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