Work Services observes disabilities employment

National Disabalities Employment Awareness Month

Airman 1st Class Maria Mendoza assists Leron Moore in serving food to Airmen-in-Training at the Mesquite Dining Facility at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Multiple Airmen volunteered to assist workers from the Work Services Corp. to raise awareness and help them gain an understanding as to what people with disabilities contend with and overcome in the workplace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert L. McIlrath)

Mason Cambell, right, shares his story of how he became a quadruple amputee after contracting bacterial meningitis as an infant.

Mason Cambell, right, shares his story of how he became a quadruple amputee after contracting bacterial meningitis as an infant. The 31-year-old was part of a question-answer period at the National Disabilities Employment Awareness event at Work Service Corp. in Wichita Falls on Oct. 26.

National Disabalities Employment Awareness Month

Airman 1st Class Brett Kozlowski looks on as Cristal Sanchez demonstrates how to reload a juice dispenser at the Mesquite Dining Facility at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Multiple Airmen volunteered to assist workers from the Work Services Corp. to raise awareness and help them gain an understanding as to what people with disabilities contend with and overcome in the workplace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Robert L. McIlrath)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Mason Campbell stood countless times in front of a large display in a room at Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, Texas, as a child, pushing buttons on the exterior to activate a train, toys and a trolley.

He watched as the train traveled on its tracks and then entered a tunnel and was out of sight. He heard the laughter of children playing, the sounds of a circus and, yes, the train chugging along.

It was a short moment for him to escape during a time in which he underwent multiple surgeries to amputate both legs below the knees and fingers on both hands as a result of contracting bacterial meningitis as an infant. It was a few minutes of his life, he said, that meningitis could not take away from him.

Campbell, 31, shared his story Thursday during an event at Work Services Corp. to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness month. WSC has about 350 employees who work in food services at Sheppard Air Force Base, including 320 who have some type of disability.

“What is time, really? When you are diagnosed with a disease such as meningitis, your perception of time changes,” he said. “When doctors tell you that you will end up having several more surgeries, do you try to live a lifetime full of worry, or do you say ‘to heck with it’ and tell yourself you can do anything that you put your mind to and see each day as a blessing?”

Campbell didn’t let his disability slow him down, having worked as a certified life guard, auditioned for ‘American Idol’ and taught physical education to students of all ages. He said he did just about everything his siblings and friends did – sometimes a little slower – but not much was made of his limitations.

Campbell’s message to those in attendance Thursday was to give people with disabilities an opportunity to show what they can do instead focusing on their disability and what they can’t do.

“I want to challenge you today; let’s turn disabilities into possibilities,” he said.

Recognition of employees with disabilities was also seen on Sheppard Thursday as nine permanent party Airmen shadowed WSC employees with disabilities at dining facilities on base. Master Sgt. Debra Spivey, base career assistance advisor, said she and Connie Ali of the Equal Opportunity office organized the time to raise awareness for the Airmen and help them gain an understanding as to what people with disabilities contend with and overcome in the workplace.

David Toogood, CEO of WSC, applauded those in attendance for their support of the organization and its mission to employee people with disabilities throughout Wichita Falls, Sheppard and other locations in Texas and Oklahoma. He said as of Oct. 1, WSC has paid out roughly $10.8 million in wages in 2017, with 92 percent of the direct labor is done by people with disabilities.

“I know that that has impacted the lives of people with disabilities and it impacts the economy of Wichita Falls,” he said. “So, for just a second, I want you to think about if those approximately 425 people here in the Wichita Falls area that are employed with significant disabilities. Think for a second how things would be different if they didn’t have a job. Think about what that would mean in their lives. Think of what that would mean to this community.”

WSC first began in 1954 as the Children’s Center of Wichita Falls and provided education for children with significant cognitive disabilities. It later changed to the Individual Development Center in 1964 when the focus of the organization shifted to employment services for people with disabilities. It was in 1988 that Work Services was formed to operate federal, state and private contracts in a variety of areas ranging from food service to lawn and ground maintenance and document services.

The company has helped more than 8,000 people with disabilities since 1971.