'It's hard to walk into a job interview with a cane.'

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

By Jennings Fort
AT&T Insider Staff Writer

Dennis Pike doesn’t work for AT&T. And he can’t really see and enjoy many of the products we have to offer. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t having a lasting impact on his life.

Dennis works for the Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth. Lighthouse, a non-profit organization, employs people with limited or no vision and helps them gain or keep their independence. And for the past 2 years, one of our suppliers, Precision Containers, has contracted with Lighthouse in Fort Worth, Texas, to assemble the small, custom-made cardboard boxes our customers need to return a phone to us.

“It’s hard to walk into a job interview with a cane,” Dennis said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with AT&T. It means a lot to me to be able to help my grandkids. This job lets you contribute to society. It means I’m out there doing something.”

Each month, a team of 5 to 6 assembles 20,000-30,000 of these boxes.

“Precision saw an opportunity and came to us,” said Mark Wallace in AT&T’s Supply Chain organization. “They said, ‘What’s your reaction?’ And we said, ‘This is totally cool.’ ”

A natural fit

It started when a mutual connection introduced Precision Container to the Fort Worth Lighthouse, one of many similar organizations around the country. In a few weeks, the need for assembling the boxes came up. And Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth was well positioned to do the job.

“We want to support our community as much as we can, and this is a natural fit. We’re changing lives by supporting this process,” Mark said.

Everyone involved agrees that this relationship is a win-win-win: good business, community support and great jobs for a hard-working team.

“We’re always looking for innovative solutions,” said Ryan Thomas, president of Precision Container. “And that includes strong corporate citizenship. We know that AT&T shares these values.”

The unemployment rate for people who are blind is upwards of 70%, and well-paying jobs like these are rare.

”The vast majority are unemployed, and those who have jobs are typically underemployed, even though they might have a college degree,” said Platt Allen III, President/CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth. “This project speaks a lot to AT&T’s commitment to our community.”

'You feel good about yourself'

The assembly line jobs involve folding the boxes together and inserting a plastic bag to cushion the phones. The employees can develop these and other skills they can take with them to future positions. The team says they enjoy the work and the community they’ve found. And they love the sense of accomplishment.

 “I love it,” said Gayle Scott, who’s had several jobs at Lighthouse over 19 years. “I like to work fast and there’s so much opportunity here.”

 “It really builds your self-worth,” said Anthony Bridges, an employee for 6 years. “It’s a chance to take care of your family. You feel good about yourself.”