Congratulations to our 2014 Employees of the Year!
Congratulations to Production Worker Mae Lynn Mullen and AbilityOne Supervisor Carla Abbott, who were named as The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.’s 2014 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 Crystal City, VA for the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) National Conference and Expo in October. Carla Abbott will compete as an indirect labor representative for the Milton J. Samuelson Award and Mae Lynn Mullen will compete as a direct labor representative for the Peter J. Salmon Award.
Mae Lynn Mullen
Since starting at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., Mae Lynn Mullen has worked diligently in various areas of production, leading to her current position in aerospace assembly. “There are interpreters available to communicate between Deaf-Blind and hearing employees,”* Mae notes. “We are provided training, so if there are people who want to learn American Sign Language (ASL) so they can communicate with Deaf-Blind employees. I really love working one-on-one with people and being able to teach them some ASL.”
Born with retinitis pigmentosa coupled with deafness, Mae’s condition is commonly known as Usher’s Syndrome I. Adopted at the age of five from Seoul, South Korea, Mae moved to the U.S. and entered the public school system in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She took ASL classes and eventually would join the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in her last two years of high school. After graduation she attended community college in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a few years before making a move to the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC) in New York. “HKNC provided independent living skills, training, and a lot of experience. It helped me become more independent and able to make decisions on how to live my life with vision loss,” she reminisces. After her experience at HKNC, Mae went back to community college for a year and then transferred to Gallaudet University to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in child development.
Mae accepted a position at the Lighthouse working on air ducts and relocated to the Pacific Northwest in 2006. She has been very active in the Deaf-Blind community in Seattle, and regularly participates in Deaf-Blind Community Classes (DBCC) facilitated by the Lighthouse. “I’ve learned a lot from the DBCC and it’s a great opportunity to learn about topics and socialize with other people in the community. It’s fun and also educational.” Mae was flattered by the recognition of her peers in winning the Employee of the Year award. “I just felt honored that my fellow coworkers voted for me; that they see my work and appreciate my attitude.”
Outside of her work at the Lighthouse, Mae is very active with Washington State Deaf-Blind Citizens (WSDBC), volunteering, and running half-marathons. Recently diagnosed with cancer last year, Mae had to withdraw from a series of events she was to run. “I have two goals now, one to win a battle against cancer so I can return to running again — I won’t let cancer take away my life where I can enjoy and finish my goal for running a full marathon; my second goal to demonstrate to my Deaf-Blind and blind peers my commitment to helping others through participation in events to raise money for cancer prevention.”
* — Mae’s comments were translated from American Sign Language into English by an interpreter.
“The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. gives us great opportunities and benefits that most other employers do not,” says Carla Abbott, Lighthouse AbilityOne Supervisor. “They give us access to technology and training to enhance our upward mobility. We are able to learn that technology and skills and pass that knowledge on to one another.” Going on her tenth year at the Lighthouse, Carla is the proud recipient of the 2014 Employee of the Year Award for indirect labor.
Born visually impaired from macular degeneration and congenital aniridia, Carla grew up in the public school system in Seattle after moving from Arizona when she was five. Nearing the end of her education at Evergreen High School, she found work in maintenance and janitorial services, and eventually went on to find work doing landscaping for an apartment complex. “I kept working for that same company for six years. I learned light maintenance, cleaning, painting, office skills, and eventually became a manager through upward mobility,” she noted.
In 2005 Carla found out about opportunities at the Lighthouse and quickly found a job in production. “I started as a production worker in part marking in the Machine Shop, and a few years later I got promoted to lead in the part marking area. My goal was to become a supervisor one day, so I asked my supervisor if I could take training through Archbright (formerly WA opportunities).” After taking several leadership and supervisory training courses, Carla completed the Effective Supervision program from National Industries for the Blind (NIB).
Well recognized by her peers as an exemplary leader, Carla was flattered to discover that she won the Employee of the Year Award. “It means a lot to me that I was respected by my coworkers and that they felt that I worked hard and was committed to helping my staff grow. There were really great candidates this year; everyone had good stories and skills to offer the Lighthouse and I’m honored to be selected.”
When not helping out her coworkers on the production floor, Carla is a grand master 7th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do; one of the few highest-ranking women in the Pacific Northwest. She also received a lifetime achievement award from her dojo the same day she was awarded the Employee of the Year award. In her spare time, she enjoys going fishing, bike riding, and going out to movies.