Ms. Traylor, 44, recalls seeing the East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind van drive through her north Tyler neighborhood during her childhood, not knowing one day she would be on that van.
She was in the eighth grade when she became visually impaired. In the early 1970s, people couldn't understand why she had night blindness and would run over things, she said. One of her teachers conducted a field eye exam on her and recommended that she go to the Retina Foundation in Dallas. In 1985, she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.
Retinitis Pigmentosa refers to a group of inherited diseases causing retinal degeneration, according to www.blindness.org.
Ms. Traylor said she has no peripheral vision and was told the disease could eventually cause her to become totally blind.
But she has lived her life, able to dress herself, cook, clean and work. She has raised one son and two daughters, ages 23, 21 and 18, as a single parent. Her youngest daughter is a senior in high school.
She said there have been challenges, “but like they say, I'm an overcomer.
“Working and raising my kids, it hasn't been easy, but my family has really given me moral support,” she said, adding that her mother, late father, sisters and brother helped her raise her children.
“If it weren't for my mom, I wouldn't know what I would have done,” she said.
After graduating from John Tyler High School, she went through training at the State Commission for the Blind, where she learned about East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind. When she visited the Tyler organization and was asked if she wanted a job, she said, “I would love to work.”
Her first job there in 1988 was working on the towel line, packing paper towels in boxes.
She changes positions a lot and has held about 15 different jobs at Lighthouse, including working on parachute cords for about five years. She now works on the tissue line, packing all types of tissue.
Although there have been challenges with her work, she said, “I love it.”
She enjoys meeting all types of people who are visually impaired or totally blind, she said. “I love the people I work with. … I meet no stranger.”
She said they all come together to work as a team and get the job done.
Ms. Traylor is taking classes in early childhood development to further her education at Tyler Junior College.
“As long as I can work at the Lighthouse, I want to,” she said. “But I also want to venture out and do early childhood education.”
She said she worked in teaching people with disabilities for a little while before working at The Lighthouse, and she would like to become a teacher. Ms. Traylor also is a choir director at her church.
Ms. Traylor said she was “shocked” to learn she had been nominated, and then received, the 2013 Direct Labor Employee of the Year on Dec. 14. She also will represent East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind as the nominee for the national Peter J. Salmon Direct Labor Employee of the Year.
“Just to be nominated was good for me,” Ms. Traylor said of the award. “When I won, my heart stopped.”
Michelle Boyd, Career Path Manager at East Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, was selected on Dec. 14 as the Indirect Labor Employee of the Year and will be the nominee representing The Lighthouse for the National Milton J Samuelson Career Achievement Award.
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