IFB Solutions 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. IFB Solutions, a nonprofit corporation 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. In October 2016, the organization announced its name change from Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind to IFB Solutions.
Clayton Sanders of Winston-Salem was named the overall IFB Solutions Employee of the Year. Clayton was born premature with damaged retinas that left him blind in one eye and with very limited vision in the other. A native of South Carolina, he heard about IFB Solutions while attending a computer class at the South Carolina Commission for the Blind. Struggling with employment opportunities in his home state, Clayton moved to Winston-Salem in 2009 to take a job with IFB as a sewing machine operator. He is active at work and in the community serving as chairman of IFB’s Transportation Committee and representing the more than 100 IFB employees who depend on the local para-transit system. An avid bowler, Clayton also is a member of the Forsyth Blind Bowlers and the American Bowling Association.
Heather Hoffman was named IFB Solutions Employee of the Year for the Little Rock facility. Heather joined IFB in 2009 and currently works as a sleeve machine operator in the T-shirt department. She regularly sews more than 3,000 T-shirt sleeves each day. Prior to joining the T-shirt team, Heather worked in the bandoleer and paper departments, and also fills in as the facility receptionist.
Grant Weathers was named IFB Solutions Employee of the Year for the Asheville facility as well as the Milton J. Samuelson Career Achiever Award. A former golf professional, Grant became legally blind in his 20s due to Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. The vision loss was sudden, and Grant was unable to work for two years. A friend referred him to IFB Solutions’ Asheville facility, and he was hired in the Impulse Merchandising department.
Grant was promoted to low vision technician for IFB’s Community Low Vision Center (CLVC) in 2016. As a low vision technician, Grant manages the CLVC retail store and works with clients to assess, fit and demonstrate low vision technology to help maximize their vision. The confidence Grant gained since joining IFB has encouraged him to step back into the world of golf. Last year, he competed in the American Blind Golf National Championship and is a regular participant in IFB’s Tin Cup Classic golf fundraisers.
Timothy Payne of Winston-Salem received the Delmer Wall Outstanding Service Award. Tim joined IFB Solutions in 2009 working on machinery before joining the mattress department. He then joined the facilities team where he is actively involved with safety, inspections and ensuring employees have transportation for off-campus activities. As a first responder, Tim also provides first-aid assistance. He is often recognized for the special care he takes in maintaining the safety and well-being of his IFB Solutions colleagues.
Hannah Ainsworth of Winston-Salem received the Kathryn W. Garner Volunteer of the Year Award for her service to the IFB Community Low Vision Center. Currently a student at Wake Forest University, Hannah regularly volunteers her time assisting the low vision team and helping with events such as the IFB Solutions After Dark Gala.
W. Robert Newell of Winston-Salem received the Commodore Funderburk Visionary Award. He is chief executive officer of Franklin Street Partners and former president of Wachovia Trust Company. During his 15 years of service to IFB Solutions, Bob has been instrumental in the nonprofit’s growth. He chaired IFB’s capital campaign to expand the Winston-Salem facility in 2002 and guided the organization through the acquisition of Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind in 2013. He joined the board in January of 2003 and has served numerous terms over the years. He recently completed a term as chairman of the board and now serves as an ex-officio member. He also lent his financial expertise as a member of the Investment Committee and the Finance Committee.
In addition to recognizing these six individuals with organization-wide awards, IFB Solutions celebrated numerous service milestones. Fourteen employees received service awards for 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years, and 32 employees were recognized for 10 years of service.