Everyone at IOB is remarkable. Speaking with any of our staff, you’ll hear stories of uncommon strength, faith, and resilience. Get to know a few of our people by reading their stories below.
Trish is the Director of First Impressions at IOB’s Gate City Blvd building in Greensboro. She greets visitors and mans the counter in our store. She also speaks up with ideas on how to improve our operations. “If I see something that needs to be changed, I bug people till they do it.”
When Trish was a young girl, years before tragedy struck, she prayed that someday God would send her a kind man—one who would love her and help her meet the challenges of life.
Kneeling in her bedroom in a small house in High Point, Trish had no way of knowing that she would face challenges so steep that only a man of uncommon kindness would be willing to share her burden.
When she was 15 years old, Trish was strolling along a stretch of beach. She was approached by a man who brandished a gun and forced her to walk with him. After a while she tried to escape and the man shot her three times.
The damage was permanent. One bullet lodged in her brain and wiped out most of her vision, as well as her hearing in one ear. She was paralyzed on one side of her body.
Trish was forced to accept the almost unbearable fact that she would never live a normal life. She returned to school in a wheelchair which, for a while, drove a wedge between her and her fellow students, who were made uneasy by it. But by the time Trish graduated, those same students—inspired by her example—named her Most Courageous Senior.
The bullets had extinguished not just most of Trish’s eyesight, but all her hopes of finding that partner who would share her life. But then one day, she met a man named Doug at a church retreat at, of all places, a beach. When their eyes met, Trish says, “The Lord told me Doug would be my husband.”
If it was indeed God’s will, His plan unfolded slowly. Despite what Trish knew in her heart, she and Doug were just friends for many years. But they grew closer and finally, five years after they met, Doug broached the subject of matrimony by asking Trish “What do you think Mama would say if we got married?”
Asked today if Doug was the answer to her prayers, Trish doesn’t answer right away. Her eyes redden and brim with tears. She softly says, “He shows it every day.”
For someone who has faced almost unimaginable horror, Trish today is unexpectedly good natured. Her mom has always known this about her. Trish was such a talkative, outgoing girl her 4th grade teacher noted it as a problem. Her mother saw the brighter side: “One day you’re going to make a great receptionist.” Trish thought so, too.
So years later, when Trish heard about a receptionist job at IOB, she tried not to get too excited. She applied for the job but told no one at the Sears computer center where she worked. When she learned she’d won the job, she let out a shriek of joy.
In 2000, Trish was selected from among hundreds of candidates across the country to receive the Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award. Her colleagues at IOB were as thrilled as she was. On hearing about the magnificent ceremony where Trish would be honored, a friend exclaimed “You’re going to be treated like Cinderella!”
“And I was,” she says. She and Doug flew to San Antonio for the gala. Doug got her to a salon across the street from the hotel, where beauticians prepared her for the big moment.
“They put one hundred pins in my hair! It was one day I will never forget.”
Annie supervises our Assembly Department, where she oversees the assembly and packing of products such as clipboards, mops, rubber stamps and pot scrubbers. Over her four decades here, she’s had a chance to work at just about every job.
For nineteen people at Industries of the Blind, Annie Alexander is the boss.
But they don’t call her that. Everybody calls her “Miss Annie.” Spend just a few minutes with her and you understand why people use the affectionate nickname. There doesn’t seem to be much that ruffles Miss Annie’s feathers. She laughs a lot. She takes everything in stride.
Her easygoing nature is all the more remarkable considering the hand she’s been dealt. Annie was born an albino, a disorder that made her legally blind. She’s never known what it’s like to see clearly but you won’t hear her complain about that. She just gets on with what needs to be done.
In her job at IOB, what needs to be done (among other tasks) is helping people in her department who have only recently become visually impaired. These folks, Annie points out, have not just lost their vision. They have often lost their confidence, too.
This is where Annie’s special genius comes in for bringing out the best in people—the brighter attitude, the better work. “When you’re a supervisor,” she says, “you’re also a psychologist, a preacher, a social worker and a secretary. You’re a lotta things!”
She’s right: Annie is more than even that list suggests. She is also Gate City’s only Rhyming Supervisor. When she’s training someone on a new job, Annie will spin some verse, on the spot, to help the trainee remember the order of tasks. Here’s one of her more popular ditties:
First the metal
Then the board
Press the button
Then you’ve scored!
To really appreciate the rhyme you need to see it in action, on the floor. And by the way, you’re welcome to drop in any time. Annie also gives tours.
Annie brings her affable nature to just about everything she does, and it turns out she does a lot. Over the years she has served on The American Council of the Blind and National Federation of the Blind. She has worked in several roles at a blind-operated credit union (“You gotta pay your bills”) and in a blind consumer organization helping get legislation passed.
She is an active member of Faith Community Church but she really wishes they hadn’t asked her to sing in the choir. She insists she’s no good. Her husband Chris, though: now there’s a guy who can sing. He and his twin brother Cliff both work at IOB, too.
Annie still enjoys her job and gets great satisfaction from helping her team perform at such a high level. “It does people good once they’ve learned something. They say ”Miss Annie, I got it now!”
Sherrie Thompson has been employed with Industries of the Blind, Greensboro for 14 years. Sherrie is a Semi-Automatic Sewing Machine Operator producing the Army Fire Resistant Combat Trousers. The first thing a person notices about Sherrie when you meet her is the bright smile she offers to everyone. The second is the wonderfully positive attitude she has about not just work but life itself.
At the age of 19, Sherrie was experiencing noticeable problems with her vision. Upon a visit to the doctor, it was discovered she was suffering from a condition known as pseudotumor cerebri, which exhibits similar symptoms to that of a brain tumor, though no physical tumor is actually present. Along with the increased pressure in Sherrie’s brain, it was also noticed that she had fluid behind her eyes. During a surgical procedure to correct the issue, the damages to the optic nerves had already become too severe, and Sherrie awoke from the surgery with total blindness. Though difficult, Sherrie had to adapt to an instant loss of vision. She had to alter her entire lifestyle completely, and these changes hindered a lot of her relationships. This made it even harder to cope, but she was determined. She attended The Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in Raleigh NC, where she learned mobility, assistive technology, and independent living skills training. She is a lover of knowledge, and she is always finding new and exciting ways to learn. Sherrie began working at the Greensboro IOB in July 2006 and has been a model worker ever since. Sherrie has two beautiful daughters that she is raising independently. Sherrie has an amazing personality, and she lives a very inspiring life.
Sherrie has that gift of being able to quickly pickup on an operational process and produce quality work from the start. Beyond that she is also a fabulous trainer for both blind and sighted on the operation she is running. A prime example was during the manufacturing of the Low Cost Container Cargo Net. Sherrie was responsible for assembling and gluing all subassemblies together before the final sewing process. It was an intricate weave she performed on a custom made table. She did it without fault. Sherrie was so good at this process that she became the trainer for any person coming into the department to aid in the assembly process. This is but one example of the type of work that is done by Sherrie. This same example can be said about her in every department she has been in during her 14 year tenure at Industries of the Blind.
Outside of work, Sherrie enjoys reading audio books and listening to educational podcasts. She loves cooking, shopping, going to the movies, listening to music, going to church, and hanging out and about with her family and friends. She is extremely girly; loves putting on make-up, dressing fancy, wearing tutus, doing unique things to her hair, and is obsessed with the color pink. Her ultimate favorite thing to do is spending quality time with her two beautiful daughters, who are her world.