An advocate for millions – Inspiring through the SourceAmerica Speakers Bureau

By Lilian Estes 07/26/2021
An advocate for millions – Inspiring through the SourceAmerica Speakers Bureau


SourceAmerica® has provided me many opportunities that I will cherish for the rest of my days.  

In 2020, I was asked to join the prestigious SourceAmerica Speakers Bureau, providing me a platform to tell my story of perseverance, humility, and appreciation. I am not only employed through the AbilityOne® Program as a Food Service Quality Control Manager at Fort Hood, Texas, but am now an advocate for millions of people like me – people with disabilities who deserve a chance in the workplace. 

My life has evolved from being an Army dependent - or “Army Brat” as they call us - to Army enlisted, back to being a dependent, and now a proud veteran. I have floated in the blue waters of Hawaii, visited Berlin before the Wall came down, and skied in the majestic Swiss Alps. I’ve even waived to the royal family at Buckingham Palace and rappelled off 50-foot towers and out of helicopters in flight. I made history at Fort Bragg in North Carolina as an Honor Graduate when the top two graduates were women for the first time and served there as an instructor at the Primary Leadership School. I really thought I was ready for anything in this life…until I ran into kidney disease.   

End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) has a way of sneaking up on you. It took a while, but dialysis soon came upon my horizon, and my entire world changed. Three days a week of four-hour dialysis sessions can bring about anxiety, fatigue, illness and in my case, more than a few hospitalizations. There were a couple of times when I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Through it all, I continued to work full time… yet the uncertainty and fear about how I could possibly maintain my ability to work set in.  

But, in the midst of all that, I knew deep-down that because I worked for an organization in the SourceAmerica network, PCSI, I would be ok.  

PCSI and SourceAmerica both fight to increase employment opportunities and choices for a dedicated and talented workforce like me - people with disabilities.  

ESRD did bring me one blessing. It actually allowed me to get my first job at PCSI through the AbilityOne Program – one of the largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. I knew I was a dedicated and productive employee and always had been. I knew I wanted to continue working and succeed – and I did, thanks to the opportunities that SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne Program provided me.  

I know that people often talk about how someone with a disability can’t really or fully perform a job. The reality is that the harshness and disparity of having a disability is what prepared me to adapt and succeed. Individuals – often those who are hiring for job openings – assume we are more of a liability than an asset. But they’re wrong!  We learn, we contribute, we lead, we succeed, and we excel! We are a true resource for any organization.  

I am so thankful and grateful that SourceAmerica opened an avenue that allowed me to thrive and flourish. Becoming an advocate as part of the Speakers Bureau has allowed me to feel supported and encouraged. Along the way, I worked loyally and faithfully and have been consistently promoted in my job. I have contributed to the success of my company, and I also know that I am part of the solution to help other people with disabilities find their voices and places in the workforce.   

I am living testimony that SourceAmerica is a leading creator of job opportunities for people with disabilities. As an advocate for millions - I am proud and humbled to share my story and be an inspiration to those that deserve their chance to succeed in the workplace. To anyone with disabilities and the disparities of this life, I offer this advice - keep your head up, keep fighting, and push forward. That’s the only way I know. 

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The SourceAmerica Speakers Bureau features a diverse group of advocates with compelling personal stories and a passion for connecting with audiences. These talented individuals – like Lillian – can speak to powering through with perseverance, taking on life’s challenges, reaching a person’s full potential, and much more. Reach out to Communications@SourceAmerica.org for additional information about the SourceAmerica Speakers Bureau program.