Congresswoman Stephanie Bice (OK-05) spent part of her August recess learning how people with disabilities serve as a critical component for the federal government and the United States military.
Rep. Bice recently toured Vanwey Dining Facility, operated by Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC), at Tinker Air Force Base. DRTC has held the food service contract through SourceAmerica®, an AbilityOne® Program, for 30-years, preparing meals for military and civilian personnel around-the-clock. In addition, DRTC holds custodial contracts at TAFB, cleaning 188 buildings on base in support of the mission at Tinker.
NewView Oklahoma, a National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and AbilityOne® associated agency, participated in Rep. Bice’s visit as well. NewView Oklahoma provides employment for individuals who are blind or living with low vision. The agency employs 120 full-time employees through AbilityOne® contracts, and 186 employees organization-wide. Those employees serve in various capacities through service contracts at military installations across the country, including Tinker Air Force Base. NewView also offers employment through their Oklahoma City manufacturing plant where they manufacture a diverse range of products including wooden airplane chalks, DLA hoses, hydraulic hoses, high pressure hoses, sanitation products, survival kits, first aid kits, and more.
AbilityOne® Program employees from both DRTC and NewView Oklahoma spoke with Congresswoman Bice about the importance of the employment program in their lives. Rep. Bice also learned more about the AbilityOne® Program from DRTC Executive Director/CEO Deborah Copeland, M.Ed., and NewView Oklahoma President & CEO Lauren Branch and how people with disabilities have gained meaningful employment through contracts via SourceAmerica® and NIB.
DRTC employs approximately 200 people at Tinker Air Force Base, among its three contracts on base.
“Through employment, our staff have been able to support their families, advance their careers, and develop their skills,” said Deborah Copeland. Executive Director and CEO of DRTC. “The AbilityOne® Program continues to prove its worth, generating $2.66 to the federal government for every one-dollar spent on the program.” (Mathematica Socioeconomic Impact Evaluation Report)
The unemployment rate for Americans living with vision-related disabilities is 67%; that equates to more than 48,000 Oklahomans eligible but not participating in the workforce. “The AbilityOne® program is a vital federal program that protects and encourages the employment of individuals living with disabilities. Without it, many of our neighbors would remain unemployed,” said Lauren Branch, President and CEO of NewView Oklahoma.
DRTC recognized Col. Abigail Ruscetta, Commander, 72nd Air Base Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Congresswoman Bice, and Senator Markwayne Mullin (whose staff attended the event) with a commemorative acrylic manufactured at the agency’s headquarters located at 2501 N. Utah Ave. in Oklahoma City.