By Reinhard Mabry, told to the Eagle
Reinhard Mabry is the President and CEO of Alphapointe, which is based in Richmond Hill. Alphapointe enables people with vision loss to achieve their goals and aspirations. Founded in 1911, Alphapointe is the largest employer of blind people in New York City and is a trusted resource for people with vision loss, offering products and services nationwide.
How did your organization weather the pandemic?
Because of the essential products and services we provide to federal, state and local governments, Alphapointe has been viewed as an essential business. We have been working around the clock since the start of the pandemic. It has certainly been a challenge and, like most organizations, we have made adjustments to ensure that the safety and well-being of our staff remains our top priority. One of the things I’m most proud of is how quickly we were able to pivot during the pandemic based on the country’s priorities. For example, we have changed our production schedule so that we can make face masks and have made thousands of these masks that are in use by soldiers as we speak.
How are you serving your customers now?
Our work never stops and this is true regardless of the global pandemic. On the contrary, the need for our services has increased. The sad reality is that people who are blind or visually impaired have an unemployment rate of 70% under normal conditions. Early indications are that their unemployment rate has increased due to the pandemic. These people need jobs as much as anyone else. Alphapointe continues to actively recruit so that we can continue to manufacture the products that organizations and businesses need across the country, as well as place people who are blind and visually impaired in jobs in the community.
How do you balance the needs of your customers with the level of risk for your employees?
The situation is obviously unprecedented and there are no easy solutions. However, with all the decisions we make at Alphapointe, we always come back to our core mission of empowering people with vision loss to achieve their goals and aspirations. Without Alphapointe, many of our employees would not have jobs and many would not have access to the essential services they need. Having said that, I couldn’t be more proud of the work they’ve done over the past five months. We have a staff member whose one-way trip to our Richmond Hill facility has gone from approximately 45 minutes to over two hours due to transit adjustments. Yet she was at work, on time, every day. Our work is important and you can see it thanks to the dedication of our team members. I am very proud that we spent more than a year without lost time in our operations in New York, which underlines our focus on safety.
What types of support do you need the most right now?
The impact of the pandemic will be felt for years to come, especially in the nonprofit community. According to initial estimates, up to 25% of nonprofits in the country could go out of business. In this case, the reduction of essential services for those at risk will have catastrophic consequences. More than anything, we need the public to remain committed to supporting nonprofits like Alphapointe that provide these kinds of services because the livelihoods of millions of people are at stake. boat, but we need the public’s support to ensure that we can continue to provide life-changing services that have had positive effects on thousands of people.
What programs / services have you had to cut or cut, and are you hiring?
Like any organization, we have had to be flexible in this pandemic. But, as a core business, we did not downsize our operations and continued to operate uninterrupted to provide goods and services to organizations and individuals across the country. Due to our workload, we are actively seeking people for manufacturing-related positions at our Richmond Hill plant. We have over 138,000 square feet of space and we’re always on the lookout for people who want to work for an organization that truly makes a difference in people’s lives. For more information, people can visit Alphapointe.org for more details on these positions.
What’s the next step for your organization?
Alphapointe will continue to do what we do best, providing jobs and services to people with visual impairments. There is no doubt that we will face enormous challenges. Government agencies buy a significant portion of our manufactured goods and we forecast budget deficits across the country. Our task is to overcome these challenges and remain one of the largest employers / service providers for the blind and visually impaired in the country. I have no doubts that we will, but public support will remain critically important.
What do you think the future holds for your industry following the pandemic?
The honest answer is we don’t know, as we predict the ripple effects of the pandemic for years to come. What we do know is that every seven minutes someone in the United States loses their sight, and more than 6 million cases of eye disease occur in this country each year. We must continue to provide services and jobs to these people who are often overlooked and forgotten in our society. Alphapointe started in 1911 and has withstood extremely difficult situations over the past century. We will do well too, but we need the support of the community to provide these essential services that are so essential to the people we serve.
Learn more at Alphapointe.org.