– About us

Blind employee assembling material.

Our History

Bestwork Industries for the Blind, Inc. (BIB) was founded by Jim Varsaci, a veteran of WWII who lost his sight in battle. When Jim returned home wounded and blind, he and his wife, Rita, worked side by side until well after dark on their farm in New Jersey. That same tenacious spirit led Jim to become a manager in a program funded by the New Jersey Commission for the Blind (NJCBVI), known as Contract Shop #3. This employment program for people who are blind serviced companies such as Campbell Soup and RCA with packing, mailing, and assembly work. Rita became a sewing instructor for NJCBVI.

When state funding ran out for Contract Shop #3, Jim was determined to prevent job losses for his colleagues who so desperately needed employment. Seeking help from private citizens, the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, and National Industries for the Blind, he was able to launch Bestwork Industries for the Blind, Inc. as a private, not-for-profit agency on September 14, 1981. Times were tough at first, and Jim and Rita worked two years without drawing a salary.

Varsaci learned that there were federal government contracts available through the JWOD (Javits, Wagner, O’Day) program for workers who are blind or visually impaired. With the help of Bestwork’s Board of Directors and National Industries for the Blind, Varsaci secured Bestwork’s first JWOD contract. Under the organization’s operating philosophy of high quality, on-time delivery, Bestwork’s reputation brought about more contracts with the Army, Navy, and GSA. What began as a Contract Shop with a few employees has grown into a multi-million-dollar enterprise, successfully partnering with Fortune 500 companies. Bestwork has adopted the universally recognized best practices of Lean Manufacturing and ISO 9001:2015 certification.

 

Board of Directors

John D. Shaw – Chairman
Former VP, Operations Battleship New Jersey

Louis J. Jablonski Jr – Vice-Chairman
President, Argo Contact Centers

Brian Katz – Treasurer
Retired Tax Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

Kenneth Saunders – Secretary
Retired Quality Assurance Specialist, General Service Administration

Claire Allamby
Chief Advancement Officer, EducationWorks

Julie Natale Fenton
Retired Risk and Assurance Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

James R. Howe
Retired Educator, Haddon Heights Jr/Sr High School

Jim Kehoe
President – Trenton, Tonio Burgos and Associates of New Jersey LLC

Warren Pross
Retired Educator, Magnolia Schools

A. Richard Ross, Jr. 
Drug Court Liaison, My Father’s House Inc.

Alfred X. Zarroli
Certified Financial Planner™ Practitioner

 

Our Values

Two philosophies underpin the way Bestwork operates: the pursuit of excellence and pride in offering real jobs that generate self-sustaining revenue for this mission-based business. On a daily basis, several values bring these philosophies to life:

  • To RESPECT all individuals, appreciate their contributions to the team, and provide opportunities.
  • To embrace CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT as fundamental to exceeding our own and our customers’ expectations.
  • To foster a learning environment that encourages INNOVATION and leads to new pathways.
  • To exhibit ACCOUNTABILITY through open and transparent communication, mission-based decision making, and healthy employee and business relationships.
  • To encourage a sense of ownership, consistency, and LEADERSHIP at all levels.

 

Message from the President & CEO

Jon Katz

Bestwork Industries has committed to embark on a journey to evolve from a self-sustaining manufacturing business into a full-scale, ‘best-in-class’ social enterprise. I am honored to have been selected by the Board of Directors to lead this transformation.

We are in the beginning stages and, like the caterpillar turning into the butterfly, change takes time. Right now, we are laying the foundation – staff, infrastructure, policies, processes, and procedures – to absorb expansion and growth.

I have selected my Leadership Team and, with my CEO vision for strategic implementation in hand, I have empowered them to drive the operational metamorphosis. We are focused on growth – increasing employment opportunities for people who are blind through the creation of new lines of business and market diversification. We are equally focused on workforce development – quality workforce environment initiatives with the backdrop of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are also launching robust fundraising campaigns to allow us to become a provider of rehabilitative services to people experiencing vision loss in this underserved population center.

In addition to retaining our core capabilities in textile-apparel manufacturing, we are pursuing packaging, kitting and light assembly projects, as well as creating the framework for knowledge-based jobs in Human Resources, Sales, and Marketing to name a few.

We are partnering with state, local, and private organizations to implement high school internship and transition programs that lead to employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired.

We are also partnering with state agencies and low vision experts to create a Sight Center on-site here in Cherry Hill where we will perform low vision screenings and offer orientation and mobility rehabilitation services that include but are not limited to life skills, business skills, and adaptive technology training.

Exciting times lie ahead for Bestwork, and I am proud to lead this team as we step off into this new frontier.

Sincerely,
Jon Katz

“I have served on the Board of Directors for Bestwork Industries for the Blind for more than ten years and am now honored to serve as Board Chair. In that time, I have learned a great deal. Initially I, like some people, was surprised even in awe when I saw someone who is blind operating a highspeed sewing machine and turning out a perfect piece of clothing. Here at Bestwork we know that people who are blind can do more things than most people realize. This is why Bestwork Industries is so important. We take responsibility for designing our workplace and operations to position people who are blind or visually impaired to excel. It is up to us, as a society and an employer, to take whatever steps we can – use technology, make modifications – to correct for a system where 70% of working-aged adults who are blind are unemployed.”
Jack Shaw
Board Chair

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