Congratulations to our 2011 Employees of the Year!
Congratulations to Production Worker, Sr. Jeff Kuebler (pictured left) and Production and Injection Mold Manager Linda Elliott (pictured right) who were named as The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.’s 2011 Employees of the Year!
These awards are given for leadership in the blindness field to visually impaired employees who display outstanding personal and professional qualities. They will both travel to Baltimore, MD for the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) National Conference and Expo in October. Linda Elliott will compete as an indirect labor representative for the Milton J. Samuelson Award and Jeff Kuebler will compete as a direct labor representative for the Peter J. Salmon Award.
Jeff Kuebler was 25 years old when he fully lost his vision to Retinitis Pigmentosa, a condition he had since birth. Going to school had become increasingly difficult as his vision deteriorated, and many of the assistive technologies used by people who are blind today were not readily available back then. “[Finding work] was very difficult. I did a variety of manual labor-type jobs because I still had some vision, but it kept getting harder and harder as I was losing my sight,” Jeff remembers.
After graduating high school, Jeff spent two years at Bellevue Community College taking general studies. He found out about The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. through the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind, and in 1988 came in for an assessment of his skills. “I wanted to work at the Lighthouse because I’d always worked my whole life, and I knew that the Lighthouse was one of the only places that would hire me at the time,” he notes. “In March of 1989, they hired me on as a Production Worker and I’ve been here ever since.”
Jeff has spent much time cross training in various production positions at the Lighthouse, from assembly and machine operation, to his current work in the Injection Mold shop. “I’ve learned how to work as a team with other people. Helping co-workers out, them helping me… it’s all a group effort.”
When Jeff is not busy with his responsibilities at the Lighthouse, he enjoys being active in his church, taking his guide dog Polo out for walks, exercising, and cross-country skiing.
“The Lighthouse mission is my passion,” says Injection Mold Shop and Production Manager Linda Elliott. “For the last 28 years I’ve lived the mission. I’m a person who is legally blind, who has been provided opportunities to further my independence and self-sufficiency here at the Lighthouse. As a manager and supervisor now of others who are blind, Deaf-Blind, and blind with other disabilities, I consider it my turn to pass those opportunities forward by encouraging and supporting the efforts of those I supervise in expanding their own opportunities”
Linda became visually impaired in 1974 as a result of Histoplasmosis, which caused her to lose her central vision. As a result, she was no longer able to drive her car. This was the hardest adjustment of all as it took away her independence at that time. “Due to my vision, I lost my job at the Fence Company where I worked, and was forced to go on Supplemental Security Income (SSI),” Linda recalls. “I had a landlord who owned a lot of houses. He let me work for him part time, mucking out and helping him fix up his rentals. In the mean time, I was adjusting to my blindness and working with Washington State Department of Services for the Blind (DSB). At the end of 1982, DSB told me about the Lighthouse, and arrangements were made for me to be evaluated. Finally because of the Lighthouse and its mission, I received a new lease on life.”
Linda began as a Production Worker back in 1983, and during her tenure has advanced to Set-Up Machinist, Lead, Supervisor, and eventually to her current role as Production Manager. Linda is well known for her superior leadership skills, and many of her production staff have eventually advanced into indirect labor positions. “Everything I’ve accomplished at the Lighthouse is because I’ve had management support and employees willing to try new things, learn, and get the product out the door for the customer. Without the employees’ contribution, I would not be as successful. They make me look good.”
When not busily managing the Lighthouse’s production areas, Linda’s live revolves around her husband Ed, her two daughters Robyn and Hannah, her two grandchildren Katy and Robert, and being involved in her church and community.