U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins received a special award Monday at Cottonwood Inc. for her advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities.
“She endorses and supports and advocates the work that we do,” said CEO Sharon Spratt during a brief ceremony. “She helps people who have severe disabilities to be able to have employment opportunities and to live full lives, and for that we are greatly appreciative.”
Cottonwood is a nonprofit organization that provides services, including employment, to individuals with developmental disabilities.
Spratt presented Jenkins, a Republican from the 2nd District, with the AbilityOne Champion award before about 100 Cottonwood employees and 30 guests, including board members and local dignitaries.
The award reflects Jerkins’ commitment to a U.S. Department of Defense contract to produce cargo tie-down straps for all branches of the military. The straps are used to move supplies, and Cottonwood is the sole producer of the straps.
Cottonwood has had the contract since 1999. It has been awarded in five-year increments.
“We hope it continues forever,” Spratt said.
Last year, Cottonwood produced a record 900,000 straps. Spratt said the contract provides jobs like sewing, labeling and packing for about 90 individuals.
“It helps them to earn a paycheck. It helps them to be able to afford to go on trips and do all of the fun things that all of us want to do. Plus, it enhances their self-esteem,” she said. “People who have a good, productive day and feel good about what they are doing are healthier, happier people — no matter whether they have a disability or not.”
Jenkins said she was “tickled” to be back at Cottonwood. She has toured the facility before. But it was the first time that the Cottonwood Choir performed for her. They sang “Home on the Range” and “America the Beautiful.”
“That was a real treat,” she said.
Jenkins said Congress is focusing on job creation and getting people back to work.
“You all are a great success story,” she said. “I am just so impressed with the way this place is operated and the support from the community and the good work that these men and women do on behalf of the American people.”