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TVS joins broad effort to observe NDEAM

TVS joins broad effort to observe NDEAM

Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) today announced its participation in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of NDEAM is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion”

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“Our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success, and are more important today than ever. We must build an economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.”

Reflecting this year’s theme, throughout the month, TVS will be engaging in a variety of activities to educate its employees and community on disability employment issues and its commitment to an inclusive work culture. These efforts include social media posts and informational articles located on the website.

“TVS is proud to be a part of this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” said Beth Rich, VP Business Development and Marketing. “We want to spread the important message that we value all perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities.”

Employers and employees in all industries can learn more about how to participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month and ways they can promote its messages — during October and throughout the year — by visiting www.dol.gov/NDEAM.

 

Celebrating NADSP membership during DSP week

Celebrating NADSP membership during DSP week

Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) has been a member of the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) since 2019. Our membership to the NADSP reflects value in TVS Direct Support Professionals (DSP) as professionals in the field. It is important to maintain a connection with an organization that promotes DSPs.

With National DSP Week coming to an end, TVS wants to give thanks to the hardworking DSPs that keep our Programs and Services thriving. We celebrate DSPs with this special week, but we honor and appreciate them year-round working at the heart of the TVS mission.

“It was important for us to affiliate with an organization that legitimizes the profession, speaks to its significance, and offers accessible information that provides training, support, and standards for this field.  DSPs are not Personal Care Aides, as the current Department of Labor – Standard of Occupational Classification has them classified,” said Program Director Carla Hill. “DSPs are hired to support the full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life through the provision of person-centered supports, to make informed decisions, and to support individuals to live the meaningful lives that they choose.”  

The NADSP values the full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life through the provision of person-centered supports; with a mission to elevate the status of DSPs by improving practice standards, promoting system reform, and advancing their knowledge, skills and values.

The NADSP provides a code of ethics that sets expectations for DSPs. This is a core of competencies that lists the skill requirements and standardizes of the professional field.

Through this membership, TVS DSPs are also able to participate in trainings and webinars that are specific to working with individuals who live with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

Learn more about the NADSP at https://nadsp.org/.

 

DSP Sam King celebrates 10 years at TVS

DSP Sam King celebrates 10 years at TVS

Being a Direct Support Professional (DSP) takes a special kind of person – one that Sam King says must be able to improvise, be flexible, and have resiliency. For the past decade, Sam has demonstrated all of this, all while being dependable and committed to TVS program participants and coworkers.

“Sam is correct about all these traits, and he displays these skills in his work. Nothing is ever unchanging when working with people, and you must be prepared to go with the flow and possibly turn on a dime,” said Program Director Carla Hill. “Sam has definitely developed these abilities in the dynamic environment where we work. He continues sharing his skills and talents to the delight of our participants and his coworkers.” 

Before starting at TVS as an DSP in 2011, Sam worked as a DSP at other agencies in Transylvania County. “I really enjoyed the work and appreciated gaining knowledge about each individual’s personality and hobbies,” Sam said.

“Sam has not only been serving TVS but more importantly the participants in our programs,” reflected Carla. “When he first started at TVS, he had training as an EMT and was also active in the Tennessee National Guard Reserve.  He would be called to serve one weekend a month with his unit in Tennessee and two weeks a year somewhere in the US to keep his skills sharp.  You can see why I was excited to bring him on board.”

Sam also volunteered his free time as a first responder in Transylvania County.

Growing up Sam was an active member of the Boy Scouts, earning his Eagle Scout award in 2001. He moved to Brevard from Atlanta, Georgia to attend Brevard College. In 2008, Sam graduated with a degree in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education (WLEE). “I really wanted to bring these experiences here and share my love of the great outdoors with the INTERACT program,” he said. “I enjoy the ‘real world’ experiences that are provided by us going out in the community and doing so many different activities.”

 

INTERACT Supervisor Jeanette Wayne said, “Sam diligently advocates with participants and strives to enrich their lives with meaningful activities and opportunities. He generously shares his talents and skills, especially in the areas of nature and music.”  

You might see Sam out in the community with INTERACT participants. They could be volunteering at the Transylvania County Animal Shelter, riding horses at Free 

Rein, or just playing some cornhole at the Railroad Depot.

“Sam brings a light-hearted humor to all situations,” said INTERACT Activities Coordinator Brooke Wilson. Brook has worked with Sam for the past 7 years.

“He is an advocate for all people and is a good listener for participants and coworkers,” she continues. “Sam has become more like a family member over the years because he genuinely cares about people and living life.”

Another aspect that Sam brings to the INTERACT program is his love of music. He teaches the music club in INTERACT. “I genre-hop and factor in what club members enjoy to help create the classes,” he said.

Currently, Sam has a newer hobby that involves learning new skills with a turn table.

“Sam is a great worker. I enjoy learning about different styles of music from him. Sam is a great friend and always is here to listen to me,” said INTERACT participant Jay.

Looking ahead, Sam has no plans on leaving the leaving the beautiful Brevard area or TVS. His reasons for staying include some of the same reasons that brought him here originally; stable pay, mileage payback, in-house insurances, and more growth opportunities.

And with more opportunities comes growth, even if that takes time. “I am currently a level 3 out of 4 DSP,” he explains. “Getting a level 4 certification will take me awhile because being a DSP is a full-time requirement.”

Reflecting back on the last 10 years Sam says, “I enjoy the challenges that come with the job and continuing to learn new skills. We have a great team of DSP’s and we all have our own skills that we bring to the program.”

TVS expands commercial and government production capabilities

TVS expands commercial and government production capabilities

In an effort to continue meeting demands for both commercial and government contracts, TVS has invested in expansions to help speed up production and efficiencies. Over the past month, TVS has installed a brand-new line to help fulfill the growing demand in commercial supplements business, along with adding new robotic arms to government contract lines packaging with Instant Nonfat Dry Milk (INDM) and SuperCereal Plus.

Commercial contracts –

To better accommodate the growing relationships within TVS’ commercial business, TVS installed a new supplements line that was up and running in mid-June. The line was a necessary addition to differentiate between commercial and government business.

“The new supplement line increased capacity and production by more than double,” said TVS Sales and Marketing Manager Nan Higgins. “The employees on the line appreciate having the innovative equipment and the new responsibilities associated with these upgrades and take great pride in the additional numbers produced at the end of each shift.”

Higgins explains that the new line works from beginning to palatizing. “The supplement canisters are placed on table that feeds the bottle onto the converter belt,” she said. “The bottles are rotated and blown out with ionized air, filled to bottle count with capsules, topped with cotton, lids added, labeled, and heat sealed before being hand inspected, packaged, placed into cartons, and palletized.”

TVS will continue to update and expand its commercial division to continue meeting the demands of current business and allow space for new customers.

Government contracts –

Over the past 1.5 years, TVS has experienced a significant growth of INDM business to help combat the rising food insecurities across America and SuperCereal Plus to assist children facing hunger worldwide.

The new robotic arms are the newest addition to the new XYRJ machines that were installed late 2020 and early 2021. The robot arms move filled bags of Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk (INDM) and SuperCereal Plus into boxes before being sealing and robotically moving and stacking onto pallets.

Prior to this addition, the boxes were packaged and sealed by hand before being stacked onto pallets.

The new robotic equipment has increased milk packaging by 2.5 times when compared to production a year ago. “We needed additional packaging capacity to keep up with a growth in demand while trying to stay within an existing building footprint,” said TVS VP of Operations Steve Green. “This capacity increase has meaningful impact in that the additional output alone provide close to a million incremental gallons of fluid milk per month, when reconstituted, for needy Americans seeking nutrition from food pantries.”

Another benefit of the robotic arms is the relief of intense labor. With production packaging large numbers of cases of INDM a day, the new arms allow employees to continue work, in less labor demanding positions. Part of the expansion was in an effort to continue providing jobs for individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment in a less strenuous work environment while increasing TVS’s overall health and safety.

TVS has also purchased another XYRJ Triangle Machine. The factor test will be in December 2021 with installation expected to be in the first quarter of 2022.

“The growth we have experienced in the last year can only be compared to when TVS first commissioned milk in 2000,” said Green. “We could not have made accommodations to meet these demands without the broad support system of the TVS Board of Directors and our senior executives.”

Read more about TVS’ new XYRJ machines from ProFood World Magazine!

TVS collects over 850 school supplies for local Sharing House

TVS collects over 850 school supplies for local Sharing House

Lined paper, colored pencils, glue sticks, and neon highlighters overflow boxes after two weeks of collecting school supply donations for the Transylvania County Sharing House. TVS held a “Tools 4 School” donation drive and donated an amazing 885 school supply items to assist local students with getting back into the classrooms!

“TVS has been trying to support many local organizations since starting our donation drives. We figured this we would be a great time to incorporate the schools,” said TVS Benefits and Recruitment Specialist Catherine Tinsley. “This year and last has been very difficult for many families in Transylvania County and we wanted to make sure that the kids had everything they needed to have a successful school year.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, TVS decided to offer more donation events within the company to help provide extra resources to other local services aiding the community. Previous local donations include food and clothing to the Life Changers Outreach in Pisgah Forest and pet needs to the Transylvania County Animal Shelter

The school supply donation is currently the largest donation in recent TVS history, edging out the canned food drive by almost 100 items. “It really amazes me each time we do a donation drive here at TVS, our employees pull together for a great cause,” said Tinsley. “I am so excited to know that we are going to help many children and teens across the county!”

For over 20 years the local Sharing House has been providing free school supplies for any school-aged child (K-12) in a Transylvania County School. On average around 500 children receive supplies through this program. So far this year, 425 kids have already filled backpacks with supplies and the Sharing House is expecting more before the Back to School supply drive ends.

Last year the Sharing House saw a decline in students due to the COVID-19 pandemic having students learning in home classrooms.

COVID has affected the Sharing House in different ways. “This meant a huge amount to us because of the pandemic and the way life is right now, we have not seen the same amount of donations that we are used to,” said Sharing House Special Projects Coordinator Lynn Traub. “With this donation we now have the freedom to continue giving out all the supplies that students need.”

The pandemic also affected how the Sharing House hands out the backpacks. For most of this year (and prior to the pandemic), families were able to come into the building and pick out all the supplies. Now, with a rise in new cases, the Sharing House allows children to choose their backpacks, but they instead have personnel fill it with the required items before bringing the backpack out to the car.

Along with the school supplies all children have been receiving a new pair of shoes, socks, and underwear to start the year. This part of the program started 3 years ago thanks to local donations.

To take part and receive school supplies, you do not have to be signed up with the Sharing House. Appointments can be made by calling (828) 884-2866 ext. 111 and talking with Lynn Traub. However, they will accommodate walk-ins to the best of their abilities and availability. Friday, Aug 13 was the last day to receive new shoes, socks, and underwear with the school items.

The school supply drive will stay open until Friday, August 20 to assist with any last-minute needs. You can learn more about the Sharing House at https://www.sharinghouse.org/

 

Tracie Thomas — Warehouse Associate

Tracie Thomas — Warehouse Associate

Featured employee Joshua Smith quality checks a Super Cereal Plus bag.

“The most enjoyable part of my job is being a part of the TVS mission. On the struggle days, that’s what keeps me going.”

Featured employee Joshua Smith quality checks a Super Cereal Plus bag.
  • Graduated from Rosman High School in 1991
  • Started at TVS in December 2018
  • College Education: Associate in Arts (AA) from Blue Ridge Community College
  • Professional Growth at TVS: Originally hired as an INTERACT Direct Support Professional (DSP). “This was the most personally rewarding job I’ve ever had in my life.” 
    After 9 months, Tracie accepted the HR Administrative Assistant position before being presented with an opportunity as a Warehouse Associate.
  • Warehouse Associate, in a nut shell: “Responsible for data entry of all incoming materials and ingredients and outgoing shipments of Mountain Maid INDM and Low-Fat Bakery Mix. As well as, moving materials from the warehouse and production locations, and assisting in other inventory or logistic tasks.”
  • Why TVS? “I had gone through VISION Transylvania in 2015 and toured the facility. I heard about the mission and saw the operation. It was the first place I looked at for employment in 2018 after retiring from elections.”
  • Career goals? “I plan to keep working towards using my full potential for the company because I have so much more to give. I just don’t know where that will take me yet.”
  • Previous Work Experience: 25 year career at the local election center working as an election clerk and moving up to the election director.
  • Favorite part about working at TVS? “The mission first and then the people I get to work with.”
  • Favorite TVS memory? “A lot. But thinking back, I would have to say that watching INTERACT participants perform a song in sign language at the Transylvania County jail was one of the best experiences. It was heart-warming to watch the reactions from the inmates.”
  • What makes TVS different? “It is all about working together on a large scale. Each department works independently, together to reach the overall goals.”