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.
Bestwork Industries for the Blind, Inc. is a private not-for-profit corporation dedicated to improving the quality of life for people who are blind by providing training and employment opportunities in a supportive work environment.
Jon Katz – President & CEO
Ed Thomas – Director of Operations
Linda Parker – Human Resources Manager
Gregory Pereira – Controller
Jacqueline Luke-Herman – Operations Manager
David Graham – Production & Logistics Manager
Kenon Hollis – Inventory Manager
Joanne Farrell – Training Manager
Michael Applegate – Quality Control Manager
Board of Directors
John D. Shaw – Chairman
Former VP, Operations Battleship New Jersey
Joyce Albrecht – Vice-Chairman
Retired Educator, Haddon Heights Jr/Sr High School
Brian Katz – Treasurer
Retired Tax Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
Kenneth Saunders – Secretary
Retired Quality Assurance Specialist, General Service Administration
James R. Howe
Retired Educator, Haddon Heights Jr/Sr High School
Retired Educator, Magnolia Schools
Alfred X. Zarroli
Certified Financial Planner™ Practitioner
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 opportunity.
- 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
Bestwork Industries is an operationally and financially sound, mission-based enterprise that is on the cusp of moving to the next level. My vision for the next era of Bestwork is consistent with the Board’s strategic plan and their current way of thinking. I am so excited to assume the role of President & CEO.
The crux of the vision is growth through diversification of the line of products and services that we offer. Bestwork will remain invested in utilizing our core competencies for manufacturing textiles and apparel. We also will assertively seek out customers interested in engaging Bestwork for non-textile products and knowledge-based services. The ultimate goal of the vision is to increase and broaden employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired.
To make this diversification and growth happen, I am recruiting several seasoned executives to add to the current team of talented and experienced management staff. Also, I’m calling upon everyone in the Bestwork Industries community to be part of this entrepreneurial adventure. Please spread the word of Bestwork’s good mission and activities throughout your networks. Make a financial gift when you are able. Volunteer when we’re able to provide a safe environment and a meaningful project. Be ready to lend your voice when we reach out with advocacy alerts around policy that affects the employment of current and future Bestwork employees.