The Engineer Research and Development Center’s Contracting Office partnered with the Mississippi Chapter of the National Contract Management Association to host an AbilityOne training led by SourceAmerica. SourceAmerica is a national nonprofit that facilitates the federal AbilityOne program. The AbilityOne program provides employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
The training centered on the AbilityOne program and how this program can fulfill ERDC’s service procurement needs. The training drilled down on the specifics of the AbilityOne program and included procurement policies and information about what services SourceAmerica provides as the facilitator of the program. The training concluded with two speakers who shared their experiences and benefits of their association and employment through the AbilityOne program. Kearney Waites, Warren County Association for Retarded Citizens DBA MIDD West Industries, spoke on real-life experiences with ERDC contracts and the huge impacts those contracts have had on the local area. Disabled Veteran Holly Anderson, traveled from Arizona to share her story and how SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne program have been instrumental in restoring her confidence, skills, and how she is now an advocate for individuals with disabilities, disabled veterans, and Wounded Warriors through SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne program.
What is SourceAmerica?
SourceAmerica works with federal and commercial customers to create job opportunities for a skilled and dedicated workforce of Americans with significant disabilities. Working with a network of more than 1,200 community-based nonprofit agencies who employ people with significant disabilities, SourceAmerica supplies federal and commercial customers with the products and services they need. Currently, SourceAmerica has 2,700 contracts with the federal government. These contracts employ a large workforce of significantly disabled Americans. There are more than 20 million working-age Americans who are blind or have significant disabilities; 80 percent of those do not have jobs.
“SourceAmerica serves as a vital link between the workforce, our network of community-based nonprofit agencies that provide training, and the organizations that need the products and services we provide,” said SourceAmerica Director of Sales Leo Devora.
“We are the country’s leading source of job opportunities for more than 45,000 Americans using a wide array of skills. These skilled workers, renowned among employers for their dedication, reliability and work ethic, are making a living and contributing to our economy as a result,” Devora said.
ERDC is a huge supporter of the Wounded Warrior program. Providing training and job opportunities to wounded warriors and disabled veterans is essential. According to ERDC Contracting Officer Ruth Cushman, SourceAmerica is one of the largest employers of wounded warriors and disabled veterans.
Benefits to ERDC/community
“ERDC’s Contracting Office has awarded contracts to local SourceAmerica nonprofits who hire local individuals with disabilities to provide custodial and mailroom services for the entire ERDC station and laboratories,” ERDC Contracting Officer and NCMA, Mississippi Chapter President Davita Baloue said.
Baloue went on to say, “ERDC’s contracts provide employment for these individuals, who may not have found jobs elsewhere.”
“This opportunity means a lot to our disabled workers,” said Waites. “These workers take care of nearly nine and a half miles of hallways every day. These employees want to work and consider working a privilege.
“Part of our signage reads “MIDD-West Janitorial, Proudly Serving ERDC” and we mean that.”
Waites is a self-proclaimed Waterways baby whose father met his mother while he was employed here for more than 30 years.
“You’ve (ERDC) helped the disabled work population find employment, helping them to support their families and contribute to their communities. This is the best job for custodial workers in the southeast region,” said Waites.
Wounded Warrior Story
The impact was not lost to training attendees as they listened to the story of disabled veteran Holly Anderson. Anderson, serves as an advocate for people with disabilities and regularly speaks about policies and their impact for this sector. Anderson started her career in the Navy where she was serving as a Petty Officer 3rd Class on the naval ship. Anderson was injured when she slipped and fell in fuel that spilled while her ship was refueling. Those injuries have rendered her permanently disabled. Even after repeated surgeries, she often needs a leg brace and a cane to walk. Her military career ended, and she returned home disabled and unemployed, that is, until SourceAmerica trained her and provided employment under a service contract. Her enthusiasm and hard work paid off and she began to move into management positions. She was then approached by SourceAmerica to become an advocate for the program. She was awarded the Tom Miller Award for her advocacy last year for her extensive efforts in meeting with every Arizona U.S. House and Senate representative. In addition to speaking before politicians, she travels around the country speaking at training events such as the one held at ERDC. The training events help to ensure contracting officers are up-to-date on procurement requirements but Anderson’s story helps to put a face to the program.
“Each year contracting professionals must achieve 40 hours of continuous learning points in a related field of study or 80 CLPs within two years,” said Cushman, Education Chairman for the Mississippi Chapter of NCMA. “This training provided attendees with CLPs in addition to educating acquisition professionals and ERDC Acquisition Advocates on contracting with SourceAmerica as a regulatory mandated source.” NCMA’s charter is to provide training opportunities that will be beneficial to acquisition professionals and develop their contracting knowledge and expertise. That’s why we jumped at the chance to partner with ERDC’s Contracting Office in hosting this training event. The event was successful with all seats filled and three off-site locations joining by webinar.
NCMA is a nonprofit association of individuals from industry, government, and academia who deal in the fields of acquisition, contracting, and procurement. NCMA membership and participation are avenues to continuing educational and professional growth in the contract management community. Typical functional areas of members include contracting, legal, project/program managers, finance, contracting officer representatives, i.e., -- anyone involved in contract management.
For membership information, please contact Davita.S.Baloue@usace.army.mil.