Stacy Sells admits, “When I was a young girl, my idol was Helen Keller. Seriously. By the fourth grade, I had read every book in the public library written about her life and her work. So I’ve always had an interest in the work and progress by those who help the visually and hearing impaired.” This inspiration became even more important after her late father, Bob Sells, was diagnosed with macular degeneration. She remembers, “His greatest loss was the inability to read the newspaper each day. As a lifelong public relations professional, he felt stripped of his ability to stay up to date on the local news and that was a harder hit for him than his inability to drive.”
Stacy recalls her father’s longing for the feeling of the newspaper between his fingers and the action of moving through the sections at his own pace after he lost his vision. “We reached out to a low vision center and got him a desktop video magnifier. With this tool, he was able to read the newspaper again, gaining back a favorite pastime and a little bit of the independence he’d lost.” Similar to her family’s solution for her father, IFB gives these visually impaired or blind communities a renewed independence with employment and solutions in every aspect of life.
IFB Solutions, formerly Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind, is the largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired in the country. The Little Rock facility staffs 140 people, with 70% being blind or visually impaired. These people work at specially fabricated workstations that allow them to safely and effectively manufacture multiple products including paper products and textiles for the armed forces. In addition to employment and training, IFB Solutions provides an invaluable community service through the Community Low Vision Center. At the CLVC, the low-vision community not only copes but, sees the possibilities of a better tomorrow. Through state-of-the-art technology and free training, quality of life, and a sense of independence, is improved – from completing tasks around the house to using a computer at work. These tasks are sometimes only enjoyed by people with full sight, but they become a reality for this group. Stacy exclaims, “There’s a wide range and diversity of jobs that can be performed by those with visual limitations. It’s the hope of IFB Solutions to serve as a model for employing this special group who are often not recognized for the many employable skills they possess. It’s a real treat to spend an hour at the facility, to see the employees engaged in their work and feeling very proud about their contributions and economic independence.”
This personal commitment and passion for helping the visually and hearing impaired is now a calling in Stacy’s life. Sells has served on the board of directors for Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind from 2006-2010 as well as chairing ALB’s Dining in the Dark in 2010. Sells is also passionate about public education. “In the end, the ultimate goal of school reform is very similar to the mission of IFB – to help people realize their full potential and receive the education and training they need to pursue a productive life as an adult. The job training aspect of IFB is life changing and gives many people who are blind or visually impaired independence and employment for the very first time,” Sells remarks. Stacy is the embodiment of insight and experience that makes her the perfect honorary chair for this year’s ALB’s fundraiser Bingo for Bags.
IFB and its mission to educate, employ and serve Arkansans who are blind or visually impaired is not only honorable, but necessary – with Arkansas having the largest population of people who are blind or visually impaired per capita than any other state. It requires remarkable resources to continue IFB’s impactful mission fulfillment work. Proceeds from this year’s Bingo for Bags – on September 19 at Chenal Country – will support the Community Low Vision Center. The high energy evening of bingo, where guests win designer handbags, is a fun + engaging way to educate the public to the needs that IFB serves. After 10 games of BINGO, winners take home a generously donated purse, bag or accessory valued at $200 or more. An amazing, curated silent auction will bring even more excitement – including vacations, jewelry, eyewear and premium health and beauty products. Individual tickets and event sponsorships are still available – along with heavy hors d’oeuvres and an open bar at the event.
Join forces with IFB and purchase a ticket or sponsorship to support hope and opportunity for the visually impaired. Whether it is on the job training or technology to gain independence in the home, the work of IFB Solutions is necessary for a better Arkansas and hopeful tomorrow for this significant and under-recognized group of citizens.