Project Paycheck Lions Volunteer Blind Industries call center operator Jeremiah Kennedy makes the call for LVBI Project Paycheck campaign. Sue Legg/Johnson City Press
Wage program for visually impaired, blind starts campaign
Sue Guinn Legg
Nov 25, 2014 at 7:39 PM
For the first time in its 60 years of manufacturing for the U.S. military, Lions Volunteer Blind Industries is taking its annual employment scholarship giving program directly to Tri-Cities area homes.
Project Paycheck kicked off on June 4 at LVBI’s new Johnson City call center and will continue over the next several months.
The call center’s blind and visually impaired workers are making calls daily and inviting the public to call them as well for an opportunity to help visually disabled workers in the local community earn a competitive wage.
Over the past 60 years, more than 600 people who are blind or with severe visual impairments have come to work at FVBI’s plants here and in Morristown.
They’ve supported families, bought homes, paid taxes and otherwise contributed to their communities through their employment in manufacturing helmet covers, clothing, mattresses, paper products and more for the military and for other private corporations.
LVBI currently employs about 150 workers including the five call center technicians who will spend the summer calling every listed home phone number in East Tennessee to talk about the work and the mission of LVBI and the vital role community support plays in that mission.
Trevor Southerland, director of rehabilitation services at LVBI, said while many of the LVBI workers meet and exceed production standards, others, because of their disabilities, never will.
Because of its commitment to providing equal employment opportunities for blind citizens, Southerland said the nonprofit LVBI corporation fills the wage gap for those workers by paying them at the same hourly rate as those who achieve full production.
The cost of the wage supplement is more than $300,000 annually, of which approximately one fourth is provided by LVBI’s Lions Club sponsors. The remainder is raised through Project Paycheck contributions or taken from the company’s operating income.
Project Paycheck helps LVBI pay workers who cannot meet production at the same wage rate as its other employees, Southerland said.
For the next several weeks LVBI call center employees will be concentrating their Project Paycheck campaign calls in the Johnson City area. In the coming months the campaign will stretch across most of East Tennessee with calls going out to homes in every community between Morristown and Roan Mountain.
Project Paycheck calls are being placed Monday through Thursday form 1 to 7 p.m. and can be verified by looking for the LVBI call center’s number, 794-3140, on caller ID. Or, those who wish to contribute to Project Paycheck may call 794-3140 between 1 and 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday to make a donation.
Founded in Johnson City in 1951, Lions Volunteer Blind Industries is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization and all donations are tax-deductible. All donations to LVBI’s Project Paycheck campaign go directly to scholarship wages for blind workers.
More information about LVBI and the Project Paycheck campaign is available online at www.lvbi.org.