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TVS Self-Advocates join SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference

TVS Self-Advocates join SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference

Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) is very proud to share that Chase Potts and Kari Hammitt were among nearly 50 individuals selected from across the nation to attend the annual SourceAmerica® Grassroots Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., June 13-16, 2022. Chase and Kari were selected because they are excellent employees and are exceptional at telling their stories!

During the event, they spent four days sharing their employment story and met with members of Congress to advocate for better job opportunities for people with disabilities. Chase and Kari were able to meet with staffers from Congressional offices representing North Carolina, including Congressman Tom Tillis, Congressman Richard Burr and Congressman Madison Cawthorn.

SourceAmerica is a central non-profit agency that works under the AbilityOne Federal Program, a leading job connector for people with disabilities. TVS is a part of the 500-member SourceAmerica non-profit network across the US, that employs 45,000 disabled people.

The SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference brought together advocates and nonprofit leaders from across the United States to meet with members of Congress to help shape employment policies. In addition, attendees discussed employment barriers in their communities and how the AbilityOne® Program, one of the largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities, has provided employment opportunities for people with disabilities in their community.

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