Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind (IFB) recently honored its employees and volunteers for their commitment to helping IFB provide jobs, training and services for people who are blind or visually impaired. In addition to recognizing five individuals with organization-wide awards, IFB celebrated numerous service milestones. Twenty-seven employees received service awards for 15, 20 and 25 years, and 33 employees were recognized for 10 years of service. IFB, with manufacturing facilities in Winston-Salem, Asheville and Little Rock, Ark., is the nation’s largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired.
Rick Gaefe of Kernersville was named IFB Employee of the Year. After having served in the U.S. Army, Gaefe began losing vision and became homebound for 12 years. He then moved to Winston-Salem to be closer to family where he learned of Industries for the Blind. He joined IFB in 2005 and has worked in a variety of departments, including serving as IFB’s first Assistive Technology Instructor to help others learn valuable computer and technology skills. Recognized as a mentor by many employees, Gaefe is always looking to make a difference. He sits on the IFB Safety and Guide Dog committees in addition to being a member of the IFB Blind Veterans Support Group and the Guide Dogs Support Group.
Pablo Morales of Lewisville was awarded the IFB Career Achiever Award. As IFB’s Training/Accessibility Coordinator, he supports all employees in building their computer skills and taking advantage of the latest assistive technology tools. Since taking on this role in 2015, Morales has helped 82 IFB employees complete a specially-designed curriculum that he developed covering unique assistive tools such as screen reading software and smart devices. A native of Venezuela, Morales earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and began working at IFB in 2004.
Tina Jolly of Roaring River received the IFB Delmer Wall Outstanding Service Award. Jolly is a Supervisor for IFB’s Scissors, Military Resale and Markers Departments in the Winston-Salem facility. Jolly is known for the special care she takes with every new employee to ensure that person feels
welcome and comfortable. An IFB employee for 12 years, she values the importance of building community and camaraderie, especially for people who have not had an opportunity to work prior to joining IFB. According to National Industries for the Blind, more than 70 percent of working-age Americans who are blind are not employed.
Jerry Mintz of Winston-Salem received the Kathryn W. Garner Volunteer of the Year Award for his leadership with the Forsyth Blind Bowlers. His tenure with the organization spans an astonishing 36 years, and he has worked tirelessly to help the group evolve from a small core to a strong team of more than 30 individuals who are blind. In addition to serving as the team secretary, Mintz coordinates all team transportation to both practices and tournaments and manages the necessary equipment such as the rails that make the game accessible for people who are blind. Mintz is statewide advocate for blind bowling as an active member of the Carolina Blind Bowling Association and the American Blind Bowlers Association. He was instrumental in establishing a statewide blind bowling tournament, sponsored by IFB, and works with other communities to create their own blind bowling teams.
Karen Carey of Winston-Salem received the IFB Commodore Funderburk Visionary Award. A retired attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice, Carey’s service to IFB over the course of more than 11 years has come in many forms. She served as a member, and later chair, of the IFB Board of Directors, a board member of IFB’s supporting A Brighter Path Foundation, and a volunteer with Tracy’s Little Red Schoolhouse and the SEE (Student Enrichment Experience) program. In addition, she trains guide dogs on behalf of the Southeastern Guide Dog Association, and has brought her dogs for classroom visits and the annual SEE Summer Camps. During her board service, Carey was instrumental in assisting IFB with the acquisition and integration of The Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind completed in 2013.
Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind (IFB) is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1936 that provides employment, training and services for people who are blind or visually impaired. As the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the United States, IFB operates manufacturing facilities in Winston-Salem, N.C., Asheville, N.C., and Little Rock, Ark., in addition to more than 40 office supply stores and optical centers across the country. IFB also provides outreach through A Brighter Path Foundation, which operates Community Low Vision Centers across North Carolina and Tracy’s Little Red Schoolhouse based in Winston-Salem.