Local News

Raleigh Workers See Opportunity In Helping Suit Up U.S. Troops

Posted December 4, 2001 9:37 a.m. EST

— Some equipment being used by U.S. troops fighting the war in Afghanistan is made in Raleigh by people who are visually impaired.

"I don't know that much about what's going on out there as far as the war is concerned, but I feel good about trying to do my part to help and contribute," Marva Robinson said.

At the Raleigh Lions Clinic for the Blind, Robinson and others make combat suspenders for military personnel.

For 35 years, the clinic has provided jobs for people who might not otherwise have had an opportunity to work.

"We evaluate their skills, we train them. We place them, preferably, in private industry, but a lot remain and stay with us," said James Wells, president of the Raleigh Lions Clinic For the Blind.

Those who stay have a key role in equipping America's armed forces in combat. The clinic manufactures many items, including trouser liners for soldiers and parachute bags for paratroopers.

Next month, the clinic will start making thousands of parka roughs to keep troops warm in the cold Afghanistan winter. Plans are also in the works for a newly-designed backpack.

All of the items will be made with computerized machines that help blind people overcome their physical challenge.

"It makes me feel real independent. I can make my own living," worker Alice Kelly said.

The win-win arrangement allows workers like Kelly to maintain their individual freedom, while providing the tools for the military to defend the freedom of all Americans.

Workers at the clinic are paid comparable wages to able-bodied employees in the private sector and their work is held to the same standards as anyplace else.