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Newsroom Blind entrepreneurs celebrate grand opening of dining facility on Fort Leavenworth

A group of blind Kansas entrepreneurs have signed a $13 million, five-year contract with the Department of Defense to operate a dining hall at Fort Leavenworth. They celebrated with a grand opening for the new facility on Friday, September 16. 

Working through the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services‘ Business Enterprise Program, a part of SRS’ rehabilitation agency, the group will operate the meal service for single soldiers who live on the military installation. The new dining hall is the only one on Fort Leavenworth. 

 “We’ve been working on this for well over a year, so to have the grand opening is the culmination of a lot of work, but there was a lot of excitement that we are able to bring more than 50 good jobs to Leavenworth. We look forward to watching this program grow,” said Michael Donnelly, Director of SRS’ Rehabilitation Services. 

The Business Enterprise Program is authorized under the federal Randolph Shepard Act, which is a federal law that gives priority to blind persons in awarding bids for the operation of vending facilities on federal property.

“It’s a great opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired, many of whom are unemployed or underemployed,” Donnelly said. “It gives them an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, thereby reducing dependence on public programs.” 

The estimated number of people to be employed under the Business Enterprise Program as a result of the new contract is 51. Currently, a similar contract the Business Enterprise Program has with Fort Riley to provide food service employs 188 people there. The program has 12 such vendors operating at approximately 75 locations, among those the cafeterias in the basement of the Docking State Office Building and the Capitol Building.