Bonita shines in service to the Navy

By Jason Golden 08/14/2020
Bonita "Shines in Service to the Navy"

Bonita Austin is a vibrant example of her first name. The name "Bonita," translated from Spanish and Portuguese, means "pretty, beautiful, and lively." Working over the past five months with SourceAmerica® member nonprofit agency Eggleston, she constantly has a smile on her face as she embarks upon her daily journey as a porter, supporting the galley in the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. The timing in starting her new job, however, brought forth unforeseen challenges.

Austin's interview for this new role took place in early March, and her first day of work was March 10, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic tightened its grip on our nation's workforce. She would have to navigate a new job and a new normal – simultaneously. As so many other professionals with disabilities have proven during the global health crisis, she, too, was up to the task. 

Karish Johnson is Austin’s employment specialist and job coach at Eggleston and felt Bonita would be an ideal fit for the porter position. "Bonita was absolutely perfect for this role," said Johnson.

Starting a job at the onset of a global pandemic was not part of the plan, but Austin and Johnson were able to tackle that and other obstacles during the early stages of her employment. Johnson noted that adjustments and flexibility were crucial to Bonita’s success. "I have addressed some of her challenges by providing employment counseling and workplace training strategies, but more importantly, by encouraging Bonita to advocate for herself," she said.

Bonita Austin serves as a porter at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va.

Utilizing effective communication skills at work and effectively articulating the challenges of the real world were all a part of how Austin has found success in her new role. Through job coaching and coping techniques and strategies, the hard work has helped Austin succeed despite the adversity surrounding the pandemic. "The hospital never closed. I had to do my job, or it might not have gotten done," said Austin. And despite the upheaval of the pandemic and starting a new job, Austin has a perfect 100% attendance record, revealing her strong work ethic.

Austin’s duties as a porter at the hospital include keeping all food service areas clean in the hospital galley, emptying trash, sweeping, mopping floors, washing dishes, and cleaning all kitchen areas. She also assists with assembling food trays, replenishing the food line, and delivering or retrieving carts to and from the various hospital wards.

She is learning and growing every day. As new duties and responsibilities are assigned to her, she enjoys the variety of tasks in her job. "It's is a great job to have and a good company to work for."

Austin refers to her coworkers as her second family. One of the keys to her success is the open line of communication between her and the staff. This gives her the confidence to ask questions and know that she is providing the type of support the hospital needs.

Recently, Austin has been learning the duties of a food service line runner and has transitioned smoothly to this task. As she continues to progress, she will learn new functions to enhance her development in the role. "Bonita has been able to thrive and grow because she is so disciplined in everything that she does," said Johnson.

Johnson feels that Austin has the full potential to master all current and future tasks and that she will continue to be an asset to the Portsmouth Naval Hospital galley team. "Bonita provides the beauty, grace, liveliness, and charm very much needed in the workplaces of today," she said.

Eggleston has provided education, training, and employment for people with disabilities for 65 years. The organization is part of the SourceAmerica network of over 700 nonprofit agencies that employ more than 80,000 people with disabilities nationwide, some of them through the AbilityOne® Program, which is one of the largest sources of employment in the United States for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

For more information about SourceAmerica, please contact