By Tatiana Peralta

Day in and day out, the SourceAmerica team recognizes the work our member nonprofit agencies put into their advocacy efforts. We see the success of their programs through our partnerships with them, and we know that as a team we are creating change in the lives of people with disabilities worldwide.

To honor our network’s advocacy efforts, we will be recognizing member agencies that have gone above and beyond in their efforts. This month we caught up with Reginald (Reggie) Hughes, executive director at Palmetto Goodwill Services in South Carolina. He talked to us about the organization’s advocacy strategy and the role SourceAmerica has had in inspiring their team. 

Creating the base 

Reggie’s dedication to Goodwill’s efforts is an important ingredient in its advocacy recipe. As an organization, Palmetto Goodwill Services focuses on three additional key ingredients: increasing and creating jobs for people with disabilities, raising its public profile and partnering with businesses in South Carolina.

The team recognizes the importance of the AbilityOne Program and the value that SourceAmerica brings to the table as a central nonprofit agency. To raise awareness of the program, the Palmetto team hosts a sign-in ceremony for new employees every time they add an AbilityOne contract. Media is invited and employees impacted by the program are encouraged to talk about their experience. The ceremony is a significant moment for the individuals, their families, the community and Palmetto Goodwill Services employees.

Programs such as the organization’s Hippie Dash 5k have helped raise money to grow the self-advocate program and provided an opportunity to network with local businesses. The growth of this program has, in turn, increased participation in Goodwill International’s Day on Capitol Hill. The hill day allows attendees to speak on issues impacting Goodwill and helps them prepare for SourceAmerica’s annual Grassroots Advocacy Conference. In addition, the Palmetto Warrior Connection Program which helps connect veterans to jobs has expanded beyond the AbilityOne Program to commercial jobs. 

Palmetto Goodwill Services has come a long way, and Reggie has a strong sense of pride in everything the agency has built and its recognition as a leader in the advocacy arena. The organization’s doors are always open for others to learn more about what makes up its “secret sauce.” 

The secret ingredient: collaboration

Palmetto Goodwill Services employees are active participants and supporters of SourceAmerica’s efforts, recognizing the strong mutual support and collaboration our organizations enjoy. 

Self-advocates from Palmetto Goodwill Services are regular attendees at SourceAmerica’s Grassroots Advocacy Conference. Reggie also chairs the public policy and self-advocacy group for the National Council of SourceAmerica Employers (NCSE), working with individuals from different nonprofit agencies to come up with best practices and strategies they can utilize in their own efforts.

Palmetto Goodwill Services has taken a few notes from our “secret sauce” to grow its own advocacy network by replicating some of SourceAmerica’s programs. We’ve enjoyed seeing the success they’ve had in those efforts!

State and local Champions Program

In a previous blog, we talked about the importance of the AbilityOne Congressional Champions in our own advocacy efforts. Which is why we were excited to learn about and support Palmetto Goodwill’s recreation of the program, which focuses on building allies on the state and local levels. Baking a program like this from scratch is no easy task, but in its first year the organization recruited 17 champions!

The Palmetto Goodwill Services team has enjoyed watching the growth of the program and they continue to introduce new tools to support participants, such as a self-advocate handbook.

Internal Speakers Bureau

Palmetto Goodwill Services currently has three employees participating in SourceAmerica’s Speakers Bureau. Advocates in the program speak at events about their journey and experience with our organization and the AbilityOne Program. They also promote the importance of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Palmetto Goodwill’s program prepares employees to be stronger advocates while also allowing them to speak at internal events, such as the AbilityOne signing day or meetings. 

Next steps 

Any successful recipe requires multiple ingredients for added taste. Our recipe includes collaboration with member agencies to amplify their voice in the fight for a more inclusive workforce.

Reggie recognizes and gives credit to SourceAmerica resources and connections which have helped strengthen his own secret sauce. Through SourceAmerica, Palmetto Goodwill Services is connected to the AbilityOne Commission, NCSE and the CEOs and executives of over 400 member agencies. We appreciate the outstanding work that Palmetto Goodwill Services does every day to create employment opportunities for professionals with disabilities, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.

We’re always looking for new ways to partner with member agencies, local businesses, self-advocates and families to help them find their own sweet spot in advocating for professionals with disabilities. If you’re interested in working with our team, contact Shari Walton, Director of Government Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy, at swalton@sourceamerica.org

To learn more about Palmetto Goodwill Services visit: https://palmettogoodwill.org/