Board Member’s Dedication Shaped by Personal Experience

Jim Schloss joined the Board of Directors at VersAbility Resources six years ago because he was passionate about building an awareness of everything the nonprofit represents for the community members it serves.

People with disabilities should be accepted as productive members of society.

They are not only successful within jobs, but they also thrive in ones that match their skills and passions.

People with disabilities can live a life without limits.

All of these principles resonate with Schloss, who will rotate off the Board this year.

Schloss does not have a disability and his wife, Sarah, wasn’t born with a disability. But 19 years ago, a catastrophic car accident left Sarah wheelchair-bound with no hope of walking again.

“That drew me to people who want to feel like a part of things and really need outlets and stimulation to feel like they’re a useful part of society,” he said.

Schloss joined the Board at the prompting of a colleague, but watching Sarah’s world change fueled him to remain active in the organization over the years. Prior to the accident, Sarah was an accomplished golfer who worked full time in insurance. Girls weekends and shopping were often combined.

“Bright, beautiful, capable, articulate,” Schloss said to describe his wife. “A lot of what she had was taken away from her.”

Jim said he doesn’t think he would have had the strength to go on had the roles been reversed. He watched Sarah’s struggles. Her social relationships evaporated and not being ambulatory affected her not just physically but emotionally.

Prior to COVID, she was a volunteer at VersAbility, teaching others how to bead, a hobby she picked up after the accident and enjoyed sharing. Today she requires round-the-clock care.

Schloss, who has held leadership positions at Smithfield Foods and started his own branding company to support businesses, joined the VersAbility Board to help with marketing efforts to raise awareness about all the organization’s resources and the quality of its programs.

“There’s so much good. I don’t know that anyone has any idea how many clients we have working in the military world, whether it be on ships, at the Langley Air Force Base switchboard or other jobs in the military that are big part of the defense system of the United States, which is very near and dear to this area.”

VersAbility’s four national government contracts generate jobs for hundreds of people with disabilities across the country. The nonprofit is the prime contractor for ship provisioning services for the U.S. Navy at seven locations around the globe and directly employs more than 100 employees to fulfill this work at Naval Station Norfolk, Pearl Harbor, Langley Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base and Seymour-Johnson.

“We have one client who preps fire and EMT kits so they are perfectly ready for the next call,” Schloss said. “That’s a zero-defect deal. When people say disabilities, it’s a category, but it’s an unfair categorization. When this group is challenged, they really want to do good things.”

Schloss, a grandfather of three, is most touched by VersAbility’s EPIC program, which assists families of infants and toddlers who experience developmental delays.

“You lay your eyes on these kids; I can’t take a breath,” he said.

Schloss would like to see more brand awareness about the life-altering resources people with disabilities and their families can find at VersAbility, but he knows more funding is key to that. He’s been instrumental in planning many of VersAbility’s fundraisers, including the Ability Am Golf Tournament and the All Abilities Shine Gala.

Moving forward, Schloss will be less involved with VersAbility given Sarah’s declining health that requires him to be a caregiver 16 hours out of every day. But VersAbility’s mission will remain close to his heart, and he’s moved by the dedication of the staff that feels the same way.

“They’re doers. They’re troopers,” he said. “I have an incredible admiration for the entire team I have been around at VersAbility. They really get it. This is a team of people that doesn’t want the spotlight, but they just dig and grind and scratch and claw. They get it done.”

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