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Cory Thomas celebrates 10 years at TVS

Cory Thomas celebrates 10 years at TVS

With over a decade of experience at TVS, Cory Thomas can be found working in almost any production area. Cory is able to flow between all the different lines and provide additional support wherever it is needed.

“Cory has been a regular fixture here at TVS! Over the years, Cory has performed a variety of jobs at TVS and takes his work seriously,” said TVS CEO Jamie Brandenburg. “I have always appreciated his loyalty and dedication to our mission and company.”

Cory was originally hired on second shift, palletizing and case sealing on lines producing SuperCereal, Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk (INDM), and Bakery Mixes.

Now, Cory prefers to work in Supplements. “My favorite spot is on the supplement line, I enjoy the flow of the work and the atmosphere,” said Cory. “I enjoy having the chance to talk to my coworkers.”

In Supplements, Cory can be found blowing out canisters, palletizing, or any other job they need him to do. “Cory is a hard worker with good work ethic,” said Supplement Production Lead Richie Atwell.  “He does his work with a smile.”

Cory works by the motto, “drive to go home or don’t steer.” Or in other words, care about what you do.

“I enjoy watching Cory grow and appreciate his willingness to work in new departments,” said Dietary Supplements Operation Manager Brian Wilson. “I am very proud of his recent progress in his personal life.” 

Cory is native to Transylvania County, and has been involved with TVS for 12 years. Before graduating from Brevard High in 2011, Cory completed his high school requirements by finding employment through Vocational Rehabilitation at TVS.

Over the past 10 years Cory said, “I am able to do more jobs and spread my wings more. I have become more well-rounded and have started to try more.”

When Cory is not at work he can be found practicing Taekwondo, working towards his black belt. Cory is also trained in Kick Boxing and Muay Thai. He has already competed in two different tournaments and aims to keep getting better and better.

Cory also enjoys hanging out with friends, swimming, hiking, social events, and being online. If you are ever looking for Cory on a social media network, it would help you to know that Steven King is his favorite author, as well as, the name of the hotel owner in The Shining.

He can be found in tropical locations on vacation. While his favorite location was Jamaica, he also enjoyed visiting the Bahama’s, Cayman Islands, and Myrtle Beach.

Looking back over the years, Cory remembers all the company picnics, riding inflatable animals in the field out back, evenings together celebrating Christmas, and has lots of memories with good people – some of which are no longer here.

Cory looks forward to continue growing at TVS and moving into whatever position his credentials will take him.

When asked to share some stories about Cory, Brian smiled and said, “I have some great stories involving Cory. They just cannot be repeated here.” 

Celebrating AJ Spears for 10 years at TVS

Celebrating AJ Spears for 10 years at TVS

“We need more AJs in the world!” says Warehouse Lead Associate Tracie Fisher. “AJ is absolutely one of the hardest workers I have ever encountered and I am always impressed by the care and dedication to quality that she puts into every pallet.”

Over the past 10 years, AJ Spears has worked at TVS in almost every area including blending, set-ups, driving fork trucks, and as a floor lead for INTERACT participants.

Now AJ can be found at the warehouse location palletizing and making sure Prime Vendor and Troop Support orders are shipped out correctly. “I love the independence of being at the new warehouse,” AJ said. “But I do miss the INTERACT participants, they are what have kept me here. They bring a lot out of you without ever even trying.”

Her peers describe her as compassionate, being detail oriented, having a strong work ethic, perfectionist, and an open book.

When talking about her work, she always says, “if I wouldn’t send it to my mama looking like that, why would I send it to our soldiers?” If there is a pallet or case out of place, AJ will find it and fix it, she has no tolerance for cutting corners.

“Everything has to look right, or she will break the pallet down and redo the entire thing,” explains Warehouse Manager Shannon Merrill. “She also takes it upon herself to do more than her normal duties. She takes care of anything that might need to be done.”

Shannon has known AJ his entire time working at TVS, but has only worked directly with her over the past couple years since her promotion to Warehouse Production Associate.

“She is determined to do her job to the best of her ability, and her ability exceeds almost everyone I know,” said Customer Relations Specialist Robin Ervin. “She’s a beast!  In the past year, Prime Vendor has shipped out 63,522 cases of product and AJ has had her hands on 99% of those cases.”

The TVS warehouse has a bulletin board that changes themes monthly. AJ has adorned the hat of Country Music Singer Gretchen Wilson, Animal from The Muppets, and Sandy the Squirrel from SpongeBob.  Currently, she has been likened to Looney Tune’s Yosemite Sam. “For those who know AJ well, Yosemite Sam is likely to be the most accurate of them all,” laughs Robin.

“She is hilarious and you never have to wonder how she feels about things,” Robin explains. “AJ is rightfully proud of how far she has come since leaving her past struggles with addiction behind.”

AJ moved to Brevard in the 1990s with her family from Lodi, California. She worked other jobs including a PBX answering service, woodworking, and dog groomer. “My past history was rocky, but TVS took a chance on it,” said AJ.

“I give blood, sweat, and tears for this place to help feed the world,” she said. Reflecting over the past decade, AJ says, “it has been awesome working here. I love my job, what we do, and our mission. TVS has helped me in life and if I wasn’t here don’t know if I would have survived sobriety.” 

Last year, AJ and her wife Alicia purchased their first home. When they are not working at TVS, they can be found helping friends, neighbors, and those in need mow to their lawns. “It makes you feel good to be helpful,” says AJ.

With all the work, AJ does enjoy some play while visiting the Cherokee casino. While AJ enjoys her luck at the slots, she does have a series of unfortunate events. “TVS is not kind to AJ and Alicia’s car,” laughs Robin.

In 2019, Mother Nature decided to strike the TVS parking lot with a bolt of lightning. The strike blew the pavement out from under the car and completely fried the electronics and killing their car. Luckily, it occurred during working hours and no one was outside.

But now her new car is a “car-magnet,” attracting other cars to bump into it while working at the warehouse location.

Looking ahead in her career at TVS, AJ is always looking for new ways to grow and with her motto of, “work hard and keep your chin up,” the possibilities are endless.

 

A decade later and Dan Fisher is stilling hanging in there like a hair in a biscuit

A decade later and Dan Fisher is stilling hanging in there like a hair in a biscuit

It isn’t every day that you get to meet a man who has an affinity for cats and a secret hatred for Mr. Rogers – but at TVS, we have had the pleasure of working beside him for the past 10 years and we are looking forward to many more!

TVS Quality Director, Dan Fisher works to, “ensure that TVS puts out a quality safe product for our customer and consumer. Whoop, there it is.”

It’s hard to not find Dan with a smile on his face. He enjoys providing employment for individuals with disabilities and barriers to employment as well as being able to feed the world with awesome products. “It’s pretty cool,” he says. “I thank the Lord, and thank my blessings for being a part of TVS.”

Dan was hired as the Quality Director in 2012 after, “my wife and I decided it was time for me to come out of retirement,” Dan said with a laugh. His experience in quality grew at Tropicana in Florida, where he worked for 35 years. “I fell in love, had kids, and went to work at Tropicana,” he explained. “I started as a Lab Tech before moving up to the Quality Packaging Manager.”

TVS Quality Director John Safi has heard all the juicy stories about Tropicana, “they beat him to a pulp,” John says with a chuckle.

John has worked with Dan for the past 5 years. “He is a good-hearted guy and a true follower of Christ,” he says. “We have a lot of audits together, and they are more fun with each other. During one, an auditor grabbed Dan’s stress-reliver ball, shaped like a cow, and threw it at me because I kept asking questions. Dan then handed her a Tropicana stress-ball and said, ‘here – you can throw this one too,’ and she did.”

Just like the stress balls being thrown at John, the puns and compliments about Dan – they just keep coming.

Heart of gold, always positive, and “the best supervisor I’ve ever had” are just some of the other kind words coworkers had to say.

Jackie Compton has worked with Dan during his decade at TVS. “One of my favorite stories with Dan is when he was on his hands and knees chasing a fly with an electric fly swatter,” laughs Jackie. “He did get the fly after several hits and some electrical recharges.”

Over the years, Dan has traded this electric fly swatter for an electric bicycle. When not working, he can be found hitting the bike bath with his wife and friends, as well as, camping… or glamping.

Dan shares his smile with everyone around him. His light-hearted humor and extensive list of puns is the highlight of conversation. “Take the time to get to know the people. Life is short, and relationships are important,” he says.

 

Looking ahead, there may be opportunity to see Dan letting his hair down at the next company picnic and maybe beating Jackie again at Cornhole.

I have a million of them,” said Dan thinking back on his memories. “But the overriding theme is all the smiles on employee faces as they come to work.” Over his decade, Dan has seen TVS grow by over a hundred employees.

Brevard used to have less people, less beer, and less bikes. But it’s all behind us now.

As for Dan’s explanation for his aversion to Mr. Rogers, he says, “It’s not a beautiful day in the neighbor, there might be cat fever going around.”

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.”

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.”