Industries for the Blind (IFB) provides employment opportunities for people with visual impairment and blindness. Their factory in Little Rock employs more than 70 people, and Heather Hoffman, who has worked at IFB Solutions for eight years, was recently named the employee of the year.
What is your favorite thing about working at IFB Solutions?
I like working here because I don’t feel like I have to be perfect. They know that we’re blind and they’ll work with us and they’re understanding. And you have other people around you that are blind, so it’s kind of like a family.
Do you get support from your colleagues?
Oh yeah! We all support and encourage each other. If there’s somebody new, we try to make them feel very welcome. I’ve trained several people to run the machine that I run, and I try to encourage them and say, “Hey, you can do this.”
When you’ve worked in previous places, did you feel any pressure because you don’t have perfect vision or were not able to feel as comfortable?
In a way I did. I just felt like I was limited because maybe they weren’t confident in what I could do, especially when I worked at a daycare. I think a lot of times my supervisor, even though she did hire me, I felt like she wasn’t confident that I was going to make sure the kids were safe. And sometimes I felt the same way too. Here I can really thrive, knowing that I am fully accepted the way I am.
You were recently named employee of the year. What did that mean to you?
It meant that my supervisors and the staff here were seeing the hard work that I was doing and, not that I do it to get recognized, but I felt like they saw my effort. It’s always nice to be appreciated, and it really meant a lot to me!
Why do you think they chose you above everybody else?
I’m not sure! I know some of the things that they had said that lead to my nomination, my attendance was one of them, the quality of my work, my work ethic and just making sure my work is good.
Does anybody else put out three thousand t-shirts a day like you do or is that a record? (Heather sews the sleeves onto military t-shirts.)
I think they have before. I’m not sure a lot of people right now could but it’s only because they are all new. I’m sure they could beat me with a bit of practice though!
And what is your favorite thing about your job?
I like being able to know that the work I’m doing is going to help some military man or woman. Even though I can’t serve myself, I know that that’s going to somebody that’s serving our country. And also the opportunities we get to educate people that might not know about us, like some of you guys. Just being able to show that I’m being a person that’s out in the community working instead of being that person that other people think, “Well, hey she’s blind. She’s not going to be able to do anything.” I would say don’t let your blindness or your disability stop you from doing what you want to do.
The Second Annual Bingo for Bags will be held on Thursday, Sept. 21 at 6:30 p.m. at Next Level Events. For tickets or to discuss sponsorship opportunities, contact Ksenia Richards at (501) 492-7509 or KRichards@IFBSolutions.org.