Melwood, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in Upper Marlboro, helps create opportunities for people with disabilities. Since 1963, Melwood has enhanced the lives of thousands of people in the National Capital Region through career training, job placement, individual support and recreational activities.
More than 100 people with disabilities work for Melwood at the U.S. Naval Academy, Melwood’s largest custodial contract. Melwood also serves Goddard Space Flight Center and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
In July 2011, Melwood began its largest and most complex contract, providing total facilities management services at Fort Meade. The contract offers new job types and serves a wider range of people with disabilities, including disabled veterans.
According to Mary L. Doyle, chief of media relations at Fort Meade, Melwood employees “provide facilities maintenance; grounds maintenance; solid waste collection and disposal; recyclables collection; removal of snow, ice and debris from roads, parking areas and sidewalks; environmental management; and pest control.”
Melwood currently serves more than 2,400 people and offers job opportunities for more than 1,200 people with disabilities through partnerships with the AbilityOne Program and community employers. The AbilityOne Program is a federal initiative that strives to help people with significant disabilities, including disabled veterans, find employment within the AbilityOne network of nonprofit agencies. AbilityOne pairs federal agencies with approved organizations to provide those employment opportunities.
AbilityOne Program Encourages Partnerships
The AbilityOne Program was created through the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act of 1971 and encourages federal agencies to contract with approved nonprofits to purchase products and services and employ individuals with disabilities. This legislation has enabled thousands of people nationwide to become employed taxpayers, providing valuable services in their communities.
In 2010, Melwood employees with disabilities — who would have been otherwise eligible to receive government benefits — earned $13 million and paid $2.7 million in taxes.
Melwood received the contract after going through a contractor selection process conducted by AbilityOne. The company was selected through competition with a number of other AbilityOne nonprofit agencies based on a list of identified criteria.
Melwood is approaching the end of its first contract year with AbilityOne, but has four 12-month option periods remaining, which will take the contract through June 2016.
“The contract with Melwood allows Fort Meade to provide vital services to our tenant partners and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars while supporting employment of those with disabilities,” explained Doyle.
“Melwood is a member of the Fort Meade Alliance and a member of the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber of Commerce,” added Dana Stebbins, Melwood’s CEO. “All contractors work for the Fort Meade Alliance. Melwood manages the base as a city manager would manage a city … [and] administers all services to people who live and work on the post.”
In June 2011, Melwood also secured a custodial contract with the U.S. Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay in Baltimore. Melwood employees are responsible for cleaning nearly 200,000 square feet of the facilities, as well as some of the ships.
Melwood recruited employees for its new contracts by looking to graduates of its vocational training program on its campus and working with partner agencies such as the Arcs, Goodwill of the Chesapeake, the League for People With Disabilities and Jewish Family Services.
Additionally, the Fort Meade contract marks the first time Melwood has partnered with organizations that serve veterans with disabilities such as Veteran Affairs offices, the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training (MCVET) and the Warrior Transition Units (WTU) at area installations.
Melwood also offers customized training and support programs for people with disabilities who want to work at private employers.
“Melwood supports opportunities for people with disabilities to maximize their independence and inclusion in the community,” said Julie Rosenthal, who handles communications for Melwood.
“Individualized programs provide the necessary support to help individuals remain at home with their families, or to live as independently as possible in their own homes,” Rosenthal said. “Services are based on individual needs. People with disabilities interested in learning new skills, volunteering and enjoying an array of stimulating activities are able to do so through any of several programs at Melwood.”
Melwood also provides a range of year-round and seasonal recreational opportunities for children and adults of all abilities, onsite and through its recreation center located in Nanjemoy. These opportunities include Camp Accomplish, a fully inclusive summer camp for children of all abilities, and Access Adventures, which offers small group, community-based vacations and trips for adults with disabilities.
An Equestrian Program, designed for riders of all ages and ability levels, features a mix of basic horsemanship and equitation, while Melwood’s on-site Retreat Center caters to corporate, school and religious retreats, family reunions, executive gatherings and teambuilding workshops from September through May.