Congratulations to Senior Production Worker Greg Szabo and Help Desk Technician / Front Office Support Larry Irvin who were named as The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc.’s 2012 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 National Harbor, MD for the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) National Conference and Expo in October. Larry Irvin will compete as an indirect labor representative for the Milton J. Samuelson Award and Greg Szabo will compete as a direct labor representative for the Peter J. Salmon Award.
“The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. is a great organization that has improved my life immensely,” says Greg Szabo, Senior Production Worker at Inland Northwest Lighthouse (INL) in Spokane, WA. “People should take a tour of the Lighthouse just to see how functional a person with visual disabililites can be, and to enlighten them as to what we are capable of.”
Growing up in a small community of Aurora, Illinois, Greg was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), and began experiencing severe problems with his eyesight at the age of 22. He graduated from Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, IL with an AA degree in Liberal Arts with a focus on Journalism. “The town I lived in had no public transportation, so finding work was difficult,” Greg notes. “It wasn’t until I moved to Portland in August of 2010 that I found work at an indoor dog park; a good six years after graduating college.”
While living in Portland, Greg became involved with goalball, a team sport designed for athletes who are blind. While participating in a goalball tournament in Portland, a friend of his visiting from Spokane watched him play, and enlisted him to help out a fledgling team in Spokane (called the Spokane Spin) get their team organized and off the ground. It was in this relationship that Greg met several employees of INL and learned about the organization and its mission. He was swiftly hired into the organization and now plays and coaches the Spokane Spin team.
“I’ve gained experience on a lot of machinery I never thought I would work on. Being an internal auditor is something I never thought I’d be involved with.”
— Greg Szabo, Production Worker, Sr.
“My favorite thing about working at the Lighthouse is having people around you understand and realize that individuals who are blind are capable of anything,” Greg adds. “I love being able to show other individuals who are blind the skills I’ve obtained throughout my life, both in independent living and work skills. I’ve gained experience on a lot of machinery I never thought I would work on. Being an internal auditor is something I never thought I’d be involved with.”
When Greg isn’t hard at work at INL, he coaches and plays center in goalball, is an active guitar player and songwriter, and also enjoys hiking with his guide dog Finn.
Larry grew up in Saginaw, Michigan and began losing his sight in 1999 due to complications from retinopathy (detached retinas). He spent much of his time growing up playing trombone, and was invited to play jazz sessions at the Rueben Daniel Lifelong Learning Center. After high school he went to ITT Technical Institute in Grand Rapids, MI and received a certificate in electronic eningeering. “I learned a lot about components, and my mom still as a transistor radio I built from scratch for a class project,” he reminisces.
“I truly like the Lighthouse and what it stands for. I really like the different training programs under Employee and Community Services (ECS). It’s incredible that accessibility is a mandate here and built into every aspect of the work environment.”
— Larry Irvin, Help Desk Technician and Front Office Support Specialist
Although Larry didn’t pursue trombone further, he continued his musical career through DJ’ing at a local roller rink and his uncle’s night club. He took a trip to Washington to help his cousin move to the Tacoma area, and it was there that he made some connections in the Northwest music scene at a record store in Tillicum, WA. He relocated to Tacoma and began working with a music production group from 1992 to 1999. As his eyesight began to wane he learned how to use screen magnifying software called ZoomText, and was able to continue working on producing music. During this time Larry was on Social Security Income, and in search of work he was referred to the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind (DSB), and enrolled in the Orientation and Training Center (OTC) program. He was granted a supervised internship at The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., where he began doing HelpDesk work. “I didn’t think I would ever work again,” he notes. “I always had a job since I was 15 years old, and it was a relief to find work at the Lighthouse.”
Larry continues, “I truly like the Lighthouse and what it stands for. I really like the different training programs under Employee and Community Services (ECS). It’s incredible that accessibility is a mandate here and built into every aspect of the work environment.” When asked about winning the Employee of the Year award, he is certainly grateful. “I really like helping people; whether it’s at home or at work. To me the award is a sign of appreciation, and I’m just happy that I’m appreciated for the work that I do.”
When Larry isn’t busy troubleshooting computer issues or working the front desk area, he spends his time recording music, DJ’ing, doing pre-production, making beats, and spending time with his wife Charthy, his son Donnelle (10) and Charecca (20), and his newly born grandson Jerell.