Opening doors to greater independence and rewarding careers for people who are blind has been central to the AbilityOne Base Supply Center® (BSC) program since its beginning 25 years ago. As the program celebrates this milestone anniversary, NIB is spotlighting four BSC employees and the opportunities they found at BSCs.
Kim Utley, Manager, Dover Air Force Base BSC operated by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland
Born and raised in Delaware, Kim Utley studied nursing and hoped to pursue a career in health care until a near-fatal car accident took the sight in one eye and left only limited vision in the other. Becoming involved with the BSC program in 1997 helped her find a new career path.
Utley started training in November and in March of 1998, became the first associate who is blind working in BISM’s BSC Division.
She worked her way up to store manager in 2004, becoming the first person who is blind to assume that role in a BSC. Over the years she has mentored dozens of associates, helping them excel in their jobs, and received numerous citations for her work.
Looking back on her 22 years with the BSC, Utley appreciates the opportunities BISM made available. “They have given me a chance to grow as a person and to serve others. I am so grateful to work here!”
Andy Bacon, District Manager, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, operated by The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.
After Andy Bacon lost his eyesight at age 39, the Washington Department of Services for the Blind referred him to the Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., in Seattle. Hired as an assistant manager in the Joint Base Lewis-McChord BSC, he drew on previous retail experience, an ability to work with all types of people, and a willingness to go the extra mile to move through the ranks to store manager and then district manager.
Participating in NIB’s Business Management Training program helped make him a better manager. “My experience with the NIB program was invaluable in helping me become more comfortable as a public speaker, more adept at networking, and being able to look at new ways to tackle problems.” Bacon sees BSCs as part of the base community – before the pandemic, his beep baseball team frequently played against area soldiers. He looks forward to the opening of the agency’s new BSC in Seattle in early 2021, which will serve members of the United States Coast Guard.
Shannon Fayle, Customer Service Specialist, Luke Air Force Base BSC, operated by Arizona Industries for the Blind
For Shannon Fayle, the BSC program provided a lifeline to gainful employment when other jobs were unavailable due to her vision and hearing impairments. As a customer service specialist, she assists military personnel and federal employees, performing tasks from answering questions to ringing up sales at the cash register and ensuring back orders are filled.
In addition, Fayle excels at merchandising and has played a major role in ensuring both the Luke BSC and the BSC at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station comply with best practices and AbilityOne® Program requirements. She has trained personnel on AbilityOne products and proper labeling of shelf tags at all three BSCs operated by Arizona Industries for the Blind.
Fayle appreciates the way managers seek out the opinions of employees who are blind on day-to-day operations. “Employees are engaged with our managers and recognized as partners with a stake in the success of the overall operation.”
George Mason, Customer Service Representative, Fort Bragg BSC operated by LCI.
George Mason worked as a certified nursing assistant for 18 years until deteriorating eyesight forced him to stop. When he received a call asking if he’d be interested in a customer service position at the LCI store at Fort Bragg, Mason said yes and toured the facility.
“I was impressed right from the start when I saw people like me, with visual impairments, running the registers, stocking shelves, and even working in the warehouse,” he says. “I had hope for the first time in a long time.”
Offered a position in April 2011, Mason has been with the Fort Bragg BSC ever since. His reliability and hard work led to a position in the operation’s warehouse, where he receives freight and processes special orders. Looking to the future, he expresses the hope of advancing within the organization. “I am so fortunate to work for a place that doesn’t define me by me disability and instead rewards hard work.”
To learn more about Kim, Andy, Shannon, and George and the AbilityOne BSC program, read the cover story in the fall issue of Opportunity magazine.