Blind workers pivot to help produce hand sanitizer and other products to help fight coronavirus

Coronavirus

A traveller uses hand sanitizer from a dispenser at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

AUSTIN, Texas — An Austin non-profit has stepped up to assist those fighting the coronavirus by helping in the production of products that work to stop the spread of the pandemic.

The Austin Lighthouse for the Blind is an organization that aims to help people build or restore independence through skill training and employment opportunities. It has been in operation since 1934 helping blind and visually impaired people in Travis County with training, education and community outreach.

Austin Lighthouse for the Blind produces products such as hand sanitizers and soaps for brands including GOJO’s PURELL®. The organization has decided to increase its production on shipping lines, triple employee count on the lines, hire 20 additional temporary workers and invest $100,000 for more equipment at its facilities.

“We have a manufacturing and warehousing and distribution center that is making and shipping products people need right now during this global pandemic—an immense point of pride for our workers and the people of Austin,” Jim Meehan, CEO of Austin Lighthouse, said.

“At a time when many are being furloughed or are having to seek new careers, we are grateful to be hiring and increasing service of our local and federal governments as well as commercial brands like Purell, which are keeping so many safe in the face of this health crisis.”

Austin Lighthouse is considered an essential business with an essential critical infrastructure by the state and federal government. It is now operating with 50% longer days and seven days a week. They are producing products such as hand sanitizer and body armor.

The organization continues to employ proper social distancing guidelines, enhanced sanitation protocols and shift changes. It has also installed ultraviolet lights at its facility.

According to Austin Lighthouse, the organization has maintained full employment during the pandemic, even growing its workforce. According to the organization, one of its contracts has increased over 330% in the past two months.

“At a time when the resilience and adaptability of Austin and our business community are being tested, this manufacturing deal and growth in production demand for Austin Lighthouse is not only symbolic of our resolve to serve but it is also a beacon of hope for us all,” Laura Huffman, president and CEO of Austin Chamber of Commerce, said.

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