As the largest employer of people who are blind in the country, Industries for the Blind (IFB) credits its success to an incredible team of employees, volunteers and customers. At a special recognition banquet held in Winston-Salem recently, IFB recognized several top employees, community volunteers, and customers, including Joe Sprouse of IFB Asheville, who was named IFB Asheville’s Employee of the Year.
Beginning in contract cutting in 2009, Sprouse initially folded cloth and boxed it up. He was transferred to IMP (impulse merchandise) where he bagged items, then opened boxes and assembled them as needed. Always willing and resourceful, he moved to sealing, then to the stapler line, putting tracks together. Along the way, he learned to run a sonic and press welder and the clicker die in contract cutting.
“I work in IMP and in the stapler area, but I do a little bit of everything,” said Sprouse. “I try to do whatever they ask, even if I need to do it by feel.”
Sprouse has RP, a hereditary condition that causes blindness. Diagnosed some 20 years ago, he now has about 5% vision left—he puts that percentage to work every day, and uses this other senses to help him work in many places in the plant.
“At IFB, our mission is to create opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, training and services. Joe is a wonderful asset to IFB. His can-do attitude is infectious, and he richly deserves this award,” said Randy Buckner, Director of Operations for IFB Asheville.