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Alicia O’Shields Celebrates a Decade at TVS

Alicia O’Shields Celebrates a Decade at TVS

“Alicia is the happiest when she is able to get stuff done,” said friend and coworker Cathy Miller. “If she wants it, she goes and gets it.” From driving a forklift truck or pallet jack, to organizing ingredient set-ups, Alicia O’Shields is a jack-of-all-trades and does a little bit of everything at TVS. “Over the past 10-years, set-ups are my personal favorite job to do,” says Alicia. “It is hard work, but I really enjoy the fact that I am taking a large part in producing important food and who it is being sent to.”

Over the past decade, Alicia has been a vital asset working in the set-up area. During this time, TVS has blended metric tons of pancake mix and bakery mixes for U.S. Troop Support along with SuperCereal Plus, a cereal specially formulated for children, aged 6 to 24-months, facing food insecurities around the world. Each of these products must have each ingredient weighed out and organized into individual ‘set-ups,’ before being blended, packaged, and shipped to those in need.

“Alicia is an inspiring and steady presence at TVS. She is dedicated to our mission and our co-workers,” says TVS CEO Jamie Brandenburg. “Alicia is one of the many bright spots I have coming to work. No matter the challenge or obstacle in front of her, she seemingly always finds a way to overcome.”

Alicia first started at TVS in 2007 with the North Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation (NCDVR) working on the production floor. After a short employment, Alicia left TVS for employment at Julie’s Sub, now known as Creekside. A few years later, she returned to TVS in 2013 and started working in set-ups.

“Due to health, I now work wherever I am needed,” explains Alicia. Moving around and helping different departments, is one of her goals at TVS. Alicia also expressed her interest to be a machine operator, “it is one of the few jobs here I have not been trained on.”

Ask anyone at TVS how they would describe Alicia and you will hear; quiet and funny. But the number one thing said by everyone is, hardworking. “She is a hard worker, sometimes working too hard,” chuckled Chase Potts.

“Chase calls me his litter sister even though I am older than him,” laughs Alicia. “I really enjoy working with everyone here. Chase, Steven Morris, and Kolby Laughter, are some of the individuals that come to mind first.”

Reflecting on the last decade, Alicia laughs thinking about her supervisor, Ernest Williams, in a tutu at a dunking booth during a company picnic. “I also really miss working with the participants in INTERACT,” Alicia shared. “And I miss the TVS Thanksmas potlucks, I would always make a pineapple casserole.”

“She makes a mean pineapple casserole,” said Cathy with a smile. “Alicia is really good about being there when you need somebody. When I was out sick and in the hospital, she offered to cut my grass and help me out.” Cathy is not alone; Alicia spends her free time helping others by taking care of yard work, mowing lawns, and doing anything that needs to be done.

Just a couple years ago, Alicia and her wife AJ purchased a home. They share it with their son, Brandon, a puppy named Baxter, and two cats. When not cooking or hanging out in their new house, Alicia and her family enjoy camping at Coal Creek and Cantrell Bridge.

“I have grown a lot over the past 10-years, especially in working with my social anxiety,” reflects Alicia. Her wise words over the years at TVS are, “work hard and strive to learn as much as you can.”

Image above: (left to right) Alicia, Aj, and Brandon

TVS featured on 2023 Comporium Phone Directory

TVS featured on 2023 Comporium Phone Directory

TVS was featured on the 2023 Comporium Phone Directory in Transylvania County. We are proud to have our story and mission shared with the community. The inside story reads:


When you take a trip to the grocery store, you may not think of it as a privilege. Instead, you’re probably asking yourself a few questions: 

What items are needed for the week? What’s the budget for food? Where can I get the best deals? Can I get a good parking space? You may not be thinking about how those items got on the shelves, let alone who packaged them.

Not everyone has this opportunity. People in need may rely on food banks for their groceries, while families in developing countries around the world may not have a store to go to at all. Members of the military rely on what’s provided for them when they’re deployed. They all depend on the people who work behind the scenes to prepare and package dry food products that can be shipped and distributed around the world. In many cases, that work is being done right here in Transylvania County at TVS, Inc.

While the work itself is very important, that’s not the most impressive thing about this organization. Around 75% of TVS employees have disabilities or other life barriers. At TVS, they are able to find meaningful employment, earn a living wage and make a difference in countless lives. We are honored to recognize TVS on our 2023 Transylvania County Directory cover for their contributions to our area and beyond.


TVS started as a day program for adults with developmental disabilities in 1967. Founded by the Brevard Jaycees, the organization would partner with businesses in the area to provide employment for hundreds of people. This model made a positive impact on the community for 30 years but TVS saw the opportunity to do more. The decision was made to build a dry food manufacturing facility that would give employees steady, year-round work. Over the years, TVS has undergone several modernization phases and currently serves both Transylvania and Henderson counties.

The disabled population is the most marginalized unemployed and underemployed demographic group in the United States. One in four people are disabled and one in three families are affect by disability. It’s often difficult for people with disabilities to find reliable work. TVS fills that gap, providing a stable, integrated work site with wages that exceed the local Living Wage certification.


TVS manufactures a variety of food products under the Mountain maid brand. Through partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S> Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support, over 20 items are provided to food banks and military kitchens. TVS is currently the only supplier of packaged instant non-fat dry milk to the USDA. Fifteen million pounds of powdered milk were provided to food pantries across the county in 18 million gallons of fluid milk. On the military side, enough pancake mix is made in one year to cook 4.3 million pancakes for services members.

After working with TVS for over 10 years, the USDA asked for help with another important program: helping children at risk of starvation in food-insecure regions. TVS developed Super Cereal Plus, a product that can provide supplemental nutrition to children between the ages of six months and two years. Through partnerships with USAID and the World Food Programme, the USDA has distributed more than 250 million servings of the product globally.

Not only are TVS employees feeding the world, they’re also creating an economic impact in Transylvania County. A recent study found that TVS generates $27 million and creates and additional 286 jobs in the area. That’s in addition to the 210 TVS employees and 226 clients that receive services from the organization. Those services include two adult day programs, residential services (including community living group homes and supported living), employment services for individual’s seeking employment through vocational rehabilitation and pre-employment training for students in Transylvania and Henderson counties.


This economic success tells only one part of the story. TVS’ most significant contribution is to the lives of the people it serves.

“It is hard for me to put into words how special and important TVS is to our community. I have worked and been immersed in the disability world for more than 30 years and places like TVS just do not exist,” said Leca Chapman Diehl, TVS Director of Community Development. “TVS’ commitment to the disability community is deep and genuine and I am very lucky to be involved with such a fantastic organization. Our organizational model works to promote success. It is the mission of TVS to provide jobs; the food we package and sell to support our social enterprise model is the byproduct of our mission!”

“Our services provide individuals with the choice to live the lives they want,” said Carla Hill, TVS Program Director. “TVS’ success in services comes from thinking about the individuals that we support and making sure they are part of the plan.”

TVS employees are equally proud of what they are able to accomplish through the various programs offered. “I love my job. It is good, steady employment, and it provides money to support our services side,” said TVS Lead Blend Technician Aaron Owen. A TVS Production Associate agreed: “I like the fact that people with disabilities are able to work and find employment here when it would be harder to find somewhere else. It’s the whole reason I am here.”


With such a legacy of success and a continued determination to serve those with disabilities, it’s easy to see that the future of TVS is a bright one.

“Fifty-five years ago, no one could have foreseen what was a head for TVS. One person at a time, one job at a time, TVS has grown into a dynamic business, while staying true to its mission and this could not have been accomplished without the support of our community,” said former TVS CEO and TVS Board Chair Nancy Stricker. “The Founders of TVS recognized that members of our community with disabilities should be given the support and opportunities necessary to go to work. Since that time thousands of individuals have received training from one of TVS’ nationally accredited programs, benefitted from a robust job placement service, or found employment at TVS.”

As a proud member of the Brevard and Transylvania County communities, TVS is committed to setting a high standard as a fully integrated and inclusive workplace as they continue to amplify voices for disability advocacy.


TVS Employee Giving Tree

TVS Employee Giving Tree

Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) hosted the third annual “Give Back, Get Back” employee donation event over the last three months. This year TVS offered a new internal donation event! The TVS Giving Tree supported employees with children 18 years or younger, based on the traditional Angel Tree.

“The Giving Tree was a way for us to give back to TVS employees specifically,” said HR Specialist Kaydee Hopkins. “Employees give so much to the donation drives, we wanted to help them out as well.”


A total of 22 children were anonymously signed up by TVS parents to receive gifts. Each child had two ornaments on the tree; one for clothing and hygiene items and the other for toys. All 44 ornaments were taken from the tree by other TVS employees.

All gifts were wrapped and handed back out to the correct TVS employee the first week of December. 

“This donation drive embodies the spirit of giving, which is exactly what this time of year is all about. It brings people together and builds on our family atmosphere within the company,” said Hopkins. “We all came together to support each other with this drive and that’s a really beautiful thing. It makes me so proud to be a part of TVS.” 

The Giving Tree was the last of the holiday donation drives. TVS employees also donated 1,665 items to the local Bread of Life and 3,342 items to S.A.F.E. of Transylvania County. Both of these donation events surpassed expectations and donation amounts from last year.

“They were so excited when they saw the amount of donations. These wonderful community resources are supported by donations and having a company of our size give back is really special,” said HR Generalist Catherine Tinsley.

To cap off the Give Back, Get Back donation drives, TVS employees receive raffle tickets for the Thanksmas Raffle based on the number of items donated. This year employees were able to win a PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, multiple sizes of smart TVs, gift cards, and more.

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.