Helping people who are blind achieve personal and economic independence

Lion Services is celebrating 88 years of service in Charlotte.
Lion Services is celebrating 88 years of service.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 5:53 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The hope of living with a handicap: Lion Services is celebrating 88 years of service in Charlotte.

Their mission? To help people who are blind achieve personal and economic independence through employment opportunities. Lions Services produces high-quality military combat gear.

In Charlotte, at least 16,000 people are living with vision loss.

For the last 28 years, Lion Services on North Tryon St. has helped those who have lost the gift of vision not only find skills but hope for a future.

WBTV’s photojournalist Gregory Simpson brought us this story on On Your Side Tonight with Jamie Boll.

Bonnie English was impacted by vision loss. She found hope through Lion Services following the referral from her doctor.

“About 30 years ago, I started losing eyesight pretty rapidly, actually,” said English. “And I went to the doctor, and they worked really hard to try to diagnose what was wrong with me. It ended up being optic Aratus. I lost a lot of vision due to not knowing what was wrong with me.”

“I can’t see anything on paper. One [eye], I can’t see anything out of it. And the other one is just very, very cloudy. I was working [in] my professional job for about 20 years at that time, and I couldn’t see anything on paper. So, I had to relinquish that job. I got very depressed. When I came to Lion Services, it was just absolutely remarkable. I had no idea that a place like this existed.”

“When I’m here, I’m just free. I am just a free person. No anxieties at all when I’m here. And I’m independent. I feel like I’ve been rehabilitated here. And you know, when I started my journey, nobody told me it will be easy. I hit a lot of bumps in the road.”

Agatha Bisbikis works for Lion Services. She spoke to WBTV about the employment opportunities Lion Services has provided to individuals with disabilities over the years.

“We offer employment opportunities to individuals and we have a manufacturing facility celebrating 88 years in service. We have employed many people over the years from different areas on our production floor”

“We manufacture military textile apparel... Most of the people that we employ here are either totally blind or visually impaired. There are different spectrums of being blind and visually impaired. Some employees, for example, can see shadows. Some people can see just lights.”

“Other people can see very well but rely on handheld magnifiers to read documents. We have a trainer on staff that trains and assesses all employees, we are able to employ people to operate sewing machines through automated technology.”

Statistics show that 70% of people who are blind or visually impaired are unemployed in the city of Charlotte. There just are not enough opportunities out there. So one of the things Lion Services is doing to change statistics is offering employment to people who are blind and visually impaired. It helps people become independent, take care of themselves. It gives people hope. It gives them an opportunity...”