History

40 Years of SourceAmerica

SourceAmerica®'s mission is to create employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities and is demonstrated throughout its history. Experience the stories that make SourceAmerica the country’s leading source of job opportunities for people with significant disabilities.

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1971: SourceAmerica: An Overview

SourceAmerica: An Overview

 

Six National Nonprofit Agencies

A coalition of agencies serving people with significant disabilities including Goodwill Industries International, National Easter Seal Society, ACCSES, The ARC, United Cerebral Palsy Association, and International Association of Jewish Vocational Services spearhead efforts to expand the Wagner-O’Day Act.

 

Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act Enacted

1971

Wagner-O'Day Act amended to include people with severe disabilities.

Goodwill of San Antonio, Texas, adds first product to the Procurement List under new Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act.

1972: First Service Contract

1972

New Leaf, located in Oak Harbor, Washington, secures the first Javits-Wagner-O'Day service contract for grounds maintenance at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

 

"We are still there. We still have that contract."


"There was a project coming up for grounds maintenance; $60,000. Murray Anderson wrote the pilot and NAS Whidbey awarded it to us…and we are still there. We still have that contract."


— Rhea Nelson, executive director and CEO, New Leaf

1973: Better Grounds for Less Cost

1973

Naval Civil Engineer Magazine publishes an article titled "Better Grounds for Less Cost," written by Commander Roy L. Allen and Lieutenant Commander Donald L. Looff detailing their experience with a new contract at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

The article attributes the contract's success to lower cost, positive attitude by New Leaf managers, establishing a single line of communication between the Federal customer and contractor, and transfer of duties from various departments and tenants to the nonprofit agency.

 

The Story of the First Contract

1974: SourceAmerica Incorporated

1974

On June 26, 1974, SourceAmerica incorporates as National Industries for the Severely Handicapped (NISH), a national nonprofit providing technical assistance to nonprofit agencies participating in Javits-Wagner-O'Day, later known as the AbilityOne Program®.

 

"This is a great idea. We have to give this grant to them."


"An application came through Rehabilitation Services Administration for the establishment of SourceAmerica. At that time, I had never heard of National Industries for the Blind, the Wagner-O'Day Act, Javits-Wagner-O'Day, or any of those things. But I read the application and said, 'This is a great idea. We have to give this grant to them."


— Harry Clements, former deputy director, Rehabilitation Services Administration
and former CEO of SourceAmerica

1975: SourceAmerica Adds Services

1975

First SourceAmerica service contract added to the Procurement List, custodial service for the Boise Fire Center, is held by Witco and creates nine jobs.

1976: Early Success

1976

Procurement List additions by SourceAmerica exceed $5 million with the production of convalescent suits made by Altro Workshops of New York.

 

 

 

 

Engineering a Solution for Customers

"We got grants to open five small offices around the country with the idea that there was always a manufacturing engineer right there where the customer was. I think this was a great achievement."


— Harry Clements, former deputy director, Rehabilitation Services Administration
and former CEO of SourceAmerica

1977: Honoring a SourceAmerica Champion

1977

Senator Jacob Javits honored on the 6th Anniversary of the passage of the Act bearing his name.

The third SourceAmerica field office opens: Dallas joins Colorado and California.

 

 

 

 

Leveraging Business for Social Good

"The idea of leveraging business in order to do social good is a very current idea, and yet 40 years ago my father basically pioneered one of the most interesting and innovative efforts on the part of the Federal Government—to combine a business model with delivering benefit to society."


— Carla Javits, daughter of Senator Javits

1978: Federal Grant Funding Ends

1978

SourceAmerica completes a three-year facility improvement grant from Rehabilitation Services Administration, ending direct Federal funding.

First SourceAmerica national training conference held in St. Louis.

First SourceAmerica awards banquet held.

 

 

 

 

 

"A Good Challenge"


Clements recounts meeting Senator Javits.

— Harry Clements, former deputy director, Rehabilitation Services Administration
and former CEO of SourceAmerica
1979: Leadership and Consolidation

1979

Fourth SourceAmerica field office opens in New York.

Eivind "Ivy" H. Johansen is named president of SourceAmerica.

SourceAmerica consolidates regional offices: Northeast, Southeast, North/Central, West, South/Central regions.

 

 

 

 

"Lead It He Did."



"I was one of the members on Ivy's selection committee. I remember thinking I was this little kid from Iowa interviewing this General to come and lead this organization. Well, lead it he did. He could walk through doors that we couldn't kick down."


— Evelyne Villines, former chairperson, SourceAmerica board of directors

1980: Paperclips

1980

The paperclip is added to the Procurement List—the largest project to date—creating 155 jobs for people with disabilities.

Almost 4,800 people with severe disabilities work on SourceAmerica projects.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Paperclips was an exciting contract."

Evelyne Villines describes the significance of the paperclips contract.

— Evelyne Villines, former chairperson, SourceAmerica board of directors

1981: Atlanta

1981

SourceAmerica South Region office opens in Atlanta.

1982: National Council of SourceAmerica Employers Forms

1982

National Council of Work Centers is formed. Later, the organization is called the National Council of SourceAmerica Employers (NCSE).

Small-purchase authority raised from $10,000 to $25,000, permitting more growth in SourceAmerica project opportunities.

1983: New National Headquarters Opens

1983

SourceAmerica opens a new national headquarters building on Cedar Lane in Vienna, Virginia.

1984: New Highs

1984

New high of 10,365 people with disabilities work on SourceAmerica projects.

SourceAmerica Compliance Assistance team formed to assist nonprofits with regulatory requirements.

Wages paid to workers with disabilities reaches new high: $19 million.

"You are going to find a mess, but it's my mess."

Evelyne Villines recounts her visit to an AbilityOne employee’s home in Fort Myers, Florida.

— Evelyne Villines, former chairperson, SourceAmerica board of directors
1985: A White House Welcome

1985

President Reagan welcomes SourceAmerica award recipients to the White House.

Largest product contract awarded to ORC Industries of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, for production of wet-weather ponchos.

1986: Military Support

1986

First military resale item, pipe cleaner, added to Procurement List. Custom Manufacturing is the producing agency.

Army Materiel Command issues a new initiative which describes a high level of commitment and support to AbilityOne projects.

Interest-free loans to nonprofit agencies surpass $250,000.

1987: Outstanding Efforts Earn Awards

1987

Opportunity Rehabilitation Center of Anniston, Alabama is named "Outstanding Rehabilitation Facility of 1987" by Alabama Association of Rehabilitation Facilities for work performed through AbilityOne.

Fort Benjamin Harrison Commissary receives "Best Small Base Commissary Award" due to the efforts of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana employees.

1988: Legislation's 50th Anniversary

1988

50th Anniversary of the original legislation creating AbilityOne.

Defense Logistics Agency creates a long-term contract initiative to facilitate employment and steady production of supplies for the government.

Nearly 12,300 people with severe disabilities work on SourceAmerica projects.

1989: Support from the Air Force

1989

SourceAmerica 15th Anniversary conference held in San Antonio.

Air Force creates two incentive awards designed to support and foster participation in the AbilityOne Program.

1990: Operation Desert Storm

1990

Desert Storm support brings recognition to SourceAmerica's nonprofit agencies.



Strategic Growth

1991: Realignment

1991

SourceAmerica consolidates its seven field offices to six regional offices.

1992: An Admiral Becomes President and CEO

1992

Daniel W. McKinnon, Jr. is named new SourceAmerica president and CEO.

1993: Employing More Than 20,000

1993

SourceAmerica and its nonprofit agencies employ more than 20,000 people with significant disabilities.

1994: SourceAmerica's 20th and the National Disability Summit

1994

SourceAmerica 20th Anniversary Conference held in Tampa, Florida.

SourceAmerica hosts National Disability Summit in Washington, DC, to explore employment options and trends for people with disabilities.

Allied Industries produces 20,000 aerial cargo nets used for humanitarian relief in Bosnia.

1995: SourceAmerica Training Program

1995

SourceAmerica training program launches 23 new courses for the year.

Nearly 26,000 people with severe disabilities work on SourceAmerica projects.

 

 

 

 

 

"Eager to Provide Skills We Need"


"They have one of the best training programs in the world. Training is probably one of the biggest things that SourceAmerica does. It is huge. I've never known a company that is so eager to provide skills we need."


- Rhea Nelson, executive director and CEO, New Leaf

1996: International Supplier of the Year

1996

SourceAmerica nonprofit Peckham Vocational Services of Lansing, Michigan receives the "General Motors International Supplier of the Year Award" for subcontract work.

Nearly 28,000 people with severe disabilities work on SourceAmerica projects.

1997: Best Value Award

1997

Employees with disabilities on SourceAmerica contracts exceed 28,000 for the first time.

Jefferson Rehabilitation Center of Watertown, New York receives the "Blue Ribbon Award" from National Guard's Contract Administration Division.




 

Innovation

1998: Success in AbilityOne's 60th Year

1998

60th Anniversary of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act celebrated.

Almost 30,000 people with significant disabilities employed on SourceAmerica projects.

First total facilities management contract is awarded to Melwood for USDA’s George Washington Carver Center.





Tom Miller - "He couldn't have been a better advocate"

Rhea Nelson describes Tom Miller and all his successes.

- Rhea Nelson, executive director and CEO, New Leaf


"Total Facilities Management"


Every day, SourceAmerica manages both small and large scale facilities through its Total Facilities Management line of business.
1999: SourceAmerica Celebrates 25 Years on Capitol Hill

1999

SourceAmerica 25th Anniversary Conference held in California.

SourceAmerica celebrates its 25th anniversary on Capitol Hill. More than 200 people attend a reception to honor the legacy of Senator Jacob Javits.

 

Honoring Senator Javits


"I think my father would have been tremendously proud of how far SourceAmerica has come and how expansive the AbilityOne Program has been in providing opportunites for literally hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise might not have had a chance to work."


— Carla Javits, daughter of Senator Javits

2000: Promotion of Bob Chamberlin
 

 

Bob Chamberlin is promoted to president and CEO of SourceAmerica from his position as vice president of operations.

 

 

 

 

Engineering a Solution for Customers

 

"We were extremely fortunate in finding Bob Chamberlin. Bob not only had excellent contacts, but he is a dreamer. I think he wakes up everyday and thinks out loud or to himself, 'What can we do today that will make this a greater organization and that will help more people?'"


— Evelyne Villines, former chairperson, SourceAmerica board of directors


"Seeing AbilityOne Employees in Action"


"What I saw when I went out into the field, seeing AbilityOne employees in action was more powerful than any other part of the rationale for why I came to SourceAmerica, and it is still that way today."


— Bob Chamberlin, president and CEO, SourceAmerica

2001: Procurement Champions Program

2001

The Procurement Champions Program is established to recognize Federal Government employees who provide outstanding support of the AbilityOne Program.

2002: Congressional Champions Program

2002

SourceAmerica establishes the Congressional Champions Program to recognize senators and representatives who demonstrate outstanding support of constituents with disabilities and AbilityOne.

Employees with disabilities on SourceAmerica contracts exceed 35,000.

2003: New Opportunities Take Root

2003

Federal customers turn to SourceAmerica for support in many new areas, including secure document destruction, one of several new business lines that represent tremendous opportunities for expansion.



Fleet Management


SourceAmerica has expertise not only in improving fleet performance and reducing fleet costs but can provide management training as well as asset management.

"A necessity for the growth of the organization"

"In the early 90's I had the occasion to visit the [SourceAmerica] national office on Cedar Lane. It was functional, but all the space had been filled. When they moved over to the offices on Old Courthouse Road [in 2003], I think it was an absolute necessity for the growth of the organization"


- Jerry Bettenhausen, president, Work Services Corporation

2004: SourceAmerica Celebrates 30 Years

2004

SourceAmerica celebrates its 30th Anniversary.

SourceAmerica develops a nationwide secure mailroom solution for a Federal customer.

Employees with severe disabilities on contracts through SourceAmerica exceed 40,000 for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

"Visionary, Forward-Leaning and Futuristic."

"They are visionary, forward-leaning and futuristic, and that is why we've gone from ground maintenance, janitorial service and food service to a future of providing contract management services, fleet management services and total facility management. The yesterdays made today and today is making tomorrow."


- Tina Ballard, executive director and CEO, U.S. AbilityOne Commission

2005: Bouncing Back from Hurricane Katrina

2005

Following Hurricane Katrina, SourceAmerica forms a disaster relief team and pledges $5 million to assist affected nonprofit agencies get people with disabilities back to work. Staff also provide on-site assistance and are instrumental in rebuilding laundry facilities and locating new job opportunities to replace many of those lost.

Employee Commitment to the Mission

 

"Employee surveys we've done back then and ones we've done since show that the #1 item that comes up is dedication to the mission. It's like everyone has been innoculated with it. That didn't just happen. I think it happened because my predecessors and people still coming in have such a genuine interest that flows from the top down and from the bottom up"


— Bob Chamberlin, president and CEO, SourceAmerica

2006: A New Name: AbilityOne

2006

The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled votes to change the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program name to the AbilityOne Program, reflecting a unified program with broad capabilities and a clear purpose to harness the abilities of thousands of people with disabilities.

Employees with severe disabilities on contracts through SourceAmerica exceed 43,000.

2007: Launching a Research Arm

SourceAmerica launches the Institute for Economic Empowerment, a research division focusing on providing full and fair employment for people with disabilities.

 

 

Enhancing Worker Fulfillment

"The SourceAmerica Institute for Economic Empowerment works to enhance a variety of programs in terms of worker fulfillment and overall work environment improvement"


- Bill Coleman, past chairperson, SourceAmerica board of directors



One Cup Car Wash


With One Cup Car Wash, SourceAmerica employees use only one cup of water to steam clean an entire vehicle, helping customers go green.
2008: New Federal Agency Leadership

The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled welcomes Tina Ballard as executive director and CEO.

Launch of passport call center services for the State Department.

 

Assisting International Travel

 

"When anyone has a question on their passport and they call the State Department, there's a good chance they are talking to one of the 200 people with significant disabilities that are staffing that call center."


— Bob Chamberlin, president and CEO, SourceAmerica


From 'Least Likely to Succeed' to White House Honoree

Jerry Bettenhausen recalls Ken Hamilton's invitation to the White House by First Lady Laura Bush.

- Jerry Bettenhausen, president, Work Services Corporation.

2009: Vital Ingredient for Job Growth

2009

New business lines, a vital ingredient for exponential job growth, make up 56% of Procurement List additions.

2010: Rollout of the Quality Work Environment Initiative

2010

SourceAmerica rolls out the Quality Work Environment initiative to its nonprofit agencies, which provides a framework for offering AbilityOne employees with disabilities enhanced job opportunities, improved wages and upward mobility.

2011: Introducing the U.S. AbilityOne Commission

The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled changes its operating name to U.S. AbilityOne Commission®.

New high of 45,787 employees with disabilities work on SourceAmerica contracts.

 

Rally to demonstrate what people can do

 

"The more people might want to say what folks with disabilities can't do, the more we rally to demonstrate what people can do"


- Tina Ballard, executive director and CEO, U.S. AbilityOne Commission

2012: Establishing Pathways to Careers

2012

SourceAmerica establishes Pathways to Careers to offer paid internships to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities so they can transition to competitive, integrated employment based on informed choice.

2013: NISH Becomes SourceAmerica

NISH launches its new brand, SourceAmerica, to reflect the mission and the spirit of the organization, the nationwide scope of its efforts, and pride in being the largest source of job opportunities for a workforce of unparalleled dedication and steadfast quality: people with significant disabilities.

 

 

 

"The new names, AbilityOne and SourceAmerica, are far easier to market than their previous names."

— Bob Chamberlin, president and CEO, SourceAmerica

 

Four Sides to SourceAmerica


Our workforce, nonprofit agency partners, customers, and staff form a building block of opportunity.

2014: SourceAmerica's 40th Anniversary

 

SourceAmerica celebrates the 40th anniversary of its founding.

 

 

"It's a nonstop endeavor. Even if we have employment for all people with significant disabilities, it might not provide all the quality opportunities that we'd like to provide. So, we'll continue at that to increase the challenges with each job."

 

— Bob Chamberlin, president and CEO, SourceAmerica

 

SourceAmerica's Vision for the Future

 

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