Most folks would rather work than not. But some people can’t for various reasons. However, there’s a bunch of people who are working because of Mississippi Industries for the Blind that otherwise might not be.
It’s a typical workday at their headquarters on North West Street across from the stadium, where Mississippi Industries for the Blind has been since their inception over 70 years ago. Michael Chew is the Executive Director.
"The primary purpose is employment and training of people with visual impairments, either legally blind or totally blind from that standpoint," said Chew. "And to do that employment we do manufacturing, and we’re now into services and stuff."
Cleaning supplies is a part of what they manufacture; mops and sponges, things along that line. They have a call center, now. And can transfer your storage rooms of paper documents to electronic images, also. And there is an on-site store that not only sells some of what they make here, but many things for any people who have vision issues.
"I think probably the thing that surprises people the most is probably some of the sewing products that we do," said Chew. "We make what’s called the bandoleer pouch for the army that holds six M16 magazines. It’s got 40 something operations with some very tight tolerances and to be doing it with 75% people who are blind, it really amazes people.
Every recruit into the U.S. Military gets two things upon arrival at basic training, that sweet, cordial greeting from their drill sergeant, and this, a barracks bag. Every one of those barracks bags is made at the Mississippi Industries for the Blind.
"We provide a paycheck but we also are providing a career for people," said Chew.
Mississippi Industries for the Blind is a state agency but is not funded by the legislature. It makes its own way, but all of the people who work here are state employees with state benefits like insurance and vacations and retirement.
And this place is Making A Difference for people who may find it difficult to get a job otherwise, and are also Making A Difference for their clients who use them to make their products or provide their services.
"We’d like to Make a Difference in a lot more people’s lives," added Chew.