Stories Like His

Dear Readers,

Did you know that Mississippi has the highest incidence of blindness per capita in the nation?  And that over 70% of people with severe visual impairments are not employed?  Thus, given these two statistics, Mississippi has the highest number of unemployed, blind individuals per capita in the country.

But the story below is one of hope and gratitude:

Greg Sylvest of Meridian, MS, first came to Mississippi Industries for the Blind at age 35, having been diagnosed with Glaucoma, “the second most common cause of blindness in the United States.”  Because of this disease, Greg began to lose his peripheral sight, causing what is commonly known as tunnel vision.  Upon finding out about this irreparable loss of sight, Greg was “shocked.”

“I couldn’t tell that’s what I had, but by the time I had it checked out, it was inoperable,” he told me during our interview.

Although Greg began to lose his vision, he did not lose his ability to work.  When asked what it was like to come to Mississippi Industries for the Blind as a new employee, he replied, “It was very good, very comforting to know I still had a place to work.  I knew I could come here and be encouraged by others who were also visually impaired.  We all work very well together.”

So, for the past fourteen years, Greg has worked as a welder for MIB Meridian, creating products from tow bars to ferrules to fish cookers to fence post pullers.  He was also awarded Employee of the Year in 2011, to which he says, “It was nice to know that I was meeting standards.” (Or rather, exceeding them).

Because of the employment opportunities created for him by Mississippi Industries for the Blind, and his own willingness to overcome his perceptual limitations, Greg can work and provide for himself.

I enjoy doing interviews like this and the one with Ms. Sandra Williams (see previous post) because it gives you, the reader, a context for the work we do as a foundation.  Greg’s and Sandra’s stories are only two out of hundreds like them.  There are still plenty of Mississippians with visual impairments that would love nothing more than a task at hand and financial self-reliance.  The foundation thus takes in donations to help purchase equipment and develop programs to then hire visually impaired individuals from around the state.

While we cannot change blindness, we can change what happens in the lives of those with visual impairments.  And it all starts with your help.


  1. I work in the office at MIB Meridian, and I can see why Greg won employee of the year! He is such a hard worker, never complains, hardly ever misses any time, and he is just a great person to work with (as are all the MIB employees.) I love my MIB family!!!

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