Finding a job has always been hard for Nathan Southern, who is visually impaired.
But Southern is now an assistant manager at Sightly Worn Thrift Store, opened by the Raleigh Lions Clinic for the Blind last spring.
The store, located on Noblin Road just off the Beltline, employs blind and visually impaired workers and provides on-the-job training for students. It gives people with limited sight a chance to work and ultimately gain independence, Southern said.
“It’s hard to find a job when you’re visually impaired or blind,” said Southern, 36, who lost some of his vision as a child after undergoing brain surgery.
He used to work in processing and manufacturing for the Raleigh Lions Clinic for the Blind, or RLCB, which has provided manufacturing services to commercial and government entities since 1966.
The group, formed by the Raleigh Lions Club and the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind, helps blind and visually impaired people gain skills and workplace experience.
Profits from Sightly Worn benefit ongoing RLCB programs with employment opportunities, including showing potential employers that people with limited or no sight can be efficient workers.
“It’s education,” said Janet Griffey, president of RLCB. “Especially with technology, anybody can do anything that any sighted person can do.”
Sightly Worn looks and operates like a regular thrift store. Recently, Southern created Christmas displays and has a special corner dedicated to photography, one of his favorite pastimes. Southern studied photography and graphic design at Johnston Community College.
He also helps 19-year-old Ryan Hayes, a student at The Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh, get acclimated to a professional environment as part of the store’s job-training mission.
The store trains two students for three months at a time, Griffey said. They hang and sort clothes and rearrange the store to make room for new donations.
If they are able, students can also learn how to operate the special register that magnifies the screen for people with limited vision.
Hayes has been blind his whole life. He relies on his sense of touch to do his work at Sightly Worn.
“For the most part, I can tell what’s what by touch,” he said. “That’s how I explore – by touching things.”
He often sorts through donated clothes and helps hang them. He feels for the tags, a skill he learned so he could tell if his own clothes are on backwards or inside-out.
“People are surprised to see (Ryan) working,” Southern said. “It catches them off guard.”
If you go
Sightly Worn is open for shopping and donations from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. The thrift store is located at 2701 Noblin Road, Raleigh.