009

Presidential Proclamation - National Disability Employment Awareness Month (PDF)

 

September 10, 2009

AbilityOne, USO Unite To Support Wounded Warriors - Alliance Reflects Commitment to United We Serve

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The AbilityOne Program, the largest single source of U.S. employment for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities, has entered into a strategic alliance with the USO, which is known internationally for providing morale-boosting activities and services to the military. This alliance will leverage the resources of both organizations to assist and empower service members, particularly wounded warriors.

AbilityOne will provide volunteer support through its network of more than 50,000 employees – 2,000 of whom are veterans – for the USO Operation Enduring Care program, which works to meet the recovery needs of injured service members and their families. For their first joint initiative the two organizations will pack “comfort kits” for injured troops coming directly from the battlefield.

This declaration marks the beginning of a long-term relationship between AbilityOne and the USO, and responds to the United We Serve initiative, the call to action by President Obama and the First Lady to encourage volunteerism.

“This strategic alliance brings together two organizations that are dedicated to addressing the challenges that wounded warriors face and providing resources to help them recover,” said Tina Ballard, executive director and CEO, Commission, the independent federal agency that administers the AbilityOne Program. “This partnership also sends the very important message that AbilityOne employees are capable and dedicated to serving our soldiers who sacrifice for our freedoms. On behalf of AbilityOne employees located nationwide, we are proud to lend our time and our talents to support USO programs and we look forward to a long and beneficial relationship.”

“We enthusiastically welcome AbilityOne’s participation in Operation Enduring Care and appreciate the organization’s efforts to help us support the welfare and social needs of American service members,” said Sloan Gibson, USO president and CEO. ”Moving forward, we hope that AbilityOne employees will continue to serve not only as USO volunteers, but also as a source of inspiration to wounded veterans.”

The Commission and its two central nonprofit agencies – National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH – will officially launch the strategic alliance later this month at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. In addition to AbilityOne employees assembling the first Operation Enduring Care comfort kits, Ballard; Gibson; Bob Chamberlin, president and CEO, NISH; and Kevin Lynch, president and CEO, NIB, will deliver remarks.

July 27, 2009

U.S. Border Patrol Goes Green

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The U. S. Border Patrol, in support of the President’s effort to support “going green,” will implement its first advanced ECO friendly carwash system for the Indio Station. The U.S. Border Patrol has contracted the AbilityOne Program to provide a car wash service for the Border Patrol’s government vehicles. AbilityOne creates employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities. The contract will be performed by Sheltering Wings Corporation, from Blythe, California.

Sheltering Wings Corporation provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Sheltering Wings Corporation will utilize advanced ECO friendly equipment from a company known as Steam Jet Systems

Sheltering Wings Corporation provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Sheltering Wings Corporation will utilize advanced ECO friendly equipment from a company known as Steam Jet Systems.

The Steam Jet cleaning system uses only one cup of water per vehicle. Additionally, the system uses biodegradable materials so there is no chemical runoff or harmful bi-products. This is the first time a Steam Jet System will be used in the continental U.S. by Border Patrol.

The new system will service 10 to 14 vehicles in a four hour period. On average, the Indio Station washes 60 vehicles per month. Implementing the new service will conserve water and employ people with disabilities.

July 20, 2009

AbilityOne NPA, Goodwill / Goodworks Receives National Award

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Mississippi Goodworks (the contract arm of Goodwill Industries of South Mississippi) was awarded the 2009 AbilityOne Small Contractor of the Year Award by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This award recognized contractors that provide outstanding support and service to all clients and customers.

From left: Quinton Robinson, director of USDA, office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization; Ron Russell, CEO/president Goodwill Industries / Goodworks of Southern Mississippi; Alma Hobbs, deputy assistant secretary for administration of USDA; Kevin Shea, acting administrator for APHIS of USDA; and Tina Ballard, executive director for the committee for Purchase from People who are Blind or Severely Disabled.

From left: Quinton Robinson, director of USDA, office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization; Ron Russell, CEO/president Goodwill Industries / Goodworks of Southern Mississippi; Alma Hobbs, deputy assistant secretary for administration of USDA; Kevin Shea, acting administrator for APHIS of USDA; and Tina Ballard, executive director for the Commission.

February 18, 2009

2009 Economic Recovery Act – Guidance for Federal and DoD Customers

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

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On February 18, 2009 the Office of Management and Budget released Guidance (PDF) to federal departments and agencies for implementing the Recovery Act of 2009. The guidance suggests that agencies and departments look at the AbilityOne Program for procurement opportunities.

Specifically the Guidance states:

(7) Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act (41 U.S.C. 46-48c) – AbilityOne

To maximize participation of Americans who are blind or severely disabled in our economic recovery, agencies must continue to purchase required goods and services on the Procurement List maintained by the Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which are produced or provided by qualified nonprofit agencies employing such individuals.

February 12, 2009

Five Honored for Outstanding Service to U.S. Central Command

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Gen. David H. Petraeus recently honored five employees of Gulf Coast Enterprises (GCE) for their outstanding service to the U.S. Central Command, which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

In January, Gen. Petraeus presented framed certificates of appreciation to Amarilita Pachecho, Jay Brody, Joe Brown, Richard Lebbad and Victoria Watkins, employees of the GCE custodial unit at MacDill. The five are responsible for making sure the general’s office suite meets his expectations for cleanliness at all times.

An AbilityOne nonprofit agency, GCE exists to employ people with disabilities. It is a program of Lakeview Center Inc., a network of behavioral health, child protective and vocational services operating out of Pensacola, Fla.

GCE secures contracts to provide specific services and then hires, trains and supervises a workforce composed mostly of people with physical impairments, mental illnesses or developmental disabilities.

The commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. Petraeus is best known for serving as the commanding general for the multi-national coalition forces in Iraq from January 2007 to September 2008.

January 16, 2009

Commission Approves Quality Work Environment Initiative (PDF)

 

2008

December 22, 2008

AbilityOne NPA Hired For 5-Year Contract at Cape Canaveral - Work for Air Force to Cover Grounds Maintenance, Pest Management

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PRIDE Industries, among the nation’s largest employers of people with disabilities, has secured a five year contract with the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to provide grounds maintenance and pest management services.

Located on approximately 2,000 acres along the Atlantic coast, the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is the primary Eastern Region launch head for Air Force space-based missions and support for the space shuttle.

The contract was facilitated by NISH under terms of the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act. NISH is a non-profit agency that creates employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities under the AbilityOne Program.

“Our performance on existing contracts through NISH and AbilityOne, including our work for NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB in California, demonstrates PRIDE’s expertise at delivering high quality, cost-effective facility services to commercial and government organizations,” said Fred Smith, senior vice president for Integrated Facilities Services at PRIDE Industries. “We look forward to expanding our footprint and opportunities in the region.”

Through its Integrated Facilities Services division, PRIDE Industries offers a full range of services to government and commercial customers including: general custodial, facilities and building maintenance; specialized cleaning for controlled environments; grounds maintenance; food service; secure document management services; recycling; administrative services; and transportation.

PRIDE Industries is a nonprofit organization providing a variety of business solutions to meet the manufacturing and service needs of companies nationwide. PRIDE employs more than 4,100 individuals across nine states and in the nation's capitol, including more than 2,700 people with disabilities. PRIDE is a self-sustaining business with over $145 million in annual revenue and ranks as the third largest manufacturing and service company in the greater Sacramento region. Founded in 1966, PRIDE is headquartered in Roseville, California. For more information, visit PRIDE online at www.prideindustries.com.

Oct. 7, 2008

AbilityOne Program Provides Jobs for Disabled Veterans

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

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The Defense Department is a strong supporter of the federally managed AbilityOne program, which works with private and public groups to provide goods and services to the government and jobs for the blind and other people who have significant disabilities, including wounded veterans.

“As the largest customer of this program, the Department of Defense has a responsibility and a tremendous opportunity to increase support by procuring more goods and services provided by the AbilityOne program,” John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, stated in a March 24 memorandum.

AbilityOne, formerly known as the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, or JWOD, is administered by the Commission, an independent federal agency.

More than 1,300 wounded military veterans are part of the program’s 43,000-strong work force, according to a DoD news release. The Defense Department is the program’s largest customer, the release said, as it purchases more than $1.3 billion in goods and services each year, including laundry services, uniforms, office supplies and grounds maintenance.

Work contracts arranged through the AbilityOne program provide most of the chemical-protection coats and pants used by U.S. servicemembers. Skilcraft-brand office supplies found across the Federal Government also are part of the AbilityOne program.

President Bush, in a White House document dated Feb. 11, stated that the AbilityOne program “has taken steps to embrace successful business practices, including e-commerce and performance-based contracting.” The program, he said, provides work for tens of thousands of disabled Americans employed at more than 600 community-based nonprofit organizations.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England will host a Pentagon ceremony tomorrow to honor the AbilityOne program.

The AbilityOne program can trace its roots to the passage of the Wagner-O’Day Act of 1938, sponsored by Sen. Robert F. Wagner and U.S. Rep. Caroline O’Day. This legislation mandated that the Federal Government purchase brooms, mops and other items provided by nonprofit agencies employing people who are blind.

The Wagner-O’Day Act was expanded in 1971 through the efforts of Sen. Jacob Javits. The resultant legislation, known as the Wagner-O’Day-Javits Act, permits nonprofit agencies serving people with other significant disabilities in addition to blindness to participate in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program and authorized nonprofit agencies to provide not only supplies, but also services to the Federal Government.

The executive-branch Commission, the National Industries for the Blind, and NISH, formerly known as National Industries for the Severely Handicapped, form a triad of support for Javits-Wagner-O'Day, whose name was changed to AbilityOne by the U.S. Congress in 2006.

September 19, 2008

AbilityOne Program recognizes Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Support - Program Donates Plaque to the Wright Flyer Memorial

The AbilityOne Program donated a dedication brick to be added with others on the rings at the base of the life-size model of the Wright Brothers “Wright B. Flyer” Memorial in recognition of Wright-Patterson's long-term support of the program. The AbilityOne Program donated a dedication brick to be added with others on the rings at the base of the life-size model of the Wright Brothers “Wright B. Flyer” Memorial in recognition of Wright-Patterson's long-term support of the program.

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AbilityOne is the largest single source of employment for people who are blind or have other significant disabilities in the United States. Approximately 200 people with significant disabilities work at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base through nearly 40 AbilityOne contracts. AbilityOne employees provide custodial, mail and commissary services for the base.

"Wright-Patterson's support of the AbilityOne Program is an example of dedication to the American people with disabilities," Andrew Houghton, Chairperson of the Commission, said. "Their continuous support of the program allows people with disabilities the opportunity to show their "Abilities" and "Capabilities while providing the base with quality services."

Houghton presented the brick to General Bruce Carlson, Commander, Air Force Materiel Command, this morning. Carlson said that AbilityOne employees are a tremendous support to the Air Force family.

"We do not support the AbilityOne Program out of charity, we support it for the superior services the people provide us," Carlson said. "The people who work under the program are not just employees, they are our friends."

Wright-Patterson AFB is the headquarters of the Air Force Materiel Command, which is the command responsible for and designs, acquires and sustains the various aircraft and supporting equipment for the Air Force.

Joining him with remarks of appreciation were James Barone, Chairman of the Board of NISH, Robert Chamberlin, CEO of NISH, and Steve Brice, Chief Financial Officer of National Industries for the Blind (NIB.) NIB and NISH are two national nonprofits designated by the Commission to help allocate federal contracts and provide technical assistance under the AbilityOne Program.

Houghton was among the Air Force Marathon participants this year.

The AbilityOne Program is administered by an independent federal agency, the Commission, and facilitated by two central nonprofit agencies, NISH—Creating Employment Opportunities for People with significant disabilities and National Industries for the Blind.

August 27, 2008

Department of Defense Releases Memo Regarding AbilityOne Program

Shay Assad, Director of Defense Procurement, Acquisition Policy and Strategic Sourcing for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), issued a memorandum entitled "Increasing Contracting Opportunities with the AbilityOne Program" on August 27th. In the memorandum, Director Assad urged DoD contracting officials to keep the AbilityOne Program in mind when making procurement decisions. Click to read the full memorandum (PDF)

July 25, 2008

ADA-President Bush (PDF)

July 10, 2008

Commission reelects leadership (PDF)

July 10, 2008

President Reappointed Commission Member (PDF)

Feb. 11, 2008

President Bush Signs AbilityOne Program Memo of Support

Feb. 11, 2008

First Lady Laura Bush Recognizes AbilityOne Employees and Supporters

Feb. 11, 2008

Commission announces new Executive Director (PDF)

 

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