PORTSMOUTH — Allison Ashmore was born developmentally delayed and on the autism spectrum, said her mom, Nancy Ashmore.
“Those are her disabilities, but her abilities are that she can take direction very well, and she gives every task 100 percent,” she said.
You want proof?
Global Connections to Employment (GCE) has selected Allison, a Portsmouth resident and a food services worker at Naval Station Newport, as the 2017 Employee of the Year from a pool of approximately 1,700 workers around the nation.
GCE’s corporate offices are in Pensacola, Fla., but the agency manages work contract sites in 12 states and the District of Columbia, providing jobs to numerous people with disabilities.
During high school, Allison volunteered at the Salve University Library in Newport because she had always loved books, but she discovered she’d rather be around people and more active at a full-time job. Even then, she was curious about working at the food galley at Naval Station Newport, where her father was stationed as a Naval officer.
Following high school, she was enrolled at a disability workshop where she helped out in the kitchen. Despite her good work there, people in the program didn’t think Ms. Ashmore could handle the hectic, noisy environment, according to GCE.
But Allison persisted, and they gave her a chance. That was in 1995, and she’s been there ever since.
“With the right kind of support, Allison can do a lot of things,” said her mom, adding that organizations such GCE that work under the AbilityOne program are valuable to people with disabilities. “Allison’s experience has been life-changing.”
Allison takes community transport to work each day, and she’s learned to check the arrival times on her tablet. If the transporter is late, she calls and asks, “Where are you?” According to Allison, she’s learned customer service, organization, courtesy and respect.
When GCE took over the contract in 2010, she was nervous about her new bosses. “Now it’s like I’ve always been working for them,” Allison said. “I can ask any question. They say I do really well, and they depend on my good work.”
When two galleys were condensed into one at Ney Hall, Allison learned to manage a degree of change, but consistency was her comfort zone. A larger galley meant more customers and meals. However, in time, she learned to refill the salad bar, condiments, food station and fruit baskets like a pro.
“Allison also cleans for inspection teams and is a great deep cleaner,” said Rodney Novak, project manager. “You have to remind her to take a break.”
In her off time, Allison enjoys coloring for her family and co-workers. She also enjoys watching Disney Princess movies and reading books like “The Little Mermaid” to her nieces and nephews.
When asked what being named Employee of the Year meant to her, Allison responded, “It’s different than being Employee of the Month, but way better!”
Allison’s mom said the family looks forward to advocating alongside the GCE team when they travel to Capitol Hill for the 2018 Grassroots Advocacy Campaign.
“Allison loves her job. It’s brought her so much pride and satisfaction, and just as importantly, a financial independence that we never dreamed possible.” Nancy Ashmore said. “She wanted an opportunity to choose her own vocation just like everyone else, and it’s changed not only her life, but ours as well.”