Bliss breaks mold: first military installation to house two base supply centers
June 8, 2011
FORT BLISS, Texas -- In cooperation with Fort Bliss Garrison command, the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind opened Bliss’ second base service center during a ceremony at East Fort Bliss, June 7.
As the original facility continues to serve Team Bliss from its West Fort Bliss location, the opening officially marked the operation of two “country stores” on the installation, a first for any military installation worldwide.
The morning ceremony opened the fourteenth base service center SALB operates on 11 military installations located in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. These stores, which supply government organizations a wide array of products ranging from office to janitorial supplies, are operated under the Javits Wagner O’Day Act which requires the federal government to procure products and services from non-profit agencies that employ blind or severely handicapped people.
Through its service to Bliss and installations throughout the region, SALB, a private, non-profit organization which has served the public sector for almost 80 years, prides itself on “creating opportunities for individual independence by providing rehabilitation programs and employment opportunities that measurably improve the lives of blind or visually-impaired individuals.” Through contracts with the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, SALB, the second-largest manufacturing operation in San Antonio, employs more than 530 workers " more than half are blind or visually impaired; the non-profit is one of only two agencies for the disabled which are aerospace-quality certified worldwide.
SALB reinvests its sales, after operating costs, back into the local economy. With the opening of their second “country store,” locally they’ll provide employment for more than 50 El Pasoans while providing rehabilitation services for the blind in the Sun City. Also, they’ll continue to put a priority on procuring American-made and blind-made products when available, while also sub-contracting local, disabled veteran, women or minority-owned businesses.
Representatives from SALB and Bliss were in attendance for the ceremony. Emceed by retired Command Sgt. Maj. Reggie Daniel, Sr., area manager for SALB supply stores at Bliss, White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., the veteran Soldier said through SALB services to its customers and rehabilitation programs, his organization’s mission supports people in many different ways.
“The Lighthouse contributes an estimated $50 million annually to local economies,” said Daniel. “It touches the lives of the blind and visually impaired by allowing them the opportunities to maintain a productive life and maintain dignity by turning ‘disability’ into ‘ability.’”
Mike Gilliam, CEO for SALB, was also at Bliss and told the audience that while he regretted he’d never served in the military, the opportunity to serve war fighters is one he and his organization is very proud of.
“I look at the job I have and all of the people working the stores; many of us have never served and the folks that are blind couldn’t serve,” said Gilliam, “but we can serve the Soldier and warfighter every single day and feel that we’re part of your mission-critical effort, so it really means a lot to us.”
He also spoke of the day’s historical significance within the SALB as their service innovation expanded at Bliss, and what it took to make that happen.
“As of today Fort Bliss is the only military installation in the world with two country stores,” he said. “That’s because of the incredible, phenomenal support from all of the folks here. It’s unheard of to have two, and the growth [at Fort Bliss] helps, but it also says a lot about the support offered to the Soldiers here.”
Col. Joseph Simonelli, Jr., Bliss’ garrison commander, said he appreciated the effort SALB puts in at Bliss and that the opening of the second facility was another example of their continued dedication to an Army post which continues to expand.
“Thank you to the organization and leadership for making the commitment to put another country store here on Fort Bliss,” he said. “Thank you to those who make the products that fill this country store and need to get into the hands of our Soldiers, but more importantly thanks to the individuals who operate our country stores because you’re the key component of getting supplies from the producer to the consumer … and the consumer needs it.
“Soldiers from East Bliss had to go all the way to West Bliss to visit their country store; now they don’t have to. Thank you very much for being a part of the Fort Bliss family.”
Bliss’ new base service center is located at Bldg. A410 at East Fort Bliss and will now be a co-location with the original West Bliss facility at Bldg. 1104 on Cassidy Road. To learn more about SALB and their initiatives to support the disabled through service to their country, visit www.salighthouse.org.