Going Grassroots in D.C.

by Aaron Martin

If you follow JobOne on social, you likely saw photos of our recent adventures in our nation’s capital. JobOne administrators, Kelly Logan, VP of Human Resources, and Cristy Carpenter, Human Resources Director, traveled with JobOne employee, Helen Young to Washington, D.C. for SourceAmerica’s 2017 Grassroots Advocacy Conference.

What is SourceAmerica?

SourceAmerica stems from the Federal AbilityOne Program, which provides employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. In 1974, SourceAmerica was established to facilitate the program by connecting Federal procurement customers with 450 nonprofits, like JobOne, across the nation that supply products and services. SourceAmerica provides support for contract management, training, regulatory assistance, workforce development and much more for these nonprofits that serve individuals with disabilities.

What is the Grassroots Advocacy Conference?

SourceAmerica orchestrates this conference annually to present individuals with disabilities, family members, advocates, and nonprofit executives the opportunity have their voices heard by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Why is it Important?

Educating key members of Congress on the critical issues impacting the lives of individuals with disabilities is vital as they pass legislation that has serious life-altering consequences for this population. JobOne employee, Helen, who attended the conference is a prime example of how the advances in providing employment opportunities for adults with disabilities changed life for the better.

Helen’s Story

Helen first came to JobOne in 2011 and has earned promotions to her current position as Janitor at the US Marine’s IT Center. She was invited to attend the conference this year because of her success and the many challenges she has overcome. The adventure began the minute Helen, Kelly and Cristy boarded the airplane for D.C.; it was Helen’s first flight – ever! The Southwest crew made fast friends with Helen, making her an honorary flight attendant and even letting her meet the Captain and view the cockpit once they landed.

Helen was very excited to travel and wanted to soak up all the local tourist attractions. She, Kelly and Cristy kept a busy schedule to work in sites while fulfilling the mission of the trip. Along the way, they enjoyed subway rides, toured museums, saw national monuments, and found themselves in the middle of a parade! Of everything, Helen was most excited to see the pandas at the zoo.

While they had a lot of fun, Helen knew the significance of her opportunity to speak with Congress members, and she took it very seriously. She wrote a letter so she would not forget what she wanted to say if she became nervous.

Below is the content of her letter:

Hi, my name is Helen Young and I am somebody.

I’ll begin when I was in kindergarten. I was held back [because] I didn’t know my ABC’s. I then went on to 1st and skipped 2nd to go to 3rd so I could be in special ed. I was in special ed all my life. After I graduate in 2006, I got a job at Applebee’s. I kept that job for 3 months, then I got fired [because] I was too slow. Then I started to help my grandma. When she passed in 2010, I then started to work at the workshop [JobOne] in 2011. I have been there for about 4 years. I then started working at AbilityOne [JobOne contract] for 2 years. [Because] I’m working, I now can live on my own.

Helen’s message to lawmakers was powerful. It is a message and a story that so many others with disabilities have in common with Helen. By having a voice at the Grassroots Advocacy Conference, we are helping the individuals we serve be heard and take a stand for their best interests to live a life where they may reach their full potential.

To learn more about JobOne and the employment services and business solutions we offer, please visit: http://job1one.org/about-us/. To see some of the images from the trip, visit our Facebook page here.