MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- The employees at the MCLB Albany Self Service Store recently received a certificate by the National Industries for the Blind in recognition of their outstanding hard work to support the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program.
The Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act, passed by Congress in 1938, is a law that directs federal agencies to purchase products from non-profit industries that employ persons who are blind or severely disabled.
People who are legally blind and severely disabled can be limited to certain duties by their physical abilities. Sometimes finding work that matches their capabilities can be difficult, but with the aid of various programs, seemingly disabled individuals can be employed to make quality products.
Approximately 30,000 people are employed nationwide through JWOD contracts. These employees rely on contracts with government supply stores such as the Self Service Store at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, to keep them working.
"It's nice to know that somebody appreciates what you are trying to do," said George Castle, material handler at the store. "Everybody likes a pat on the back now and then, even if they don't admit to it, and this just makes you try harder."
The recognition was a result of an April 2002 visit by Linda LiPuma, Channel Market Manger for the National Industry for the Blind, in which she was impressed with the operation of the Self Service Store.
In the certificate LiPuma stated: "The display and merchandising of products in a clean and well-lit store along with the management and the staff's exceptional attitude help to support the JWOD Program, making a difference to so many. Finally the DSSC facility and the manner in which it is administered are a direct reflection on the dedication of the staff and the leadership provided."
The store's current operational status was not easily attainable, but was possible due to the hard work of the store's staff, said Christine Maine, head, Materiel Management Branch, Fleet Support Division.
At times supporting the JWOD Program was difficult because many government employees have approved government credit cards at their disposal to purchase work related items.
With the cards in hand, personnel were buying many products from other businesses and not from industries that employ blind and severely disabled workers.
The Fleet Support Division employees went above the call of duty by ensuring their customers were aware of JWOD products and providing such merchandise at all times when possible, said Maine.
"If a customer has a requirement for items not in stock, store personnel offer to purchase it for them and go through JWOD to see if they have the item or a like item before going elsewhere to purchase it," said Castle."
Store personnel also invested more time in researching the current products they sold, said Lynn McKinney, supervisor of the Intermediate Materiel and Logistics Management Section. They found the store housed some commercial products that could be replaced by JWOD products.
Those products were replaced and store personnel ensured that from then on, they would carry all JWOD products possible with their current inventory. They also keep the store as fully stocked as possible to ensure customer satisfaction.
Ensuring the base is in compliance with the JWOD Act is more than just a job for the employees of the Self Service Store.
"This is a matter of more than just purchasing a pen, pencil or stapler; it is satisfying a legal requirement and supporting a worthwhile government agency," said John McGee, buyer for the Self Service Store. "When a NIB [National Industry for the Blind] or NISH [National Industries for the Severely Handicapped] agency is supported, everyone benefits from it. We get the quality products and the agency is employing a person who otherwise would not be able to make a contribution to society by gainful employment. JWOD works when we work JWOD."
More than 70 percent of the country's blind population is unemployed. Many other severely disabled Americans are also unemployed due to their physical limitations. But thanks to hardworking people like the staff of the base Self Service Store, the JWOD Program is supported, which ensures the jobs of blind and severely disabled people who are employed.