2017 Employee of the Year - Allison Ashmore - Naval Station Newport - Rhode Island

Allison's Story Allison Ashmore

“Our daughter was born developmentally delayed and on the autism spectrum,” said Nancy Ashmore. “Those are her disabilities, but her abilities are that she can take direction very well, and she gives every task 100 percent.”

During high school Allison Ashmore volunteered at the Salve University Library in Newport, Rhode Island because she had always loved books, but she discovered she’d rather be around people and more active at a full-time job. Even then, she was curious about working at the food galley at Naval Station Newport where her father was stationed as a Naval officer.

Following high school, Allison was enrolled at a disability workshop where she helped out in the kitchen, but despite her work there, people in the program didn’t think she could handle the hectic, noisy environment of the food galley at the Naval Station. When Allison persisted, the disability workshop team decided to give it a try. That was in 1995, and Allison’s been there ever since.

“With the right kind of support Allison can do a lot of things,” her mom said. Fast-forward 23 years to now and Mrs. Ashmore said, “Organizations like GCE working under the AbilityOne® program are very valuable to people with disabilities. Allison’s experience has been life-changing.”

For instance, she’s learned to keep a schedule. A community transport van takes Allison to work each day, and a taxi brings her home. She’s learned to check the arrival times on her tablet, and if the transporter is late, she calls and says, “Where are you?”

According to Allison, the job has taught her many skills: customer service, organization, using a nice voice in pleasant way and always being courteous and respectful to customers and coworkers. “I’ve learned that if I have some help, I can to do things that other people didn’t think I could do.” One of the favorite things about her job is wearing the uniform - badge and all.

The GCE role also has come with challenges that have helped Allison develop. GCE took over the contract in 2009 which meant new bosses. “I was nervous, but now it’s like I’ve always been working for them,” she said. “I can go to my supervisors for any questions.” One reason for her confidence and job satisfaction is that her leaders compliment her work.“They say I do really well. They depend on my good work.”

Another change was that two galleys were condensed into one. “It was different because Patrick Hall (the first galley) was smaller, and now Ney Hall is much larger,” Allison said. That means more customers and more meals. Allison replenishes the salad bar, condiments, food station and fruit baskets. She also makes fresh coffee and makes sure plenty of creamer, sugar, tea bags and cocoa are available for the military service members. “Allison cleans for inspection teams and is a great deep cleaner,” said Rodney Novak, GCE’s project manager. “She’s consistently a hard worker. You have to ask her to take a break.”

In her off time, Allison enjoys coloring. “I color pictures for my coworkers, but I make sure that Mary Lou gets most of them because she’s a good supervisor, and I think a lot of her, but I like all of my bosses and customers and coworkers,” she said. She also enjoys watching Disney Princess movies and reading books to her nieces and nephews. Her favorite book is “The Little Mermaid.”

When asked what the Employee of the Year award means to her, Allison said, “It’s like being Employee of the Month, but way better!” Allison has achieved a lot over the past 23 years, but more than anything, she’s improved her life journey.

“Our daughter went from someone dependent on government funding, through programs like Medicaid and Social Security Income (SSI), to someone who pays into Social Security and has her own medical benefits,” said Mrs. Ashmore. “Allison will draw her very own Social Security benefits when she retires.”

Mrs. Ashmore went on to explain that a lot of workshops are being closed in communities, and she looks forward to advocating alongside the GCE team when she and Allison travel to Capitol Hill for the 2018 Grassroots Advocacy Campaign.

“Allison loves her job,” Mrs. Ashmore said. “She wanted an opportunity to choose her own vocation just like everyone else. Her work has brought her so much pride and satisfaction, and just as importantly, has given her a financial independence that we never dreamed possible. Her job at GCE has changed not only her life, but ours, as well!”

2016 Employee of the Year - Tommy Huynh

When Tan "Tommy" Huynh was 6 years old, he witnessed a horrific crime that resulted in the death of his mother, brother and sister. Years later, he was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with a disability. Following a long recovery he started working aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola in 2015. He's part of a GCE team that serves approximately 9,000 meals a day to service members and military personnel, and with a big smile says, "This job is one of the best things that's ever happened to me."

Tommy's Story

You’d never know it by his infectious smile and positive attitude, but Tan “Tommy” Huynh survived two traumatic experiences. When he was only 6-years-old, he and his siblings watched from a hallway, while a man stabbed and killed their mother. His older sister was 8, a younger brother was 4 and their baby sister was 2.

The children hid until the attacker found them and strangled the two youngest children and stabbed the older sister, but she survived. Tommy said, “My room was last. He was yelling my name and looked under the bed straight at me. I cried, ‘Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me.’” Suddenly, the man fled with money and the family car. Tommy crawled out from under his bed to find his older sister wounded, but calling 911. He saw his motionless brother on the bed, and then he went into the hallway bathroom.

“I saw my little sister on the floor,” Tommy said. “She picked up her head and looked at me then collapsed.”

Over the years Tommy found strength in God and was doing well until he turned 24 when tragedy struck again. Someone pulled out in front of him while he was riding his motorcycle. Initially his survival rate was near zero, but he came out of a coma and mostly recovered from severe injuries. He now has a metal rod in his leg and writes with his left hand. He lives with aphasia, a condition that impedes speech ability as the result of a brain injury.

“I was young and had the world in front of me.” Then a happy memory flashed through his mind and he smiled and said, “Working on cars was my hobby. I used to save my family a ton of money on car repairs.”

Today, one of the high points of Tommy’s life journey has been working at Global Connections to Employment (GCE) in the scullery (dishwashing area) at the Galley aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola.

He’s a well-liked 31-year-old young man who jokes and exchanges fist bumps with supervisors and co-workers. “Working here gives me an opportunity to communicate with others, and I like to stay busy. When I got this job at GCE I was thankful.” Tommy shared some advice for employers who might consider hiring someone with a disability: “Don’t judge a book by its cover until you’ve opened and read it. God is still working on me and he’s doing an awesome job.”

Pams's Story

Pamela Cox started out as a custodial worker with no formal education. Today she is an operational manager who’s working toward a master’s degree in management. Pamela works for GCE under a contract with the Armed Forces Retirement Home in D.C. She is an employed person with a disability.

Donnell's Story

Donnell Hayes
  • 2015 RESPECT of Florida Employee of the Year for Services - Donnell Haynes

In September of 2015, Donnell Haynes was honored as the 2015 RESPECT of Florida Employee of the Year for Services.

Donnell knows no limits. He is a born leader. He also is a man with a disability, but all that means to him is that he needs to tweak his action steps for achieving new goals. Working at Global Connections to Employment (GCE) through the RESPECT of Florida program, he is progressing towards independence and personal achievement, and he is serving as an inspiration to his peers and leaders.

In the past, Donnell worked as a project manager for a landscape company. He loved his work, but landscaping was physically demanding and required long hours. When he became disabled and needed dialysis several times a week, he had to find a job that could accommodate his disability. He embraced a positive attitude, learned to work with his disability rather than against it, and found the perfect job with GCE working on the floor crew.

He juggles work, public transportation schedules and treatment schedules without compromising any obligations. It’s difficult to adjust your mind and body to less freedom and more health responsibilities, but he has done so with strength and fortitude.

He proactively obtained a driver’s license so that he could drive to 10 sites to help manage the work load. Having a driver's license also has been one more step toward regaining his mobility and independence.

Donnell makes it a priority to know every staff member. He shadows, asks questions, follows up and investigates to learn every aspect of the jobs at each site. He takes on tasks that are not assigned to him. His attitude fosters an environment of acceptance and comradery with all of the employees.

During his off time, he enjoys evenings with his eight children and 14 grandchildren and he volunteers at his church. He participates in a support group at the dialysis center and empathetically shares tips with fellow patients. A dialysis treatment can last for four hours, so Donnell tells the other patients how they can pass that time. He also lets them know what physical positions are most comfortable in his experience.

Extraordinary efforts are an everyday occurrence for Donnell. He does so without seeking praise or commendation. He is hardworking, dependable and genuine. He is an outstanding contributing member of the Florida workforce and certainly to humanity.

Richard "Scott" Powell

Scott Powell
  • 2014 GCE Employee of the Year

Richard “Scott” Powell is responsible for GCE’s custodial services at the Army Base in Fort Knox, Ky., which include but are not limited to removing trash, cleaning restrooms and performing floor service. Prior to working with GCE, Scott was riding his bike one day and was struck by a car. The accident left him with cognitive limitations, a metal rod in his leg and limited sight in both eyes. In an instant, his life changed.

Scott’s physical and mental limitations made it impossible for him to get a driver’s license. His mother passed away after his injury and he was on his own, but none of that stopped him. He learned to manage outbursts and social interactions, and he is practicing how to deal with and express his frustrations in a productive, professional and appropriate way in spite of the extra challenges life has presented to him.

Today, Scott lives alone and doesn’t drive, but has an outstanding work attendance record. If he can’t coordinate a ride to work with someone, he rides his bike five miles one way and is always on time. Scott goes above and beyond for his team by staying late, coming in early, and he’s even adjusted his vacation schedule to meet the needs of the company. He’s been with GCE for 10 years. His infectious attitude is: “We can get this done!” He also volunteers at the local animal shelter. Scott is great at his duties and is a valued member of the team. In fact, if you were to watch him while he’s working, you’d never know the challenges he overcomes each day.

Richard Scott Powell and Pamela Cos have all taken time out of their schedules and gone to SourceAmerica’s Grassroots Advocacy training in Washington, DC. They each shared their personal struggles and accomplishments with congressional leaders so these leaders would understand the importance of creating jobs for persons with significant disabilities. Their stories were well-received by these national leaders.