Workers proudly serve Team Goodfellow

Ricky Bonilla, Western Winds Dining Facility staff worker, shows Congressman Mike Conaway, 11th District of Texas, his hat that he received for employee of the month at the dining facility, Aug. 4. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Laura R. McFarlane)

Ricky Bonilla, Western Winds Dining Facility staff worker, shows Congressman Mike Conaway, 11th District of Texas, his hat that he received for employee of the month at the dining facility, Aug. 4. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Laura R. McFarlane)

GOODFELLOW AFB, Texas -- They're not the most visible group of workers. Sometimes they are behind the scenes, but they still play a very important role in helping run Goodfellow Air Force Base. I'm talking about the employees of the Work Services Corporation. The WSC is a non-profit organization whose goal is to find individuals with disabilities and employ them. The company based in Wichita Falls, Texas, also has an office in San Angelo. Here, they employ their workers to assist in maintaining the two dining hall facilities on Goodfellow. The workers do everything from washing dishes and busing tables to serving food and working the register. 

The WSC was started in 1954 to provide education for children with mental handicaps. The problem was that children with disabilities received aid while in school, but when they stopped attending school their needs were sometimes forgotten. So the focus was shifted to help older individuals with disabilities train and gain employment. 

Referring to WSC as a non-profit organization is an understatement. They work hard to make sure their employees are productive, giving them the best suitable task. Some employees aren't comfortable in front of large crowds, a common daily occurence in the dining facilities. Those workers are afforded jobs in the kitchen where they feel more comfortable. When employees are unable to work during specific times of the day or week; the WSC works around their schedules to make sure they can work enough hours to make ends meet. Workers are paid an hourly wage, receive insurance and healthcare benefits for their entire family, and paid vacations. 

The corporation helps by training and counseling employees to become successful individuals. Through their Ability One ideal, they hire those who are disadvantaged when competing in the open job market, focusing solely on the ability of the individual.

 "We want to make people who are disabled feel important in society" said Lydia Cardenas, who works for WSC, "Many are so overwhelmed with joy when told they're hired that they burst into tears. We're really proud of our employees and what they can achieve." 

Many individuals, before joining the WSC, live in communities where they're dependent on services, but once they start working and receive training from job coaches, they're able to live on their own with minimum assistance. 

One worker, in particular, is Ricky Bonilla. Once a year, the WSC chooses one of their employees to send to Washington D.C. for the Grassroots Conference. Ricky was selected this year to attend; he has been working with the WSC for 10 years, has perfect attendance, and has a strong enthusiasm about what he does. While attending the conference, he met Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Congressman Mike Conaway. "Ricky got a lot of attention as he took D.C. by storm," said Congressman Conaway. Ricky extended an invitation to Congressman Conaway to visit him where he works, at the Western Winds Dining facility, to tour the facility and learn about his job. 

True success stories like Ricky's come out of the WSC every day. It's a wonderful thing to see disadvantaged people striving to be part of society. Many of them, just like you and me, are trying to find a place where they belong. The WSC is not part of the wonder itself, but it opens a door for these great people. They're happy and eager to work. Even more so, they are very proud of the men and women serving our country and are proud to have the chance to serve them in return.