As someone who works in government relations, I can tell you that at times I become jaded. The partisan bickering can be exhausting. It can take years for an idea to eventually become a law. However, I had an experience this week that reminded me that our collective advocacy efforts do make a difference and are being recognized.
I recently had the privilege of attending a conference hosted by SourceAmerica, one of the nonprofit agencies established to help implement the AbilityOne program – the largest provider of employment opportunities for those who are either blind or have significant disabilities. Many colleagues from local Goodwill organizations around the country were in attendance since Goodwill collectively contributes to nearly 15% of the AbilityOne program administered by SourceAmerica, including providing a broad range of commercial business services to government agencies like custodial work, food service, landscaping, manufacturing and document management and destruction. Goodwill organizations may supply products as well, including military uniforms and flags.
At the conference, I was surrounded by hundreds of advocates passionate about helping people overcome barriers to employment. It was especially heartwarming to see all the advocates with the special “I took action” ribbons on their name badges. I had the pleasure of sharing a table with Lori White and her mother during breakfast. Lori is an inspiring advocate for Goodwill, the AbilityOne program and people with disabilities. She was awarded the Tom Miller Award for Advocacy during the conference. You can learn more about her story here.
During the opening session that followed, a panel focused on shaping the future of disability employment featured Anthony Cornell, Manager of Career Connections at Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina (Winston Salem).
After already hearing from outstanding advocates, imagine my excitement to learn that Palmetto Goodwill Services (Charleston, SC) was also recognized for their efforts and received the Performance Excellence Award in Grassroots Advocacy. Click here to learn why they are so deserving.
The theme of the conference was appropriately named, “Achieving Our Mission Together.” The AbilityOne program is not successful in creating employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities unless the central nonprofit agencies, the contracting nonprofits like Goodwill, and the government customer among other stakeholders all work together. It was rewarding to see what a strong role Goodwill advocates play in this effort.