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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

TVS celebrates Jamie Owen for two decades of dedicated work

TVS celebrates Jamie Owen for two decades of dedicated work

In April 2021, Jamie Owen celebrated his 20th year of packaging, line working, and comradery at Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS).

Before coming to work at TVS, Jamie worked as a Supported Employment client and was placed with a job coach at a local store bagging groceries. After a year, Jamie decided to work at TVS. “I liked TVS better because they welcomed me and offered new stuff to do,” said Jamie. “I liked the people.”

Over the years, Jamie has worked in two different areas but with lots of different products from SuperCereal Plus to Bakery Mix and Pancakes. He has been working dependably to supply food to U.S. Military troop, and supplying food for food insecurities, domestic and international on our AbilityOne contracts.

“The AbilityOne contract is what helped to create jobs with flexibility and other accommodations that would not be traditionally found at other jobs,” said TVS HR Director Lauren Hayes. “TVS would not exist if it weren’t for our workers like Jamie. His effort and determination to show up every day and give TVS his all is what keeps us running and able to provide food for people around the world. We are able to accomplish our mission because of his dedication.”

Hardworking, enthusiastic, and optimistic are just a few of the words used to describe Jamie and his work ethic.

“He is one of the most dependable workers we have! He 

is always on time, present, and ready to do the job that our managers have for him,” Lauren said. That kind of dependability is hard to find and we are so thankful that Jamie is on team TVS!”

However, you can’t have work and no play. “I look forward to the picnics, with bounce houses and food,” Jamie explained. Over the years, TVS has celebrated employees and their families with annual company picnics that has included catered food, bounce houses, and even dunking booths.

 

 “Jamie is just a real pleasure to work with,” said Production Manager Ernest Williams. Ernest has worked with Jamie over the past 20 years. “He is a great asset to TVS, he is 

hard working and almost always willing to do whatever is asked of him.”

When Jamie is not working to help fulfill government contracts, he can be found watching Western movies or ‘cutting-a-rug’ at a local dance or anywhere music is playing.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, TVS and Mountain Area Community Services would sponsor dances for community members to attend.

“Jamie was always dancing. It didn’t matter what the song was, he just loves to dance,” said TVS Warehouse Associate Tracie Fisher. “We would eat pizza and dance. It was a way for individuals with disabilities to get exercise and socializes with their friends.”

 

Tracie used to work with Jamie after work providing services and helping run errands. “He has such a positive attitude, always happy and optimistic,” she said.

Reflection back on fun memories, Ernest laughs as he remembers their bowling adventures. “We used to go bowling every Wednesday and to see him get a strike and strut back from the lane, it was something to be seen,” Ernest reflects.

 

Jamie’s other fun activities include, singing country and bluegrass music at the top of his lungs, talking about the Special Olympics, and spending time with his family.

“TVS is a good job. It has changed my life ever since I came here,” he said. It is because of job flexibility and the ever-changing job tasks that Jamie has been able to happily work beside the people that made him want to work at TVS two decades ago.

 

TVS increases capacity to continue assisting with international famine relief efforts

TVS increases capacity to continue assisting with international famine relief efforts

Brevard, NC (May 11, 2021) — Food insecurity has surged in recent years across the world. As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, more individuals are affected or at a higher risk than ever before. To help combat this growing rate of worldwide food insecurity, Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) installed new equipment during the 2020 year to continue meeting increased demands with the production of its SuperCereal Plus (SCP) blend.

“As a supplier of further processed grain based and dairy commodities to USDA, USAID, and the US Military, TVS is pleased to announce a significant increase in plant capacity to process and package SuperCereal Plus,” said TVS VP of Operations Steve Green. “This was made possible by forming a strategic alliance with grain suppliers in the US Midwest along with extensive engineering studies and capital investments in high speed processing and packaging equipment.” 

Currently TVS’s expansion has continued to support SCP production with an overall increase of 55%. Green said, “following 10 years of direct product experience and newly increased plant capacity, we are prepared to support USAID feed programs for another decade.”

SCP is a specially formulated cereal that offers complete nutrition for children ages 6-24 months when combined with fresh drinking water and used in conjunction with breast milk.

“TVS’s SuperCereal Plus business and our assistance with international hunger relief is something that we’re particularly proud of as an organization,” said TVS CEO Jamie Brandenburg. “We worked with the USAID and the World Food Programme to aid in the formulation and development of this complete nutritional supplement, and we continue to supply this product to various parts of the world.”

The manufacturing and packaging process of SCP began collaboratively with the USDA in 2010.

“As one of the first suppliers of SuperCereal Plus in North America, we are proud to invest and grow with our distribution partners to continue supplying a nutritious feeding supplement to families and children of developing nations that are in need,” said Green.

TVS has recently produced 1600 metric tons, or 3.5 million pounds, of SCP to aid in global hunger assistance efforts. Over the years, many regions of Africa and various other areas of the world have received TVS’ SCP.

Click here to read the full PDF.

TVS ‘Bite Local’ program working to reward employees, support local restaurants

TVS ‘Bite Local’ program working to reward employees, support local restaurants

Brevard, NC (April, 21 2021) — Earlier this year, Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) initiated ‘Bite Local,’ a TVS Restaurant Support Program intended to reward its employees and give back to the local community.

Four times per year, TVS selects three local restaurants in the community and purchases gift cards to each of them. Accordingly, TVS employees receive a $15 gift card to the restaurant of their choice from the list. The first quarter offered gift cards to KTCHN, Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop, or Creekside Subs.

TVS had a fantastic initial turnout of over 130 employees receiving gift cards this first quarter, and the second quarter is expected to be even greater!

“Our Bite Local program is a great way to support both our community and our employees! It has been a difficult year,” said TVS HR Director Lauren Hayes. “I’m so excited that we get to offer our employees the ability to experience local restaurants that might be outside of their normal choices, as well as pour into our community by supporting those who have been affected by the pandemic.”

Click here to read the full PDF or to view the Transylvania Times article.

A ‘PAW’-fect donation drive benefiting the shelter animals.

A ‘PAW’-fect donation drive benefiting the shelter animals.

In another successful donation drive, Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) spent the last couple of weeks collecting food, treats, and toys for the Transylvania County Animal Shelter.

“We chose to donate to the Animal Shelter because of the pandemic causing a high rate of displaced animals and people in need,” said TVS HR Administrative Assistant Kayde Hopkins. “Because of this we felt a great need to help the shelter meet their demands with donations of food and toys.”

TVS employees donated over 330 pounds of kibble for cats and dogs, 243 cans of wet food, 94 toys, and 74 bags of treats! Other items such as pet beds, food and water dishes, leashes, dog collars and cat litter were also donated.

“This is why we do what we do, it is to help our community and to help the animals,” said Transylvania County Animal Shelter Manager Sara Laboe. The shelter is always accepting donations but has not seen this magnitude of contribution in the past.

Over the past year, the pandemic left individuals in hard places and the animal shelter began offering free cat and dog food to anyone who needed the assistance. “We don’t want anyone to have to surrender a pet because of the hardships brought on by the pandemic,” said Laboe.

Last year’s quarantine also affected the shelter. At the height of the pandemic, the shelter was closed to the public with only staff taking care of the animals and an available animal control officer when needed in the community. As the county began to open, the shelter adjusted and began adopting animals out by appointment.

As restrictions continue to loosen, the shelter is open to anyone looking to adopt and has welcomed back TVS INTERACT participants who enjoy volunteering to help with the shelter cats and dogs.

Since the beginning of 2021, the shelter has rescued and adopted out an average of 100 animals a month and as restrictions began to lift the shelter is back operating on a more normal schedule.

This is TVS’ first donation in 2021, but is expecting more donation drives to offer more opportunities for employees to give back to the community. TVS began ramping up donation events as a way to give back to the local community affected by the pandemic.

For their contributions to the donation drives, TVS employees are rewarded with raffle tickets to win gift cards to other local businesses. This donation drive included prizes for O.P. Taylors, Downtown Chocolates, Elements Spa, Rockin’ Bowl, and the Co-Ed Theatre.

At the end of last year, TVS donated food and clothing to the Life Changers Outreach located in Pisgah Forest and filled over 50 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child to be distributed worldwide.

To learn more about the shelter please visit https://www.transylvaniacounty.org/departments/animal-services.