An international mission supported by people with disabilities

By Tatiana Peralta 12/17/2020
At Heartland Goodwill Enterprises, talented individuals package and fortify vegetable oil that is shipped overseas through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program. Learn more about their great work.


People with disabilities are making a difference on an international scale. At Heartland Goodwill Enterprises, talented individuals package and fortify vegetable oil that is shipped overseas for humanitarian missions through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program benefitting over 70 countries and 80 million people worldwide.  

With headquarters located in Iowa, Heartland Goodwill’s Contract Services Division has provided manufacturing

An aerial shot of the oil packaging plant
An aerial shot of the oil packaging plant

skills training since 1970. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture needed to find an organization to package vegetable oil, the nonprofit agency immediately jumped at the opportunity. Heartland Goodwill’s leadership knew that their experience in the field, tied with their ability to deliver a quality product in a timely manner made them the perfect choice for the contract, which they were awarded in 2018. 

Today, the work for this contract starts in Iowa, where the organization receives bulk soy oil in trucks delivered by Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. or Ag Processing Inc. Shortly after, the Heartland Goodwill team fortifies the oil with vitamins A and D before packaging it in four-liter cans that are then placed in case boxes and placed on pallets for shipment to the port of Chicago or Houston. Once at the port, the oil is distributed to a variety of locations worldwide. The first distribution started in August, which consisted of packaging and fortifying 250 metric tons of oil that were then shipped to Ethiopia. All of this work is done under a contract through the AbilityOne® Program -- one of the largest sources of employment for people with significant disabilities in the United States. 

This operation has been a true win-win for everyone involved including the nonprofit agency, the community, and the people with disabilities employed under the contract. Heartland Goodwill Enterprises provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities and supports farmers in Iowa by utilizing soy oil. The employees take pride in the opportunity to make a difference on a worldwide scale. The organization hopes to grow this project and create up to 40 jobs in the future.  

Process Operator, Novelette Alexander, checking to make sure the oil meets customer specifications before unloading the tanker into the storage silo
Process Operator, Novelette Alexander, checking to make sure the oil meets customer specifications before unloading the tanker into the storage silo

According to Jessica Schamberger, Goodwill of the Heartland vice president of operations, the organization is focused on training these individuals in high-paid and skilled jobs. Some of the titles they hold include maintenance technician, filler operator, process operator, and supply chain operator.  

“What I value most about my job here at Goodwill is the importance of humans in a highly automated manufacturing process and teamwork in achieving production goals,” said Novelette Alexander, a process operator at Goodwill of the Heartland. “This includes the new skills that I am learning and the importance of preparing food-quality product. The vitamins that we add to our product are going to help people around the world live healthier lives.” 

The current success of the project is credited to the people with disabilities performing work on this AbilityOne contract who keep operations running day-in and day-out. Heartland Goodwill Enterprises is one of the 700 nonprofit agencies in the SourceAmerica®

network that employs more than 80,000 people with disabilities nationwide. 

If your company is interested in working with SourceAmerica’s network of nonprofit agencies, please contact customerservice@sourceamerica.org.  

To watch a video of the full operation, click here.