[caption id="attachment_231916" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] BlindSight Delaware Enterprises will hire more than 200 blind, disabled or military veteran workers to operate a call center in Wilmington. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DPP[/caption]
WILMINGTON – The nonprofit BlindSight Delaware Enterprises(BSDE) aims to open a call center in downtown Wilmington that will hire more than 225 workers with disabilities, including the blind and visually impaired, as well as veterans.Formerly known as the Delaware Association for the Blind, the 75-year-old BSDE has partnered withChicago Lighthouse, a century-old nonprofit aimed at employing the same populations in the Windy City, through a social enterprise model. Revenues generated by BSDE ‘s operations will help support social service programs for people who are blind, visually impaired, disabled, and veterans in the greater Wilmington and Chicago areas.
[caption id="attachment_216591" align="alignright" width="300"]BlindSight Delaware Enterprises' call center will be located at CSC Station, adjacent to the Amtrak station in Wilmington. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS[/caption]
In the nonprofit’s first major expansion under the partnership, it will invest $2.3 million in a regional medical scheduling hub at CSC Station that will train and employ 227 underemployed Delawareans to alleviate staffing shortages created by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Blindsight Executive Director and CEO John Baker.To support the hiring and buildout, the state’s job investment board, the Council on Development Finance (CDF), approved on Monday a $608,000 grant from the taxpayer-backed Strategic Fund.“The BlindSight Delaware Enterprises medical scheduling hub will not only create more than 200 good jobs for economically vulnerable Delawareans, but also will help solve a health care staffing problem to support services for our state’s blind and visually impaired residents,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement celebrating the investment. “This project builds on Delaware’s strong health care foundation and is a great example of how innovative Delaware’s business and nonprofit communities are.”Nationwide, the demand for medical schedulers has increased dramatically since the COVID pandemic escalated turnover in hospital staffing. BSDE’s call center will help solve this problem in Delaware while also helping to alleviate underemployment among some of the state’s most economically vulnerable populations and generate income to support other social service programming for local residents who are blind or visually impaired.To support its growth, BSDE has received major startup funding of $1.5 million from the Longwood Foundation and has signed an initial $205,000 call center contract with Beebe Healthcare. Baker said that Blindsight is also in talks with other medical providers in the state and in Philadelphia, with the Beebe contract beginning with four employees.At Monday’s meeting, the CDF questioned the organization’s ability to meet its $2.3 million income objective for year-end 2023, but Baker, who has years of experience in nonprofits and a decade as an investment banker for TD Bank, said BSDE would be able to continue operations even if it doesn’t.“It’s taken longer than we thought for some contracts, but if we don’t sign them by the end of the year, we will in 2024,” he said, confidently.While the Beebe contract will be to establish a call or scheduling center, Baker said some of the other health care contracts would be primarily for overflow business.