Providing essential support to our nation’s heroes

By SourceAmerica and Didlake 08/12/2021
Providing essential support to our nation’s heroes

For the last three decades, Richard Allen has dedicated his career to supporting three major U.S. military installations in Virginia. As part of his job, he supports 141 employees who keep these facilities in pristine condition.  

Richard is employed by Didlake, one of the nonprofit agencies in the SourceAmerica® network and supports three custodial contracts in the Greater Hampton Roads area in Virginia. Richard manages all cleaning supplies and launders the rags and mops used by nine mobile cleaning crews at the Little Creek Joint Expeditionary Base. Additionally, he maintains the supply warehouses and operates the commercial laundry machinery for two additional contracts. The work on these contracts is performed through the AbilityOne® Program, one of the largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities. 

“Richard has been with us 28 years and supports 141 employees. From providing laundry services to dispensing supplies and equipment for each of the vans supporting our operations, nothing happens here without him making it go,” said Ron Estep, Director of Contract Operations, Didlake. 

At the start of his day, Richard ensures that the mobile crews are equipped with all needed supplies. Prior to the end of his day, he makes sure everything is in place for the next shift. Richard is also known for seeking ways to maximize efficiency and improve safety. He takes great pride in his work and serves as a role model for others. 

“Richard doesn’t limit himself to what he’s assigned to do. If he sees something that needs fixing, he is going to try to fix it. If it’s just a lightbulb that is out, he’ll take care of it. He feels responsible for everyone’s safety. When he sees that something isn’t working right, it’s just an automatic for him to report it first and, if he has an idea of how to fix something, he’ll do something about it,” said Warren Freeman, Richard’s supervisor for the last 10 years. 

When Didlake decided to upgrade its laundry operation from residential washers and dryers to commercial equipment last year, Richard provided input that optimized space and enhanced the operational flow of the laundry room. He also gave recommendations for the layout of designated storage areas and is credited for enhancing the safety of personnel making deliveries to the new warehouse loading dock. 

“I like to put supplies in the warehouse and work in the laundry room with the updated machines. I’m the right-hand man. If something needs to be done, I probably have a solution,” said Richard. 

To address a height issue with the loading dock, Richard recommended adding a sub-ramp that significantly enhanced the safety of the delivery truck platforms and offloading of supplies on pallets. His idea included marking safety limits for truck safety chocks and loading dock guards for adjusting the new auxiliary platform location. The additional safety precautions reduced the possibility of injury to personnel as well as minimized the time to offload and store supplies. 

“A lot of what we are doing right now is due to Richard’s continual desire to improve what we do day in and day out. He’s a person you can’t ignore when he’s bringing you all these ideas. He’s telling me, ‘Boss man, we need to be doing this or that, and if we had bigger this and bigger that, we could do 10 times what we do,’” Freeman said. 

Richard was instrumental in boosting the productivity, self-esteem and overall work experience of a co-worker with a significant disability. To help the individual with counting cleaning rags, Richard suggested using a scale system to improve accuracy and efficiency. Rather than counting 25 rags, the co-worker adds rags to a digital scale until it reads 2.5 pounds. 

“People respect him for his longevity. They know he is someone who is looking out for them, and they respect that. From his experience and knowledge, he’s always making the job better and easier, and making sure we’re doing the right things,” Freeman said. 

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