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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.

Stricker-Alderman Fund Launched

Stricker-Alderman Fund Launched

In an effort to provide additional support to TVS employees, TVS is proud to implement the Stricker-Alderman Fund. This resource is intended to help those in times of crisis.

The Stricker-Alderman Fund is named in honor of Nancy Stricker, former TVS CEO, and Becky Alderman, former TVS COO, for their long-term commitment to individuals in Transylvania County.

“The Stricker-Alderman Fund is built on the idea that life happens and sometimes all we need is an extra life-line and a helping hand-up when times get tough,” said TVS Employee Support Specialist Kyle Ridgley. “TVS wants to serve its employee’s well and show each employee that we value them. We know that things arise that need extra assistance and having this resource available helps make TVS what it is.”

A recent survey indicated that TVS employees have experienced lack of basic needs in some of the following areas within the last 5 years: housing, transportation, utilities, and medical care. The Stricker-Alderman Fund advances the TVS mission of providing services and employment opportunities for adults with disabilities and other barriers to employment, but it also extends beyond the normal work day and assists employees with basic life needs.

“The Stricker-Alderman Fund was needed at TVS,” said Ridgley. “It all comes back to the Trust, Value, Serve model of TVS. We ‘value’ our mission and you can ‘trust’ us to be by your side as we continue to provide ‘services’ and other avenues of assistances as needed.”

The fund is a taxable event. Individuals can receive one grant per year with a maximum of $3,500.

To be eligible, an individual must be a full-time or part-time employee of TVS and the individual, or an eligible dependent (18 years or younger), must have experienced a qualifying event in the past 90 days. A qualifying event is an event that affects your ability to pay for basic living expenses such as utilities, mortgage/rent, food, or transportation.

Events that might be considered eligible for qualification for the Stricker Alderman Fund could include: a serious illness or injury, unexpected medical or dental visits, death of a family member, extreme circumstances such as homelessness or fire, natural disasters, and others.

The application is completely confidential. Usually, within 10 days of submitting the application, a response will be issued. While not all submissions are guaranteed to result in a grant, all submissions are reviewed on a case by case basis, and if necessary, other local resources/assistance options will be provided.

“I am honored to be able to have the opportunity to partner and support TVS employees,” said Ridgley. Looking ahead, TVS hopes to add to Transportation and Personal Advancement assistance tiers to the fund.

For more information about the Stricker-Alderman Fund or to receive a copy of the application please reach out to Kyle Ridgley at (828) 884-2052 or email strickeralderman@tvsinc.org.

 

Steven Mitchell celebrates 20 years at TVS

Steven Mitchell celebrates 20 years at TVS

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Steven Craig Mitchell began his career at TVS. It has been two decades since Steven started working at TVS. He is one of the ‘original 2nd shift crewmembers’ still here putting both ‘pride and potential’ in all that he does. 

Steven was a TVS client in 1989. TVS Employment Specialists helped him secure a job with General Electric before they closed and Steven ended up moving to South Carolina.

He would move back to North Carolina to be with his grandmother before returning to TVS as an employee in 2001.

When not at work, Steven enjoys playing video games, hanging out with coworker and roommate Robbie Wright, or watching a classic Star Wars or Superman movie.

Steven still works on the 2nd shift, but has been promoted from a production worker to a material handler at the warehouse location. He loads and unloads trucks and bring products from the warehouse location to the main facility to help keep production moving smoothly.

Warehouse Manager Shannon Merrill says, “I haven’t worked with Steven long, but I have really noticed his growth as a Material Handler.”

Steven says, “This is the best job I have had at TVS. I enjoying talking to the truck drivers and hearing their different stories.”

Looking ahead, Steven is excited to begin his certification in forklift training. The “Train the Trainer” certification will allow Steven to teach other individuals at TVS how to drive a forklift.

“I am impressed with his attention to safety and his desire to be all he can be,” said Safety and Security Manager Jackie Compton. “He has come a long way here at TVS and he operates a forklift exceptionally well.”

Talking about the forklift certification, Steven laughs and says, “May the fork be with you.” Steven gives credit to Jackie and Dean Chapman, the former Warehouse Manager, for teaching him the secrets of the trade years ago.

“He is what TVS is all about and what it has been about from the beginning from corn shuck flowers to now,” said Dean. “It was an honor to me to have a friend like Craig [Steven] along my 24-year journey at TVS.”

With all the ups and downs in life, Steven reflects on the hard life moments where TVS pulled him through. “TVS has always been a family to me. They opened their arms to me, even when my momma died. They helped me get a car to go see her one last time,” Steven says. “It is a good place to work, they are always there to help.”

A Letter of Appreciation

A Letter of Appreciation

A nice surprise popped into the TVS email last week, a letter of appreciation from Allison Snyder. Allison is an Inclusion Education Major at Western Carolina University (WCU) who graduated from Rosman High School in 2019.

The letter is a nice reminder that our mission is visible in the community and how important our work is. Thank you to all TVS employees working to support our mission, and thank you to Allison for your kind words.

Click here to read the Letter of Appreciation.

Carla Hill celebrates 15 years at TVS

Carla Hill celebrates 15 years at TVS

“When I first contacted Carla Hill 15 years ago, I wanted her recommendation on who to hire for a new position being created at TVS. I didn’t dream that I could hire her, so the next best thing was her top recommendation,” said former TVS CEO Nancy Stricker. “I thought I had won the lottery when she called me back expressing interest in the job.”

It was a transition period at TVS in 2006. The new job position as Program Manager was created to help transition from state funding to Medicaid funding to support services.

“There were new rules and regulations, and I knew Carla would (and did) lead us through that time in our growth,” said Nancy. She laughed saying, “No matter what changes came, I knew Carla could read it, understand it and explain it to me, thus keeping me from going to jail.”

After 15 years, Carla continues growing and expanding the programs at TVS as the Program Director. When first hired, Carla was in charge of the Life Skills program, the INTERACT program (previously known as ADVP) with individuals working under the 14C contract, and Employment Services. All of these were significantly smaller and have evolved into the programs we have today.

Since being hired, TVS programs have expanded to include two residential facilities in 2010 and branched out into local high schools with the Pre-Employment Transitions Services (Pre-ETS) program in 2019.

Employment Services has developed to support 50 individuals at any given time. One individual has been receiving support of 15 years and another has been successfully employed for 20 years after receiving services from Employment Specialists.

“Carla’s communication and willingness to adjust to VR requirements has helped build a fantastic working relationship,” said Lenora Mathis, Regional CRP Specialist at the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. “She is a great partner to work with and we are lucky to have such a strong leader who knows how to get things done.”

Lenora has been working with Carla over the last 15 years. She said, “As Carla learned about services, she was patient, diligent and always made sure everything she and her staff did for clients was very high quality. Her effectiveness in her job is obvious in the performance of TVS’ VR contract.”

As TVS programs have grown, so has Carla. “I am introverted but I feel like I’ve had to force myself outside of that to be more comfortable,” she said. “I am not good with on-the-spot responses but I have learned that taking my time is important because I need to consider everyone that would be impacted; including individuals served and staff.”

Reflecting on her favorite memories, Carla talks about breaking down the stigma associated with 14C and the growth of the Employment Services within the community. 

“What has been extremely meaningful to me, has been reinventing what we now call INTERACT,” said Carla. “It is all about thinking about the individuals you support, and making sure they are part of the plan.”

Prior to working at TVS, Carla worked in the field of mental health for her entire career. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a Master Degree in Social Work and moved around to California and Indiana before relocating back to North Carolina with her two children. 

Carla has a love of theatre, and when she is not working you might find her performing or watching a theatrical performance. She also enjoys walking, hiking and working out at the local CrossFit.

“Carla is a beast at CrossFit and is always motivated to push herself and others at the gym and in her personal life,” said Employment Specialist Megan Pilley. “Carla is always there to support me, whether it is at the gym or in my personal and work life.”

Looking ahead, Carla plans to continue attending webinars to stay up-to-date with rules and regulations and to continue serving more people. She says, “The rest of my career here, I will continue being a ‘servant leader’ and will continue to encourage and help DSP’s and Employment Specialists grow and develop new skills. I want to be a support resource for anyone that needs it.”