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TVS continues to surge with INDM production for 297 foodbanks across the U.S.

TVS continues to surge with INDM production for 297 foodbanks across the U.S.

Reflecting back on the last year and a half, TVS has packaged and shipped over 35 million household bags of Instant Nonfat Dry Milk (INDM) to 297 food pantries across the U.S., Guam, and Puerto Rico. This has been in response to the USDA’s fight to help combat rising food insecurities worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is because of TVS’s dedicated workforce that this local nonprofit organization has been able to meet the growing demands of the USDA’s programs and deliver to individuals in need across the country.

“Our employees have been integral in allowing us TVS to meet the unusually high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said TVS CEO Jamie Brandenburg. “Our employees readily adjusted schedules and their lives to accommodate additional production requirements which included an extended period of overtime and disruptions in their families.”

It is because of their efforts that we have been able to rise to the occasion and supply the desperately needed INDM to food pantries, while also responding to emerging requests from the USDA to expedite orders for pantries that were critically low.”

As the pandemic essentially shut down the U.S. in early 2020, TVS began receiving surge order requests of INDM from the USDA. In 2020 alone, TVS shipped enough INDM to make almost 20 million gallons of fresh fluid milk for households across the US.

Now, TVS has shipped 35 million bags of INDM between 2020-2021 with the possibility of more orders before the end of the year. This will make around 35 million gallons of fluid milk for domestic households when rehydrated.

This breaks down to a total of 937 truckloads of INDM that have been shipped or are scheduled to be shipped to food pantries across the U.S. This is over 14 thousand tons of powdered milk.

“This surge in foodbank demand has been unprecedented for TVS. Overall it has risen 60-70% over these last two years, and we are very appreciative to be able to participate in these nationwide food relief efforts,” said TVS VP of Business Development and Marketing Beth Rich.

Prior to the pandemic, America had the lowest food insecurity rate in the last 20 years. However, since the pandemic began, the number of people living with food insecurities jumped by 10 million people to an estimated 45 million, with 15 million being children. This is 22-38 percent of U.S. households.

“We are very fortunate with the federal government’s response to this situation,” said Rich. “Not all countries have had this same outcome, and their projections for food insecurity are actually going up and not down.’’ 

Currently, the USDA and the U.S. government continue to invest in lowering the affects of food insecurities. TVS is proud of our legenDAIRY employees that dedicate their work hours to continue packaging and shipping INDM for food aid.

Dedication of Avery’s Place

Dedication of Avery’s Place

Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) is honored to have dedicated its new modular classroom on behalf of past program participant and dear friend Avery McKeller. Avery was both a participant and employee at TVS since 2016, and she was an integral member of the TVS family.

Her smile and energy still leave a lasting impression on everyone who knew her.

It was, Derrick, a program participant who suggested that the classroom be named after Avery. “It was a no brainer,” said INTERACT Program Supervisor Jeanette Wayne. “Every time we say, ‘I’ll see you over at Avery’s Place,’ we’re remembering Avery, so we want to dedicate this wonderful building to sparkle, sunshine, joy and laughter because that is who Avery was.”

At the dedication, TVS participants, employees, and friends gathered with some Avery’s family to honor and remember her time at TVS. The dedication began with Wayne talking to the audience about Avery and her impact at TVS.

“We want to have this to be a place where sparkly, beautiful, shiny, happy things happen. And our staff and TVS, as a company, we’re dedicated to doing that as a company,” Wayne said.

The floor was opened up for individuals to speak about their time with Avery. Several participants and a few DSPs spoke of memories and good times while also thanking the McKeller family for sharing Avery with us, at TVS.

The memories left the audience with giggles, smiles, and loving tears.

The McKeller’s had also prepared a heartfelt speech that reminded everyone of their importance to Avery. She always said, “Thank you SO much. And on behalf of Mack and the rest of our family by naming this place Avery’s Place, thank you for choosing to continue to call her name and remember her.”

After friends and family had spoken, the ‘No Limits’ artists performed a sign language rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and gifted the McKeller’s a hydrangea bush, along with a video and book both filled with images and sweet thoughts.

The dedication ended with a family tour of the building and cookies baked by the culinary team in INTERACT.

Avery’s Place was added to TVS in early 2020 to offer more office spaces and additional room for program participants.  Avery’s friends will continue to remember her each and every day as they enter their classroom and pass underneath the beautiful overhead plaque honoring the unforgettable life of such an amazing human being.

We invite you to read more about the dedication from the Transylvania Times.

 

TVS participates in Cornhole Tournament

TVS participates in Cornhole Tournament

Last weekend, TVS happily participated in the Rotary Club of Brevard’s first annual cornhole tournament at the new Depot on Railroad Avenue. The competition was a charity event that helped to raise approximately $3500 for local charities including the Transylvania County Special Olympics.

“We were thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Rotary Club and the community,” said TVS INTERACT Supervisor and TVS Extreme member, Jeanette Wayne. “It was fabulous and I couldn’t have wished for it to be any better.”

In the tournament, the first-place team was Calamity, winning a $500 cash prize and a $250 gift card to Pisgah Cove and the second-place $250 cash prize went to Blue Brawlers after a hard-fought battle.

While the TVS teams did not win any prizes, the TVS Thunderbirds soared into a fourth-place spot and the J-namic Duo claimed a dynamic fifth-place score!

“It was fun,” said TVS participant and TVS Thunderbird member Josh. “My favorite part was getting all excited and throwing the bags into the holes.”

Of the 14 teams in the competition, TVS had six teams:

TVS Extreme“:  Jeanette Wayne and Rob, sponsored by Jeanette Wayne
TVS Terminators“:  Sam King and Jay, sponsored by Michael-Dexter-Smith
TVS Thunderbirds“:  Brandon Crawford and Josh, sponsored by Catherine Chapman
TVS Troopers“:  Brooke Wilson and Jonathan, sponsored by Elevate Physical Therapy
TVS Outlaws“:  Taylor and Tyler, sponsored by TVS
J-namic Duo“: Jamie Brandenburg and Jonathan Coggins, sponsored by Wendi and Scott Adair

“I really loved everything about the tournament. It brought out my competitive side,” said TVS DSP and Thunderbird member Brandon Crawford. “I liked that TVS brought out a crowd and energy to the tournament.”

The Brevard Rotary Club catered the event with Blue Smoke BBQ plates and celebrated all competitors with black and white tournament shirts.

The event was sponsored by Pilot Cove Forest Lodging, Brevard Academy, Ecusta Brewing, Oskar Blues, and Blue Smoke BBQ.

A big thank you to all the sponsors, players, and donators. 

 

Wonder Woman, Lauren Bell, celebrates 10-year anniversary at TVS

Wonder Woman, Lauren Bell, celebrates 10-year anniversary at TVS

Lauren Bell celebrated her decade of employment at TVS on May 20, 2021. “People sometimes call me Wonder Woman,” said Lauren. “I have definitely gained more muscles from working here.”

Lauren is described as “an energic individual who is always smiling and laughing” by her supervisor, Noah Orr. “When I started at TVS two years ago, she was my ‘go-to’ person when it came to ways a few of the production lines run,” he said. “She is a joy to be around and I am very pleased have her as part of my team.”

Originally, Lauren was hired to work on the Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk (INDM) line. Since then, she has grown to learn many different operations within TVS including, multiple production lines, packaging, case sealing, palletizing, and hanging bags.

The TVS job opening was printed in the Transylvania Times, remembers Lauren. “I saw the posting and said, ‘Let’s give this a shot,’” she said. “I didn’t know much about TVS back then.”

Long time coworker and friend, Cathy Miller giggles as she describes Lauren as “mean.” Cathy laughs and explains, “No, she isn’t mean at all. Lauren is a great person and really likes to laugh. She would do anything for you, and she has grown a lot working here at TVS.”

Cathy helped train Lauren when she was first hired. “I remember working on the packaging tables with Cathy and Risha Smith,” said Lauren. “We would all laugh and have a fun time as I would accidentally over throw the bags for them to package.”

For the past seven years, Lauren has been working on 2nd shift blending, working by hanging bags and dumping set ups. “If you talk to my parents they would say that I like going to bed late and sleeping late,” laughed Lauren. “I have no plans to switch off of 2nd.”

After a decade of learning several different areas in production, palletizing and hanging bags are two of Lauren’s favorite jobs. “I never thought I would be able to palletize because of how tall I am,” she said. “I am always on the lookout for doing new things and moving into new positions.”

In 2017, Lauren was TVS’ Self-Advocate at the SourceAmerica Grassroot Advocacy Conference in D.C. “At the conference Amber Fredrick and I went exploring to find a store to shop at. We didn’t know where we were,” remembers Lauren with a laugh. “Part of what made the trip so great was the adventure of ‘getting lost’ and just walking around and talking.”

Over the years, not only has Lauren watched TVS grow and find consistent and steady contracts. She has also grown within herself. “TVS has allowed me to challenge myself,” said Lauren. “I have always had supervisors that push me to try new things. Each person I’ve met here has helped me grow and understand different things going on.”

 

Self-Advocate Cathy Miller represents TVS at SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference

Self-Advocate Cathy Miller represents TVS at SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference

This year the SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference was held virtually during the last week of April. Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) happily nominated Cathy Miller, the longest employee at TVS, as a self-advocate for the conference.

“I was happy to be nominated,” said Miller. “It was exciting.”

Self-advocates were provided speech trainings and practices to help them to share and record their stories for other SourceAmerica self-advocates to watch. Nonprofit representatives for each NPA were able to learn more about SourceAmerica and the current policies and laws regarding individuals with disabilities.

With much of the self-advocates conference based around training and speech practices, Miller said, “I would have enjoyed more educational videos about disability topics.”

The highlight for Miller was learning about therapy and service dogs and how they are trained. She also enjoyed the virtual tour of DC and learning about the monuments.

During the week, all the self-advocates were able to speak with representatives or staffers from their respected state. The NC Congressmen include; Burr, Cawthorn, and Tillis.

“My favorite person to talk to was Cawthorn’s staffer. He would hold up his paper to show he was taking notes and he seemed to really care about what we were saying,” Miller said. “I was most interested in having supports for people with disabilities and continued assistance for workers with barriers.”

Miller was able to talk about her growth at TVS and what the job has allowed her to have. “I don’t know where I would be if I wasn’t here,” Miller said.

“Cathy has been a huge part of TVS and our mission. She is great at connecting with everyone on all levels of the organization. She is always willing to help fellow coworkers and truly embodies the spirit of TVS,” said TVS HR director Lauren Hayes. “It is for this reason that we felt that Cathy should be our grassroots representative – her growth and compassion are what TVS is all about.”

TVS’ Nonprofit representative, Leca Chapman, joined Cathy in the conference. “The conference was a great way to network and learn more about the SourceAmerica organization and the AbilityOne Commission,” said Chapman. “Cathy did an amazing job representing TVS and I enjoyed watching her get comfortable and relax a little to share some of her story.”

When Miller started at TVS, 38 years ago, she was shy. Over the years, Miller grew into different jobs from making boxes for DuPont to working in the kitchen, and on many different production lines. As she grew at work, she grew into her voice as well.

“When I started here, everyone knew I was quiet and didn’t talk. They let me build up trust until I was comfortable talking,” said Miller. “TVS is a great place to work. There are always people to help you and once you get comfortable, it feels like a family.”

Miller enjoyed the virtual conference. “It was stressful,” Miller said with a laugh. “I enjoyed it, and I hope that it will be in person in the upcoming years.”

Looking ahead, Miller plans to continue to push herself and others to advocate for themselves.

Cathy with coworkers

TVS celebrates Jamie Owen for two decades of dedicated work

TVS celebrates Jamie Owen for two decades of dedicated work

In April 2021, Jamie Owen celebrated his 20th year of packaging, line working, and comradery at Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS).

Before coming to work at TVS, Jamie worked as a Supported Employment client and was placed with a job coach at a local store bagging groceries. After a year, Jamie decided to work at TVS. “I liked TVS better because they welcomed me and offered new stuff to do,” said Jamie. “I liked the people.”

Over the years, Jamie has worked in two different areas but with lots of different products from SuperCereal Plus to Bakery Mix and Pancakes. He has been working dependably to supply food to U.S. Military troop, and supplying food for food insecurities, domestic and international on our AbilityOne contracts.

“The AbilityOne contract is what helped to create jobs with flexibility and other accommodations that would not be traditionally found at other jobs,” said TVS HR Director Lauren Hayes. “TVS would not exist if it weren’t for our workers like Jamie. His effort and determination to show up every day and give TVS his all is what keeps us running and able to provide food for people around the world. We are able to accomplish our mission because of his dedication.”

Hardworking, enthusiastic, and optimistic are just a few of the words used to describe Jamie and his work ethic.

“He is one of the most dependable workers we have! He 

is always on time, present, and ready to do the job that our managers have for him,” Lauren said. That kind of dependability is hard to find and we are so thankful that Jamie is on team TVS!”

However, you can’t have work and no play. “I look forward to the picnics, with bounce houses and food,” Jamie explained. Over the years, TVS has celebrated employees and their families with annual company picnics that has included catered food, bounce houses, and even dunking booths.

 

 “Jamie is just a real pleasure to work with,” said Production Manager Ernest Williams. Ernest has worked with Jamie over the past 20 years. “He is a great asset to TVS, he is 

hard working and almost always willing to do whatever is asked of him.”

When Jamie is not working to help fulfill government contracts, he can be found watching Western movies or ‘cutting-a-rug’ at a local dance or anywhere music is playing.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, TVS and Mountain Area Community Services would sponsor dances for community members to attend.

“Jamie was always dancing. It didn’t matter what the song was, he just loves to dance,” said TVS Warehouse Associate Tracie Fisher. “We would eat pizza and dance. It was a way for individuals with disabilities to get exercise and socializes with their friends.”

 

Tracie used to work with Jamie after work providing services and helping run errands. “He has such a positive attitude, always happy and optimistic,” she said.

Reflection back on fun memories, Ernest laughs as he remembers their bowling adventures. “We used to go bowling every Wednesday and to see him get a strike and strut back from the lane, it was something to be seen,” Ernest reflects.

 

Jamie’s other fun activities include, singing country and bluegrass music at the top of his lungs, talking about the Special Olympics, and spending time with his family.

“TVS is a good job. It has changed my life ever since I came here,” he said. It is because of job flexibility and the ever-changing job tasks that Jamie has been able to happily work beside the people that made him want to work at TVS two decades ago.