Jenifer Welch, Author at T-V-S Overcoming Challenges | Feeding Our World

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TVS featured on 2023 Comporium Phone Directory

TVS featured on 2023 Comporium Phone Directory

TVS was featured on the 2023 Comporium Phone Directory in Transylvania County. We are proud to have our story and mission shared with the community. The inside story reads:


When you take a trip to the grocery store, you may not think of it as a privilege. Instead, you’re probably asking yourself a few questions: 

What items are needed for the week? What’s the budget for food? Where can I get the best deals? Can I get a good parking space? You may not be thinking about how those items got on the shelves, let alone who packaged them.

Not everyone has this opportunity. People in need may rely on food banks for their groceries, while families in developing countries around the world may not have a store to go to at all. Members of the military rely on what’s provided for them when they’re deployed. They all depend on the people who work behind the scenes to prepare and package dry food products that can be shipped and distributed around the world. In many cases, that work is being done right here in Transylvania County at TVS, Inc.

While the work itself is very important, that’s not the most impressive thing about this organization. Around 75% of TVS employees have disabilities or other life barriers. At TVS, they are able to find meaningful employment, earn a living wage and make a difference in countless lives. We are honored to recognize TVS on our 2023 Transylvania County Directory cover for their contributions to our area and beyond.


TVS started as a day program for adults with developmental disabilities in 1967. Founded by the Brevard Jaycees, the organization would partner with businesses in the area to provide employment for hundreds of people. This model made a positive impact on the community for 30 years but TVS saw the opportunity to do more. The decision was made to build a dry food manufacturing facility that would give employees steady, year-round work. Over the years, TVS has undergone several modernization phases and currently serves both Transylvania and Henderson counties.

The disabled population is the most marginalized unemployed and underemployed demographic group in the United States. One in four people are disabled and one in three families are affect by disability. It’s often difficult for people with disabilities to find reliable work. TVS fills that gap, providing a stable, integrated work site with wages that exceed the local Living Wage certification.


TVS manufactures a variety of food products under the Mountain maid brand. Through partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S> Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, over 20 items are provided to food banks and military kitchens. TVS is currently the only supplier of packaged instant non-fat dry milk to the USDA. Fifteen million pounds of powdered milk were provided to food pantries across the county in 18 million gallons of fluid milk. On the military side, enough pancake mix is made in one year to cook 4.3 million pancakes for services members.

After working with TVS for over 10 years, the USDA asked for help with another important program: helping children at risk of starvation in food-insecure regions. TVS developed Super Cereal Plus, a product that can provide supplemental nutrition to children between the ages of six months and two years. Through partnerships with USAID and the World Food Programme, the USDA has distributed more than 250 million servings of the product globally.

Not only are TVS employees feeding the world, they’re also creating an economic impact in Transylvania County. A recent study found that TVS generates $27 million and creates and additional 286 jobs in the area. That’s in addition to the 210 TVS employees and 226 clients that receive services from the organization. Those services include two adult day programs, residential services (including community living group homes and supported living), employment services for individual’s seeking employment through vocational rehabilitation and pre-employment training for students in Transylvania and Henderson counties.


This economic success tells only one part of the story. TVS’ most significant contribution is to the lives of the people it serves.

“It is hard for me to put into words how special and important TVS is to our community. I have worked and been immersed in the disability world for more than 30 years and places like TVS just do not exist,” said Leca Chapman Diehl, TVS Director of Community Development. “TVS’ commitment to the disability community is deep and genuine and I am very lucky to be involved with such a fantastic organization. Our organizational model works to promote success. It is the mission of TVS to provide jobs; the food we package and sell to support our social enterprise model is the byproduct of our mission!”

“Our services provide individuals with the choice to live the lives they want,” said Carla Hill, TVS Program Director. “TVS’ success in services comes from thinking about the individuals that we support and making sure they are part of the plan.”

TVS employees are equally proud of what they are able to accomplish through the various programs offered. “I love my job. It is good, steady employment, and it provides money to support our services side,” said TVS Lead Blend Technician Aaron Owen. A TVS Production Associate agreed: “I like the fact that people with disabilities are able to work and find employment here when it would be harder to find somewhere else. It’s the whole reason I am here.”


With such a legacy of success and a continued determination to serve those with disabilities, it’s easy to see that the future of TVS is a bright one.

“Fifty-five years ago, no one could have foreseen what was a head for TVS. One person at a time, one job at a time, TVS has grown into a dynamic business, while staying true to its mission and this could not have been accomplished without the support of our community,” said former TVS CEO and TVS Board Chair Nancy Stricker. “The Founders of TVS recognized that members of our community with disabilities should be given the support and opportunities necessary to go to work. Since that time thousands of individuals have received training from one of TVS’ nationally accredited programs, benefitted from a robust job placement service, or found employment at TVS.”

As a proud member of the Brevard and Transylvania County communities, TVS is committed to setting a high standard as a fully integrated and inclusive workplace as they continue to amplify voices for disability advocacy.


DSP Karen Benson celebrates a decade at TVS

DSP Karen Benson celebrates a decade at TVS

“How can someone be a breath of fresh air and take your breath away at the same time?” asks Program Director Carla Hill. “Karen is a bundle of energy that brings joy, light, and care to the people she supports and her coworkers. There is no one like her.”

Karen Benson is celebrating her 10th anniversary at TVS as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) working in the different community homes. She is self-described as a Life Coach and described by others as Social Director, Person-Centered, and as the ‘F’ word: Flexible.

“She can pivot on a dime,” said Residential Coordinator Lynn Brewer. “She is truly person-centered, making connections with the residents and bringing new possibilities and joy to our programs.”

Karen doesn’t just stop there. “She does research about each resident’s needs and medical conditions. That way she is better informed when taking them to their doctor appointments,” explained Lynn.

Over the past decade, Karen has managed Tanjer House, worked full-time and part-time at Fisher Road, and now floats working part-time hours wherever she is needed.

“It’s not just a job, it’s a passion! My passion is letting people know they’re cared about by seeing and offering them an enriching lifestyle,” says Karen Benson. “We are here to give a little light to other people.”

Finding a single memory in a decade is not an easy task. Karen starts laughing as she reflects on a trip to the local Cradle of Forestry. “We are walking through the cave and learning about the wild animals when we see a helicopter,” she says. “I explain to the group that it is the Forest Ranger’s helicopter and that we should sit inside to see what it looks like. The guys had so much fun, they really thought that they were in control of flying the helicopter.”

When not working at TVS, Karen keeps busy with a multitude of volunteer activities. She works at Sage Wellness and volunteers with NAMI and Hospice in Henderson County. She also volunteers her time and energy with True Ridge Ministries, a local Hendersonville Nonprofit that works with the Latino community and others in need. True Ridge Ministries provides, “a safe, kind, and supportive space towards self-sufficiency, resilience, healing and well-being.”

The volunteering does not end there. Karen also travels to Port Antonio, Jamaica annually to assist with the Portland Homeless Shelter.

Karen’s light-hearted and zany personality shines in all respects; leaving most everyone in awe of how she finds the energy and time to accomplish so much. “She is like a social director on a ship, always looking for ways to uplift others and to connect them with people who can keep them grounded, yet take them a little higher,” explains Residential DSP Carolyn Trapp. “She truly strives to help them lead fulfilling lives and to be happier.”

Karen is always going above and beyond creating friendship and connections with the many residents. Over the years, Karen has opened her home and friendship to any resident who do not have family locally with whom to spend the holidays with. She even offers her Airbnb to resident’s families so that they can have a free place to stay when they come to visit.

She explains, “It is important to be present and share a little light. We are all here to help each other.” Looking ahead, Karen is excited to continue exploring a health-conscious life-style with curious residents and aims to become a member of the TVS Wellness Committee.

“I am so grateful to Karen for referring me to TVS and for her many gifts she shares with us all!” said TVS Residential DSP Nakeisha Miller. “Karen is a dynamic individual with a compassionate nature. She truly wants the best for people and leads a life of service to others. Not only that, but she has an awesome sense of humor and brings laughter wherever she goes. Thank you, Karen, for being a ray of light to so many people!”  


TVS Employee Giving Tree

TVS Employee Giving Tree

Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) hosted the third annual “Give Back, Get Back” employee donation event over the last three months. This year TVS offered a new internal donation event! The TVS Giving Tree supported employees with children 18 years or younger, based on the traditional Angel Tree.

“The Giving Tree was a way for us to give back to TVS employees specifically,” said HR Specialist Kaydee Hopkins. “Employees give so much to the donation drives, we wanted to help them out as well.”


A total of 22 children were anonymously signed up by TVS parents to receive gifts. Each child had two ornaments on the tree; one for clothing and hygiene items and the other for toys. All 44 ornaments were taken from the tree by other TVS employees.

All gifts were wrapped and handed back out to the correct TVS employee the first week of December. 

“This donation drive embodies the spirit of giving, which is exactly what this time of year is all about. It brings people together and builds on our family atmosphere within the company,” said Hopkins. “We all came together to support each other with this drive and that’s a really beautiful thing. It makes me so proud to be a part of TVS.” 

The Giving Tree was the last of the holiday donation drives. TVS employees also donated 1,665 items to the local Bread of Life and 3,342 items to S.A.F.E. of Transylvania County. Both of these donation events surpassed expectations and donation amounts from last year.

“They were so excited when they saw the amount of donations. These wonderful community resources are supported by donations and having a company of our size give back is really special,” said HR Generalist Catherine Tinsley.

To cap off the Give Back, Get Back donation drives, TVS employees receive raffle tickets for the Thanksmas Raffle based on the number of items donated. This year employees were able to win a PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, multiple sizes of smart TVs, gift cards, and more.

TVS Staff and Artists Recognized at MARC Annual Awards Luncheon

TVS Staff and Artists Recognized at MARC Annual Awards Luncheon

Each year The Marketing Association of Rehabilitation Centers of North Carolina (MARC) collaborates to host the “Annual Awards Luncheon and Art Exhibit” and celebrates the opportunity for members to gather for meetings, awards, lunch, and overall togetherness.  This year it was held at the Highland Lake Inn on October 14th, and nonprofits from across North Carolina traveled to attend. 

The event was particularly notable for TVS, as one of its very own staff was recognized and received a remarkable lifetime achievement award. Carla Hill, longtime TVS Program Director, was honored with the “Spirit of MARC Award” for her overall integrity and years of servicing the disability community. 

The “Spirit of MARC Award” is given to a person who has compellingly; through work, decisions, and actions demonstrated the selfless, cooperative, and collaborative “Spirit of MARC.” Reflecting back on the event Hill said, “Anyone in that room could have won this award. I was in shock, so surprised, when they said my name.”

This is the highlight of my career,” she said. “It is beyond my words to be honored by this group. I hope it means that I have contributed to being part of the greater good.” 

Also recognized at the ceremony were TVS artists Sam Snyder, Mattias Brown, and Kristen Hodsdon.  They were celebrated as the winners of “2022 CreateAbilities” for their art piece titled, “George Washington.”

Senator Kevin Corbin, representative for District 50 including Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain, and Transylvania Counties,

was also presented the “Chairman’s Award” for assuring an array of service options for people with Intellectual Developmental Disabilities across North Carolina remain available to all citizens. “You can always count on me!” Corbin said in response to the award.

MARC is a nonprofit organization and consortium of manufacturing facilities in North Carolina that serves twenty-seven rural counties across the state.   MARC’s overall mission is to improve the economic and social quality of life for individuals with barriers to employment. Since 1978 MARC has worked with its members to provide a full array of services and support for people with a disabilities and disadvantages that includes: evaluation, work training, job skills, job coaching and supported employment to build long-term success for both employee and employer.  For more information about MARC visit

TVS celebrates Direct Support Professionals for National Recognition Week

TVS celebrates Direct Support Professionals for National Recognition Week

“Our DSPs at TVS are life changers,” said Brooke Wilson, INTERACT Supervisor. “They are the heart and soul of all our programs.”

In honor of Direct Support Professionals (DSP) week, Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) has planned a Superhero themed pizza party for their DSP, as well as, other Superhero themed gifts and recognitions.

DSP week is a way to nationally recognize all direct support workforce supporting people with disabilities. A DSP is defined by Wilson as, “a person who truly cares, commits themselves, and values their job or purpose. They have the best job ever walking alongside the most amazing folks as they explore, grow, and change the world – one day at a time.”

You might have seen TVS DSPs volunteering with participants at the local animal shelter or participating in a Rotary Club sponsored 5K or even a DSP supporting a client working at a local business.

“TVS always recognizes the DSPs year-round,” said Wilson. “But this week is a way to celebrate each individual DSP with the recognition of all the extraordinary, unique gifts and talents that they bring to our participants and each other.”

TVS currently staffs almost 30 DSPs that provides supports to two separate day programs (INTERACT and Life Skills), two residential group homes, individuals living home in their own homes, and numerous individuals with jobs in our community.

It is hard to describe a job that does not fit into a box, however, DSPs at TVS are a little bit of everything including; teachers, nurse assistants, chauffeurs, Zen Masters, exercise instructors, and more. “The most important duty of a DSP is safeguarding the health, safety, and welfare of the participants,” said Carla Hill, TVS Programs Manager. “Followed by ensuring that each participant is living their best life, whatever that means to each individual.”

TVS DSPs have a willingness to be challenged, a heart for all individuals, and have their own talents worth sharing. Hill says, “When they find that talent, it is a spark of magic and you can see how meaningful it all is. They bring their own unique talents to our team.”

“Every day I get to see the excitement and enthusiasm that our DSPs bring to their jobs to assist individuals,” said Hill. “They build relationships with individuals and share in the experiences and exposures that may not be an opportunity without the support of our awesome DSPs.”

TVS DSPs are engaged with people 24/7. “They are a very significant part of the lives of the people we support,” said Hill. “The most challenging part of the job is keeping a tough boundary with a therapeutic verses friend relationship.  With a huge heart, I thank all our DSPs for what they do to ensure that TVS participants are treated with respect and dignity.”

Highlighting all their dedicated and hard work Program Manager Suzanne Byers said, “we work hard to make sure our DSPs are well-trained and focused on person-centered services.”

Byers continues, “We recognize it is a difficult job as a manager or a supervisor and we want to do everything we can to support staff so they can support participants. Without DSPs individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) and their families would struggle to find the supports they need.” 

Currently there is a DSP workforce crisis. There is a high demand for services with no workers to fill the spots and limited recognition for those working in those jobs. “We continue to promote Direct Support Professionals as a recognized career,” said Byers.

If you see a TVS DSP out in the community stop and let them know how appreciated they are.

Read the Press Release from the Transylvania Times here.