National Industries for the Blind Presents National Awards to Agency Employees

Virginia Young of Lighthouse Louisiana Named 2018 Milton J. Samuelson Winner
Everett Ford of IFB Solutions Named 2018 Peter J. Salmon Winner


April 23, 2018, ALEXANDRIA, VA – National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the nation’s largest employment resource for people who are blind, honored Virginia Gay Young, winner of the 2018 Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award, and Everett “EJ” Ford, winner of the 2018 Peter J. Salmon Employee of the Year Award at an April 18 awards banquet during the 2018 NIB/NAEPB National Symposium.

Young, who holds two Masters degrees, suffered progressive vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa. She came to Lighthouse Louisiana for orientation and mobility training, and learned of an opening for a product development manager, and applied. Since landing the position in January 2016 she has dedicated herself to both professional growth, completing NIB’s Effective Supervision program, and to positively impacting the lives of people who are blind by growing demand for products produced by Lighthouse Louisiana. Among her many accolades, in 2017 Young was appointed to the Louisiana Rehabilitation Council by Governor John Bel Edwards.

“Gay is an incredible asset to Lighthouse Louisiana. As our first product development manager who is blind, she helped add three new projects to the Procurement List, the list federal agencies must use to purchase products and services,” said Renee Vidrine, president and CEO of Lighthouse Louisiana. “In addition, Gay speaks on behalf of the Lighthouse, telling her personal story to impact the lives of people with disabilities across our entire state.”

Ford, a sewing machine operator at IFB Solutions in Asheville, North Carolina, joined the agency in 2011. Legally blind since birth, Ford sews a variety of clothing for the U.S. Army, including combat shirts, ponchos, and Army extreme weather outer-layer components. Drawing on his extensive knowledge and experience with sewing operations, Ford has helped the agency convert sighted positions to jobs for employees who are blind in addition to serving as chair of the plant’s Safety Team.

“EJ is incredibly hard working and will tackle any challenge without hesitation,” said IFB President and CEO David Horton. “What I admire most is his commitment to making things better for other people. He’s a leader at work, and people are inspired by his positive energy – it’s contagious.”

The Milton J. Samuelson Career Achievement Award honors individuals who are blind who demonstrate career advancement at an NIB associated nonprofit agency or in the private sector. The award is named for the late Milton J. Samuelson, a former NIB board member and past executive director of The Chicago Lighthouse for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired.

The Peter J. Salmon Award was created by NIB’s board of directors in 1968 to honor the accomplishments of employees who are blind working at NIB associated agencies who excel in their positions. The award is named for the late Dr. Peter J. Salmon, who was instrumental in passage of the Wagner-O’Day Act, the landmark legislation that led to the formation of NIB.

The award dinner was held at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, Va. The annual conference, hosted by NIB and the National Association for the Employment of People Who Are Blind, brings together hundreds of NIB and associated agency employees, partners and supporters to advance employment issues for people who are blind.


About NIB

Since 1938, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) has focused on enhancing the opportunities for economic and personal independence of people who are blind, primarily through creating, sustaining, and improving employment. NIB and its network of associated nonprofit agencies are the nation’s largest employer of people who are blind through the manufacture and provision of SKILCRAFT® and other products and services of the AbilityOne® Program. For more information about NIB, visit

About Lighthouse Louisiana

The mission of Lighthouse Louisiana is to empower people with disabilities through employment, services, and advocacy. A century-old nonprofit, Lighthouse Louisiana creates jobs for people who are blind through its state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Gulfport. Proceeds from the sale of its high-quality, commercially competitive products help fund services for people who are blind, deaf, or have other disabilities. For more information, visit

About IFB Solutions

IFB Solutions is a nonprofit corporation that provides employment, training, and services for people who are blind or visually impaired. In 2000, IFB began producing eyeglasses for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a customer partnership that remains today with IFB supplying eyeglasses to nearly 40 VA locations in the United States. As the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the United States, IFB operates an optical lab and a large-scale manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem, N.C., along with manufacturing facilities in Asheville, N.C., and Little Rock, Ark. Through its operations and community support, IFB Solutions funds programs for adults and children who are blind or visually impaired.