Our team had a fantastic time at SourceAmerica’s Xforce Conference held in Anaheim, California, May 22-24! The week was filled with training sessions, networking opportunities, team dinners around town and celebrations of SourceAmerica’s 2023 Achievement Award winners, including Didlake’s Sisay Senbet, Lead Worker at the Pentagon, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a customer of Didlake’s.
Senbet received the Tom Miller Advocacy Award, which recognizes an employee with a disability who has demonstrated outstanding achievement and remarkable passion for self-advocacy on a local, state and/or national level. TSA received the Federal Customer Award, which honors a federal customer who has provided opportunities and support for the employment of people with disabilities through an AbilityOne contract for products and services.
Senbet enjoyed the conference and exploring Anaheim with Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy Rachel Payne, COO Joe Diaz, Director of Business Development Valerie Spencer, Vice President of Contract Operations Mike Payne and Assistant Vice President of Contract Operations Curtis Salter, and Eric Mills, Didlake’s Project Manager at the Pentagon.
Sisay Senbet: Tom Miller Advocacy Award
Senbet emigrated from Ethiopia in 2010 and started working for Didlake as a custodian at the Pentagon in 2012. In 2015, he enrolled in college and worked the night shift while working toward his Bachelor of Science in Biology, which he earned in 2019. He was soon promoted to Site Safety and Health Officer. In this role, he inspected work, conducted safety training, trained new employees and checked that employees were using appropriate personal protective equipment. In September 2022, he became Lead Worker and is now responsible for planning, coordinating and leading daily operations of the Pentagon custodial crew.
Senbet has dedicated his career to Didlake’s mission so that his co-workers are also able to enjoy meaningful lives through stable employment. He is passionate about sharing his message with elected officials and employers. While attending SourceAmerica’s Grassroots Advocacy Conference in June 2022, he shared his story with Members of Congress and talked about the impact of the AbilityOne Program on the lives of people with disabilities.
“Because I am employed in the AbilityOne Program, I became the person I am today. I achieved so many life goals… I successfully accomplished my four-year degree and, as a result of that graduation, I got a promotion. My goal is to advance my advocacy skills and become a strong voice for people just like me. I commit the rest of my life to working for individuals in the program and people like me,” he said.
Senbet volunteers at his community library, teaching classes and tutoring people with disabilities. In particular, he assists people with visual impairments to access digital information by using screen reading software.
After accepting the award, Sisay addressed the audience, saying, “My success story is the story of thousands of AbilityOne employees who are not here to celebrate this evening tonight, so on behalf of them, I would like to appreciate SourceAmerica, Didlake and all other stakeholders. Thank you all for creating employment opportunities that enrich different aspects of our lives. Thank you for making us productive members of our community and proud taxpayers of our nation. Thank you for enabling us to live the rich and meaningful life that Americans deserve to live… I have one more important message to all of my fellow AbilityOne employees and all others with disabilities: advocacy is very, very important. It is an essential tool by which we communicate our shared concerns with our policy decision-makers. So, please, let’s speak up about all the issues… and let’s get our voices loudly heard about the challenges that we live with and demand change. Thank you; God bless you all, God bless America.”
TSA: Federal Customer Award
Didlake, which nominated TSA for the award, provides conference center support services and facilities support services at TSA’s Springfield, Virginia headquarters. Michael Capovilla, Contracting Officer, Workforce & Enterprise Operations Acquisition Division, accepted the award during the conference on behalf of TSA.
When TSA consolidated all of its Washington, DC area offices in a newly constructed building, Capovilla turned to Didlake and the AbilityOne Program to fulfill the agency’s conference support needs. The consolidated headquarters includes a large conference center encompassing the entire second floor. Staff from TSA and other Department of Homeland Security agencies reserve hotel-style cubicles, offices and conference rooms as needed in the conference center that is managed by Didlake.
The Didlake team manages the support desk, receiving and responding to phone, email and walk-up requests from TSA employees for IT or facilities support, and general inquiries. Didlake employees assign the work to the appropriate department, such as IT or building management, or to a Didlake team member if the work falls under Didlake’s statement of work for facilities support services. The facilities support services contract creates job opportunities for two general maintenance workers, a lead general maintenance worker, general clerk and a project manager. Three of the positions are designated for individuals with significant disabilities. The team conducts inspections and handles minor repair requests from building tenants.
TSA and Didlake staff gather for a photo on the stairs at the TSA Headquarters.”Michael and TSA have invested in Didlake and the AbilityOne Program to help them manage this facility,” said Valerie Spencer, Director of Business Development, Didlake. “Michael has a personal connection to our mission, and he took the initiative to reach out to us when he identified an opportunity to create additional unique job opportunities for people with significant disabilities.”
“It is a great opportunity to have someone who is championing AbilityOne and being creative in carving out some opportunities that offer job diversity and pay well. He’s looking at gaps and reaching out to Didlake and the AbilityOne Program to see if there are needs we can fulfill. The number of jobs may be small, but you don’t get opportunities like these very often,” said Richard Hightower, Director of Contract Operations, Didlake.
Curtis Salter, Didlake’s Assistant Vice President of Contract Operations, agreed. “Michael is a creative and approachable Contracting Officer who found two contracts that connect the AbilityOne and Didlake missions and that of TSA Headquarters. He has invested in the program and the people we serve so they can serve TSA. We also appreciate that he worked closely with us throughout the procurement process to ensure we met all of the required timelines. His responsiveness, approachability and flexibility set him apart from other Contracting Officers.”
TSA also contracts with other nonprofit agencies in the AbilityOne Program network. ServiceSource operates the mail center and the Kennedy Center was awarded a contract to manage an onsite store that sells TSA-branded merchandise. (The store opening was delayed or suspended due to the pandemic.)