COLUMBUS, Ohio –
When Steve Ogletree woke up the morning of July 29, 2003, he couldn’t see out of his left eye. His doctor, who diagnosed him with a detached retina, told him it was a 50/50 chance he would lose his other eye in the future.
Surely enough, the doctor was correct and months later Ogletree lost his right eye. A husband and father of two, with a third child on the way, he wondered how he was going to provide for his family.
“But instead of having an attitude of ‘Why Me?’ (I said) ‘Try me.’”
Ogletree works for the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) and was the guest speaker during DLA Land and Maritime’s AbilityOne Day at Defense Supply Center Columbus, an event highlighting the federal initiative to help people who are blind or have other significant disabilities find employment.
While adjusting to his new disability, Ogletree visited CABVI. After more than 20 years of employment at Sam’s Club where he rose through the ranks from part-time cashier to management, he was looking for advice on earning a paycheck as a blind man.
That’s when he learned about employment opportunities at CABVI by way of the AbilityOne program, a national network of over 600 Nonprofit Agencies that sell products and services to the U.S. government. Finding out how the 77-year AbilityOne program impacts and empowers thousands to raise families and be productive citizens, Ogletree said he knew he was working for someplace special.
“We all know that the best exercise for the heart is to reach down and lift someone else up, and that’s what this program does,” he said.
AbilityOne is an important sourcing partner for DLA, said Navy Rear Adm. John King, Land and Maritime’s commander. As part of his strategic initiative, DLA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Andy Busch is directing a focused effort to increase business opportunities for our AbilityOne partners.
As of August, DLA Land and Maritime awarded $17.4 million dollars in business contracts and currently have 181 NSNs assigned to AbilityOne Procurement, almost a $2 million increase from last year, King said. Land and Maritime’s most active vendor – Eastern Carolina Vocational Center -provides Land and Maritime with Alkaline Batteries.
Vendors support the warfighter by manufacturing seat belt assemblies, steering wheels, transmission parts kits, glow plugs, and gun slings, to name a few. Beyond that, employees of AbilityOne vendors have a huge footprint on DSCC.
“AbilityOne’s presence is (here) every day in the form of our custodial services – those dedicated men and women who keep DSCC clean from top to bottom,” King said. “Our base supply center is also operated by AbilityOne. And the services of DLA Land and Maritime’s Contract Closeout team – numbering almost 20 – are also through AbilityOne.”
Several representatives from AbilityOne agencies were present at the event, traveling from Seattle, Oklahoma City, Winstom-Salem, and throughout the country to discuss more ways for DLA to partner with the program. Tom Black from the National Industries for the Blind provided a thorough update on the current state of AbilityOne and the services available to DLA and the entire Department of Defense, one of AbilityOne’s biggest customers.
Land and Maritime’s Small Business team is championing the charge directed by Busch by ramping up the program’s outreach efforts, targeting potential business owners and providing more possibilities to obtain government contracts.