VersAbility Resources celebrates another milestone year in 2021 while looking to the new year with renewed optimism in advancing its mission of supporting people with disabilities in leading productive and fulfilling lives.

“During these challenging times, our focus hasn’t changed,” said Kasia Grzelkowski, CEO of the Hampton-based nonprofit that serves more than 1,700 individuals and their families each year. “We’ve continued to fulfill our mission every day and create more expansive, diverse opportunities for people with disabilities of all ages in the 757 and beyond.”

VersAbility’s mission-essential employees have risen to the occasion of these challenging times. They’ve continued to go to work in support of the military and critical commercial customers.

VersAbility’s 19 government contracts include loading food on ships for the Navy, staffing global call center operations 24 hours a day for 13 Air Combat Command bases around the country, manufacturing eyeglasses, and performing custodial services that have become more vital with the increased attention on health and safety protocols.

“People with disabilities continue to shine as one of the most resilient workforces throughout this prolonged pandemic,” Grzelkowski said. “While many people stayed home, people with disabilities went to work each day and night to perform mission-essential work for our federal customers. That includes loading food on Navy vessels from submarines to aircraft carriers at the five major ports on the east and west coasts plus Hawaii and Guam.”

VersAbility was already the prime contractor for provisioning food on Navy ships at seven global locations, but that scope was significantly expanded with the award  in the fallof a new contract totaling $126 million over five years.

Work on that contract will be performed in Norfolk and other ports nationwide, including the recently added Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia. That breaks down to approximately 50 more jobs for people with disabilities at Naval Station Norfolk in addition to the 100 employees already working at this location.

VersAbility also expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities by securing a new nationwide contract to perform administrative and human resources services for Military Sealift Command and with the acquisition of Hired Hands, a job training and support organization.

The Military Sealift Command contract, VersAbility’s fifth that is nationwide in scope, represents a new line of business that will provide an additional 65 to 70 jobs with titles such as medical records clerk, medical records technician, supply clerk and personnel assistant.

“We are very excited to be diversifying the options for people with disabilities and veterans by adding administrative services and human resources to our job offerings,” Grzelkowski said. “This represents our ongoing efforts to harness the full array of talent of people with all abilities. We are continuing to hire people with qualifying disabilities, including veterans, to perform this administrative work.”

VersAbility expanded its Supported Employment program when Hired Hands came under its umbrella. Integrating Hired Hands with VersAbility increases capacity for job creation and career development with tailored training and support to meet employer needs.

“The talented team from Hired Hands works to match, place and train people with disabilities for a wide of array of employers throughout Hampton Roads,” Grzelkowski said.

The Hired Hands team also specializes in services and support for individuals within the Deaf community.

VersAbility will launch its Future of Work program in spring 2022 thanks to receiving a $200,000 Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Grant. This initiative focuses on preparing people with disabilities for jobs in high-demand industries.

“The goal of the Future of Work program is to support people with disabilities in successfully completing certification and credentialing programs, so they graduate with proven workforce readiness,” Grzelkowski said.

VersAbility’s first welding cohort will begin in January 2022 at New Horizons Regional Education Center.

The Bank of America grant is among several significant gifts awarded to VersAbility in 2021. The others include funding from Newport News Shipbuilding, the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters Foundation, and more.

Five new board members will join VersAbility in 2022, many of whom will be tapped for their workforce development expertise. The new members joining the board are Shawn Avery, CEO, Hampton Roads Workforce Council; Susan Jacobs, Vice President Human Resources and Administration, Newport News Shipbuilding; Aazia Mickens-Dessaso, Executive Director of Ecosystem Development, Techstars; Casey Roberts, Executive Director, New Horizons Regional Education Centers; and Edith White, CEO, Hampton Roads Community Action Program.

Grzelkowski said she is also grateful and inspired by the tireless work of the entire VersAbility team throughout the pandemic.

The residential team provides quality care 24/7/365 in eight homes in Newport News, Hampton and York County that support people with significant disabilities.

VersAbility’s Early Prevention and Intervention for Children program assists infants and toddlers with disabilities by tailoring therapy programs to ensure each child is prepared for success in school, work and life. The program also educates parents on the many ways they can support their child’s development.

VersAbility anticipates the expansion of one of its Air Force contracts in 2022 and looks forward to creating more jobs for people of all abilities.