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NEWS | Jan. 31, 2012

The heart of daily success

By Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Hudson Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Known as the 'heart' of the daily operations at the Rainbow Row Galley at Joint Base Charleston - Weapons Station, more than 140 Goodwill employees contribute to the overall success of the five-star rated dining facility by prepping, cooking, cleaning and serving food to service members.

Working alongside Sailors, these employees provide food services to more than 4,000 personnel base-wide. They are employed through the AbilityOne program, a federal initiative that helps people who are blind or have other significant disabilities find employment by working within a national nonprofit agency which sells products or services to the U.S. government.

"This partnership is what makes the galley services outstanding," said Food Service Officer Chief Petty Officer Michael Vira. "The constant interaction between military members and Goodwill employees are the key to our continued success. Their stellar positive attitudes are an inspiration for all galley staff and members. That alone drives us to do better and more for each and every service member who walks through our doors."

According to Vira, a culinary specialist, approximately 80 percent of the Goodwill employees have some sort of physical or mental disability. Vira said their excellent performance elevates the galley's operations to a whole new level.

"I receive comment cards from customers on a daily basis that says something great about one of the workers," said Vira. "Whether it is their positive attitude or willingness to go above and beyond to help a customer, these individuals help set a positive and inspirational atmosphere with one unified goal - leave them happy and full."

Working at the galley benefits the employees by providing them with job skills and field experience which will help them become more independent and more capable of completing tasks they never thought possible.

"It feels good to be working again," said Nathan Brown, a Goodwill employee.

Legally blind, Brown suffers from Glaucoma, but that hasn't slowed him down as he has worked his way up from washing dishes to cutting and prepping vegetables for meals served at the galley.

"Once I lost my sight I lost hope. I was depressed and I felt out of place," he said. "Working here has rebuilt my self-confidence and has shown me that I am able to do some of the same things I used to do.

"Here, I don't have to hide, here I am accepted the way I am - disabilities and all. I am just happy that I am still able to do something for someone else," said Brown.

Brown was recently notified that he will receive the national William M. Usdane award in May. The award is named after the late William Usdane, former assistant commissioner of the rehabilitation services administration, who worked tirelessly on behalf of people with disabilities. The award is presented annually to a select number of individuals with significant disabilities who have exhibited outstanding achievement and exceptional character as employees of the AbilityOne Program.

Only five employees receive the regional William M. Usdane Award each year and one goes on to receive the national award. Brown is the recipient of this year's national award.

"Working hard and having a positive attitude has helped Nathan overcome challenges and experience success. He has shown others that any small step forward is one giant leap toward accomplishment," said Matthew Keenan, galley kitchen manager.

"This program [AbilityOne] plays a significant role in these people's lives. It provides a second chance for those with significant disabilities," he continued. "This is a program designed to train each individual how to become more self sufficient."

Katina Cribb, who is deaf and mute and communicates through sign language and written notes said she is honored to have a job working at the galley and says that working as a food service cook is what she loves to do.

"I love being a cook and I enjoy feeding Sailors every day," she wrote. "It is my job to cook good food for the Sailors."

Each year the Weapons Station galley preps, cooks and serves more than 1.1 million meals for service members, a job which could not be accomplished with just the 20 Sailors attached to the galley. The combined teamwork of Sailors and Goodwill employees has led to the Rainbow Row Galley being rated a five-star dining facility for the past 10 years.

"We couldn't do this without the Goodwill employees," said Chief Petty Officer Eric Combs, the Galley leading chief petty officer. "We have 20 Sailors who hold management and accounting positions, maintain records, order food and deal with money. The Goodwill employees are part of our family here. I don't think we could survive without their hard work and dedication. The workers here are an incredible asset to the Navy and to the Weapons Station galley. Each individual is important to us, they are the butter to our bread - the heart of our daily operation and success."