“If you want to make friends, you want to be in a good environment, VersAbility is the place to be”

Terrell Carter’s life changed when he connected with VersAbility Resources 13 years ago.

The Hampton nonprofit holds 14 regional government contracts that provide jobs for people with disabilities. Carter, 33, works in custodial services at Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, a new position for him after 12 years in food service at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Hampton.

Carter refers to the disability that affects his memory as “sometimers.” On occasion, he struggles to remember, “but when I’m in a routine, I do recognize patterns quickly,” he says. Medication largely keeps seizures under control, and nothing interferes with his internal drive to do a good job and make it fun for himself and those around him.

“I’m a people person and love people,” he says. “We clean. We laugh. I’ll take a boring place and make it fun in my own little special way. You’re going to love coming to work because I’m there. The other people there vibe off me and you’re going to see the person they are underneath.”

As a youngster, Carter was an achiever, noting, “I always wanted to be great at whatever I was doing. My mother, my father, my brothers, my uncles, they embedded that mentality into me.”

By connecting with a job coach at VersAbility, Carter found a purpose, friends and even better, a family at the VA Hospital. He started as a ground level dishwasher in the galley and advanced into a supervisory role.

“I met a lot of people who fought in the Vietnam War; it was an incredible experience,” he says. “They became my family. It was hard for me to leave because of the attachment I felt for everyone there.”

The steady employment gave him the means to move out and buy his own car. He’d still be there, but when his job coach Cindy Reeves, Senior Contract Manager at VersAbility, told him about another opportunity that would give him a raise, he jumped at it.

“It was time for me to go for me to grow,” he says.

At Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, Carter felt a family vibe as soon as he walked in the door.

“I make wherever I go a positive place to work,” he says.

Carter remains grateful to VersAbility for providing opportunities that changed his life. “I’ve gotten to meet so many people and learn so many things,” he says. “I didn’t know the VA Hospital existed before I went over there. That was a new world to me. And the people there, they trusted me. Some of them told me I was like a father. Some of them told me I was like a brother. I got a different vibe from each person I met.”

He takes pride in Reeves coming to him for his current opportunity.

“I left because Cindy needed me,” he says. “She’s my boss, a job coach, all in one.”

Carter’s message about VersAbility boils down to this. “If you want to make friends, you want to be in a good environment, VersAbility is the place to be. They make sure you’re OK before they put you in a situation. It’s a great place.”

New Chief Human Resource Officer Inspired by VersAbility Mission

Mike Godwin discovered early in life that he had a knack for connecting with people.

VersAbility Resources’ new Chief Human Resource Officer enjoyed recruiting others to join organizations in high school, a talent that continued in college when the psychology major persuaded students to join his fraternity, Delta Upsilon, and Key Club.

“I became a recruiter right out of college,” said Godwin, a graduate of the University of Florida who later earned his MBA from the Darla Moore School of Business in Dublin, Ireland. Early on, he recruited nurses before going on to become an operations manager of a small company.

Over the years, he worked in sales, human resources for a major hospital system and even started his own behavioral health company in New Orleans. His resume includes six years as Vice President of Human Resources at Eggleston Services, a Norfolk-based organization that provides education, training and employment for people with disabilities. He left in 2017 to become Owner and CEO of two consulting companies, but the experience at Eggleston inspired him to do more to help people with disabilities gain employment and live full lives.

That passion is what drives him in his new position at VersAbility.

“Helping people with disabilities has been the most rewarding, fulfilling part of my career,” he said.

Godwin manages a team of eight at the Hampton nonprofit with a focus on hiring those who excel at providing rehabilitative services and support to adults with disabilities.

“I knew if I was going to go back to working for someone else, it had to be with a great company,” Godwin said.  “I really have pride in VersAbility. It’s a phenomenal company and mission.”

Both of Godwin’s parents were social workers and a cousin of his has Down syndrome. Godwin often accompanied his father to work as a youngster, where he was exposed to patients in a large psychiatric treatment center.

“At one point, my goal was to be a psychiatrist, but I decided to go the business route,” he said. “That led to recruiting and HR. I was able to see the impact different hospitals had on the community. It’s a fantastic feeling to see that what you do actually means something.”

Godwin has a long list of what he wants to accomplish at VersAbility. Included are:

  • A focus on diversity, inclusion and procedural justice. “VersAbility is a big proponent of diversity and inclusion so it’s important to ensure we’re offering opportunities to everybody regardless of race, creed, religion, gender and especially, disability status,” he said.
  • Expanding opportunities for veterans “I think it would be awesome to increase opportunities for veterans, especially disabled veterans,” he said.
  • Encouraging more people to make a career as a Direct Support Professional (DSP). Those who work as DSPs work one-on-one with people with disabilities to help them become successful at whatever they are doing. “So many people need help in the community and so many people want to help,” Godwin said. “It’s a really rewarding job.”
  • Increasing national and international employment opportunities for people with disabilities. “We’d love to see our growth continue in that area because this company does the right thing,” he said. “That means more people with disabilities have the opportunity to get a fair wage and to receive good treatment under fair management.”

Outside of work, Godwin and his wife, Holli, are parents to one son, Desmond, 18 months. Holli’s passion for animal rescue means the family is often fostering multiple dogs at once at their Newport News home. They are also regular SPCA volunteers.

Defining “Mission Essential” Thanks to VersAbility Resources

Makya Stallings, Danny Giles and Tracey Cheeks didn’t just find jobs through VersAbility Resources. They found careers as Mission Essential employees at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, where they are call center operators who combine to handle as many as 100 calls a day during busy times.

VersAbility is a leader in federal contracting for people with disabilities. Giles, Stallings and Cheeks work on Langley Air Force Base.

No two days are alike. They make sure outside calls are connected correctly. Sometimes they set up conference calls. Often, the voice on the other end of the line is that of a deployed service member trying to connect to family. Frequently, callers don’t know exactly who they need to be connected to. Stallings, Giles and Cheeks work diligently to help them figure it out.

“All my employees make sure our military is connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Jocelyn Garrett, Manager at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. “During COVID, we had a lot of people call here wanting to check on their family and we made sure they get connected. We work as a team.”


A first job

Makya Stallings never held a job prior to being hired at Langley. She was born without sight in her left eye and at the age of 13, she lost vision in her right eye. On the job, she relies on what’s called JAWS, Job Access With Speech, a screen reader for computer users whose vision prevents them from seeing the screen.

“I was told I was the first blind person brought to this location,” Stallings said.

The Newport News native started in July 2019, learning the new computer aide along with military vernacular, a language all its own that she speaks with ease now. It’s particularly fulfilling work because she grew up wanting to join the military. Two of her siblings are retired Army veterans, and another is in the Air Force. Her niece joined the Navy, and several of her cousins are service members.

“I’m a people person,” Stallings says. “I like to learn and communicate with different people.”

What she doesn’t enjoy is being categorized because of her disability. Stallings will tell you she’s a Gemini who dotes on her American Pit Bull Terrier, Gideon. She’s a songbird who uses her voice to lift others, and in her free time, she unwinds by ice skating.

“I’m my own person and I beat to my own drum,” Stallings says. “There’s nothing different about me except for the fact that you can open your eyes and look at your face and I cannot.”

Stallings trains other blind and visually impaired hires at the base. She’s happy to do it because she knows the value of having a job to call your very own. “A lot of us want to work but don’t have the courage to get out there and do it,” she says. “I just try to use myself to motivate the next person.”

At the height of the pandemic, Stallings reported to work despite having to rely on public transportation to do so. “I got exposed to the virus three or four different times and had to be tested,” she says.

Stallings lost her grandmother to the virus, also. “That was one of the hardest things my family and me had to deal with because she’s someone who was always there for us, and we couldn’t be there for her.”

If Stallings needs support at work, she finds it in the team around her. “We definitely help each other out,” she says. “No one watches anybody fall short.”

On the busiest days, calls are back to back to back to back. “Take a breath,” Stallings will remind herself before picking up another line. She works weekends and even double shifts when necessary.

“There’s not a day when we’re not open,” she says. “We’re always here when they need us.”


A military connection

Danny Giles’ heavy military background made him a natural to work at Langley, where he is lead operator on weekdays.

Both of his grandfathers fought in World War II, and his father and sister are retired Air Force. His nephew joined the Air Force five years ago.

In addition to answering and connecting calls, Giles tracks calls on the other 12 bases that Langley hosts and submits hourly reports. If too many calls are dropped, that requires action.

“I like talking to people and helping them out in situations,” he says. “I try to connect them to the place they’re looking for and get them the best possible answer as I can without having to say, ‘I don’t know.’”

During the height of the pandemic, fewer people were on base, meaning calls typically placed from offices there were initiated at home.

“They had to rely on us to make sure we could get them to all the places they needed,” Giles says. “If anything happens, we would pretty much be the first ones to know. It could be at any point of the day or night. It’s a good job. It can be stressful, but at the same time it’s fun and you learn new stuff every day.”

The promotion to lead operator is recent and appreciated. He’s worked on base for five years.

“I like challenges,” says Giles, a photographer on the side who shoots wedding and graduation pictures regularly. “When I was promoted, I was pretty excited about it. I like doing something new and having more responsibility. I’m always looking for new adventures.”


“It’s an honor to work on a military base”

Tracey Cheeks moved to Virginia from Baltimore to help her sister through some medical problems. She expected to stay a month. The pandemic altered that, and Norfolk is her new home.

Back-to-back strokes limit full use of her hands, and lymphedema affects her legs, which makes it hard for her to stand for long periods.

The 56-year-old grandmother has held administrative jobs most of her life, working for the Department of Social Services in Baltimore County, the State Highway Administration in Maryland and the Maryland Department of Transportation.

She was hired in Chesapeake but laid off after three months due to the pandemic.

“I wanted to work; I didn’t want to stay home and do nothing,” she says. “I tell people that I might have a disability, but I can still work. My mind is still here.”

A Richmond staffing firm directed her to VersAbility.

“It was like a dream come true,” Stallings says. She jumped at the chance to work at Langley Air Force Base. “I thought it was going to be a breeze,” she admits. “Now it wasn’t as breezy as I thought! It took time to learn, but I’m someone who writes it down and studies it.”

Stallings brought her notes home at night and learned from the example her peers set.

“I wanted to be good,” she says. “I wanted to know everything there is.”

She refuses to let anything associated with her disability limit her.

“Here I work with people with all different types of disabilities,” she says. “It gives me a lot of push and makes you say, ‘I can do that.’ The people I’ve met here who have a disability amaze me and push me to want to do better.”

Cheeks commutes to and from work using Handi-Ride, Hampton Roads Transportation’s Paratransit service. It’s not unusual for her to leave for work two hours early due to unpredictable tunnel traffic.

“I am never late,” she says.

Cheeks’ brother-in-law served as a Marine for more than 26 years. She used to visit the base prior to working on it. As a young adult, she even considered joining the service.

“It is an honor to work on a military base,” she says. “I love it. The people are great here. I feel good when I come here. I look forward every day to come to work. If you enjoy your job, you stay at it and do your best. And I like it here. A lot.”

VersAbility’s Government Contract Coordinator Sets Up Employees for Success

The crux of Crystal Boyd’s job mirrors the mission of VersAbility Resources.

The nonprofit supports people with disabilities by helping them lead productive and fulfilling lives. Employment is a key part of that.

As VersAbility’s Government Contracts Coordinator, Boyd manages Individual Eligibility Evaluations (IEE). In lay terms, every VersAbility employee with a reported disability is eligible to work on what’s called an AbilityOne contract. The AbilityOne Program provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Each new hire receives an initial IEE, renewable every year. It’s Boyd’s role to review an employee’s disability documentation and coordinate with that employee’s hiring manager as to what, if any, accommodations are needed. Based on that information, Boyd writes a compelling report detailing the specific accommodations that must be in place to ensure that employee’s success on the job.

Typically, Boyd writes 30 reports per month.

“What I really enjoy is speaking to the managers because they are so passionate,” she said. “They know their employees. They know what their needs are, what their challenges are. You can hear the passion they have for what they’re doing.”

Boyd will ask managers to paint a picture of the employee. She often needs to know personal and transportation information in case any of that interferes with on-the-job performance. If an employee has anxiety about one part of the job, that responsibility can often be eliminated until the employee is comfortable. Hours can be altered to adjust for rides as well.

“My position manages the behind-the-scenes aspects that allow an employee to be successful,” she said.

Boyd will often work with new employees who need assistance filling out paperwork for clearances and other documentation. Precautions related to the pandemic have prevented her from visiting job sites regularly.

“I long for the day where I can go visit the contracts, see what people are doing, see firsthand how we’re impacting,” she said. “Until then, I will live vicariously through the managers!”

Boyd has always had a passion for service. She earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology at Liberty University before completing a Master’s in Human and Social Services from Walden University.

Boyd has a grandson with autism, which gives her a special appreciation for the difference VersAbility makes in so many people’s lives.

During one conversation, a manager pointed out an employee’s unabashed joy at earning an award. The response touched the manager and Boyd also.

“It reminded me of my grandson when he gets super happy,” Boyd said. “He can’t say, ‘I’m happy. I’m sad. I feel accomplished.’ But you can see it.”

Boyd can’t imagine a better professional fit than VersAbility, where she was worked since March 2021. Her grandson is just 2. But knowing he may someday benefit from VersAbility inspires her.

“When I came here, it gave me a different kind of hope for what kind of future he might have,” she said. “It’s good to know if he needs help, there is a service like this.”

Navy Veteran Embraces Higher Calling at VersAbility Resources

Curtis Sloan spent 20 years in the Navy. He’s a graduate of both culinary school and Norfolk State University. He’s been a nurse’s aide. He’s worked at a foodbank and in college football as a strength and conditioning coach.

With a resume like that, you could say Sloan has the background to thrive professionally at any number of places.

But the truth is he loves right where he is – at VersAbility Resources.

Four years ago, Sloan found VersAbility Resources, a nonprofit with a mission of supporting people with disabilities to lead fulfilling and productive lives. Sloan oversees a staff of 17 people with disabilities as Site Manager of the Dam Neck Galley in Virginia Beach, which serves up to 1,600 meals a day — breakfast, lunch and dinner — to young sailors in training.

“I look at this as more than a job; it’s a higher calling,” he says. “I believe God put me here for a reason. I could be at a lot of different places, but I really love coming here. I love the work I do helping these people. I like how they look at me and how they look forward to seeing me. I have a connection with them. They know when they come here, Curtis is here to take care of them and make it work.”

They make it work together. In addition to preparing and serving food, Sloan and his team are responsible for sanitation and, since he arrived, inventory. He relies on a system he put in place shortly after arriving on the job that accounts for supplies.

“They didn’t have a system before,” he says. “Now we know what we have in stock and what we need.”

Sloan didn’t make immediate changes when he accepted the position. He followed the advice a senior chief once relayed.

“He told me to sit back and watch everything for 30 days,” he says.

By doing that, Sloan learned about the strengths of the VersAbility Resources team members and their goals. He wanted to put them in positions where they could excel and increase the efficiency of the operation.

Sloan focused on building a foundation so the team could grow together.

“This is somewhat of an extended family for me,” says Sloan, father to four adult children and passionate about his two grandchildren. “The people I work with, I treat them like people. There’s no half stepping over here. If they can’t do something, I find out why and we fix it.”

The Dam Neck Galley has twice received Five-Star accreditation and is nominated for a Ney Award. Five-star accreditation recognizes food service excellence by evaluating key areas in customer service, cleanliness and management. The Captain Edward F. Ney Award for food service excellence is given to the best US Navy galleys among those that earn a five-star rating from a Navy evaluation team.

“That’s what we’re going for next,” Sloan says.

The Troy, New York, native retired as an E-6 in the Navy, where he initially planned to be a corpsman. The waiting list for that was so long that Sloan switched to mess specialist, later renamed culinary specialist. The first grandchild of five aunts, Sloan learned from them in the kitchen and had a knack for seasoning food just right thanks to his strong sense of smell.

He doesn’t cook so much working at VersAbility Resources, but the camaraderie at the Dam Neck Galley is similar to what he experienced in the Navy.

“It helps me keep my military bearings that I never lost,” he says. “I get a chance to give back.”

Often, that means taking the time to get to know every one of his staff members. He takes pride in getting to know everyone on a personal level and delights in their sharing details about their lives. They call him Mr. Curtis and he’s eager to share in their milestones and family news.

“I find skills in them that they didn’t realize they had,” says Sloan, who also empowers his team. “Everybody knows what they need to do. I depend on my leads a lot. They are pretty much me when I’m not in the building.”

Sometimes a solider straight from boot camp needs an ear, too. Sloan’s is always available. He adds, “You’re from the same fabric and they know that.”

If you are a veteran, person with a disability, or just someone looking for your next career move, visit VersAbility’s job page today and see what opportunities are waiting for you at jobs.versability.org.

Navy Veteran Finds More Than What He Was Looking For At VersAbility Resources

After 26 years in the Navy, Chris Harsch went job hunting.

He had never heard of VersAbility Resources. Now as the Senior Supervisor for VersAbility at the Galley in the Northwest Annex, he’s found more than a job he looks forward to working every day. He’s discovered a nonprofit with a mission he supports.

VersAbility helps people with disabilities of all ages live, work and thrive in their communities.

Members of his family live with special needs, so he understands the challenges that population faces when seeking employment. Finding a place that not only gives that population a chance but also provides an opportunity for them to achieve, move up and excel at an advanced level is special.

“VersAbility Resources provides jobs for people that might not be able to get a job otherwise,” he says. “The organization gives opportunities to people with disabilities whether they’re minor or major. They find a job that a person can do that makes them feel whole and important.”

To be part of lifting others up, he says, is outstanding.

“I have two special needs workers who are shift leaders in charge of others. They started out just as workers and were able to move up.”

Harsch joined the Navy at the age of 21. Back then, the New Yorker was seeking a better life for his family. Working three jobs, he struggled to make a good living in pricy Long Island. He completed a vocational cooking program in high school, making foodservice a natural area to pursue in the military. Unlike many of his peers, he was stationed in Virginia Beach for the duration of his Naval career, retiring as a Senior Chief Petty Officer.

Harsch applied for jobs he was qualified for, but finally found the ideal fit when he heard about a position at VersAbility at the same base where he previously worked. He knew the operation well at the Galley of the Northwest Annex, located in rural Chesapeake, close to the North Carolina border. As a supervisor, he oversees all of VersAbility’s special needs personnel that works there.


The team atmosphere appeals to him — an aspect he compares to the Navy.

“If there’s a need, somebody is always willing to jump in and help,” he says. “If we weren’t a team here, things would get overlooked. We all try to keep each other on our toes and fix things before they become a problem.”

Harsch is most impressed by the work ethic around him.

“Nobody complains; they just want to work and do a good job,” he says.

Harsch encourages other veterans to consider VersAbility Resources when seeking employment after military separation or retirement.

“Look up VersAbility Resources, and you will be surprised at all the different jobs that they are hiring for and how many positions they have available,” he says. “They are located all around the world. Also, do something that you love and makes you happy and you will feel like you never worked another day in your life.”

If you are a veteran, person with a disability, or just someone looking for your next career move, visit VersAbility’s job page today and see what opportunities are waiting for you at jobs.versability.org.

Meet Bennie Keith

Just like everyone else, Bennie Keith sets goals for himself.

With the help of VersAbility Resources’ Government Contracts program, the Newport News native has reached them while bringing home a regular paycheck.

Keith works alongside military and civilian personnel at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, where he supports the manufacturing of eyeglasses for military personnel. VersAbility holds 19 government contracts, including 14 in the region, and through them, the nonprofit recruits and hires people with disabilities for employment.

For 15 years, Keith has spent his weekdays in the lens lab, where he unboxes, washes and polishes lenses and frames. Sometimes critical thinking is involved as the technology around him can only be used on certain lenses.

“VersAbility has helped in so much,” he says. “In things I couldn’t do and things I could do. Plus, I like working with VersAbility. I mean, who doesn’t?”

One of his early goals was to be named Employee of the Year, an accolade he earned.

Keith used to work at a restaurant but he did not enjoy food service. With the help of his aunt who is his legal guardian, he found VersAbility Resources, which tapped into his personality to pair him with a position more suited to his interests.

Like his father, an Army veteran, Keith feels proud to be serving his country.

“My favorite thing is pulling frames because I pull different ones, but it’s an easy day,” says Keith, who visits Williamsburg’s theme parks and bike rides in his spare time.

Every morning after the alarm rings, he is purposeful about looking at his dad’s shell box that hangs on his bedroom wall. It’s a reminder, he says, “to do the job and do it right, like my father would do it in the Army.”

“VersAbility has done really good for me — in the past, for the future and now.”

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