ShareThis Page

Westmoreland County Blind Association building brimming with activity

Dawn Law
| Thursday, May 21, 2015, 4:24 p.m.
Lori Mosley of Greensburg is an embroidery technicianat the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Lori Mosley of Greensburg is an embroidery technicianat the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Aisha Tate of Connellsville (back), a direct care worker in the Adult Training Facility, works on life skills with Lacey Lukondi of North Huntingdon, Diana Steele of Derry and Allison Lukondi of North Huntingdon at the Westmoreland County Blind Association on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Aisha Tate of Connellsville (back), a direct care worker in the Adult Training Facility, works on life skills with Lacey Lukondi of North Huntingdon, Diana Steele of Derry and Allison Lukondi of North Huntingdon at the Westmoreland County Blind Association on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Tim Miller, (center), interim CEO at the Westmoreland County Blind Association, interacts with employees (left) Billy Crawford of Latrobe and Stephen Short of Hempfield in the shredding area.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Tim Miller, (center), interim CEO at the Westmoreland County Blind Association, interacts with employees (left) Billy Crawford of Latrobe and Stephen Short of Hempfield in the shredding area.
Tim Miller, (center), interim CEO at the Westmoreland County Blind Association, interacts with employees (left) David Marks of New Stanton and Stephen Short of Hempfield in the shredding area.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Tim Miller, (center), interim CEO at the Westmoreland County Blind Association, interacts with employees (left) David Marks of New Stanton and Stephen Short of Hempfield in the shredding area.
Tim Miller, (right), interim CEO at the Westmoreland County Blind Association, interacts with Steven Fekete of Greensburg in the shredding area.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Tim Miller, (right), interim CEO at the Westmoreland County Blind Association, interacts with Steven Fekete of Greensburg in the shredding area.
Warehouse employee Mike Evangelist carries a bale of shredded paper at the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Warehouse employee Mike Evangelist carries a bale of shredded paper at the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Patricia Leasure of Greensburg works at a sewing machine making bags for the military at the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Patricia Leasure of Greensburg works at a sewing machine making bags for the military at the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Dwayne Christi of Clairton puts grommets on a bags for a military order at the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Dwayne Christi of Clairton puts grommets on a bags for a military order at the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Ed Irwin of Ligonier and Tim Lockett of Latrobe work at sewing machines at the Westmoreland County Blind Association on Thursday afternoon, April 30, 2015.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Ed Irwin of Ligonier and Tim Lockett of Latrobe work at sewing machines at the Westmoreland County Blind Association on Thursday afternoon, April 30, 2015.
Dave Barber of Greensburg is accompanied by his service dog Buckley while working in the sewing department at the Westmoreland County Blind Association.
Kim Stepinsky | for TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Dave Barber of Greensburg is accompanied by his service dog Buckley while working in the sewing department at the Westmoreland County Blind Association.

The plain tan-colored building with the giant American flag along Main Street in Greensburg belies the hive of activity inside, where the chatter from 125 Westmoreland County Blind Association workers is constant and the mood is cheerful.

Management encourages pajama parties and pizza lunches for the workers in the 62,000-square foot building of warehouse, office and store.

“When I leave here, my heart feels 10 times bigger,” fundraising coordinator Debra Sabatine said. “No aches and pains here – they're so happy to have a job.”

Physically and mentally challenged workers enjoy steady employment at the association's document destruction program, which shreds 1.5 million pounds of paper for recycling each year. Clients are attorneys, CPAs, banks and schools.

The association has provided employment, services and programming to the blind in Westmoreland County since 1948. The nonprofit has a board of directors whose goal is to maintain independence and a high quality of life for association clients.

Interim CEO and President Tim Miller visits frequently and knows all of the workers by name. They bump fists and talk as he moves along the line. He's been with the blind association since he went to college and got a master's degree in social work.

Miller, 53, is a husband and father of three and has low vision.

“It's never stopped me from doing anything,” he says, and the attitude is picked up by those around him.

The first workers in the lineup remove metal clips and staples, providing a steady feed of loose paper for about 30 shredders.

Stephen Short, 54 of Hempfield, said having a job means he can save money and make friends.

“I buy stuff of my own,” Short said. “When I have problems, I talk to Tim.”

Blind and visually impaired people work in the manufacturing room, where the whir of sewing machines is constant.

Cindy Ziller, 45, of Jeannette clipped strings off parts for bags being shipped to U.S. military in Afghanistan as part of the association's contract with the Department of Defense. She's blind and uses a service dog and a cab to get to work.

In the custom embroidery department, workers can personalize hats, shirts, towels, blankets – just about anything. One recent order was for eight pink-and white-stitched bathrobes for a bridal party. Orders for embroidery are taken in the store or by calling 724-837-1250. The Embroidery Store also has pre-made items for sale.

The specialized services department offers caseworkers dedicated to going to the homes of blind clients and taking them to doctors' appointments, grocery shopping and other errands. Funding cuts have made fundraisers for these programs even more important. Upcoming evens include a “Paint Your Pet” event at the blind association building and a golf outing June 19 at Norvelt Golf Club.

The association focuses on blindness prevention by providing screenings in elementary schools and educational information to the elderly and others who are experiencing vision issues.

Dawn Law is a contributing writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.