Program helping legally blind run Valley businesses

Posted at 4:38 AM, Aug 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-22 15:16:33-04
Mark Israel takes a lot of pride in running the snack shop at the Phoenix Indian Medical Center.
The coffee, the snacks, the nine vending machines -- he's in charge of it all. It's his own business. 
He's not like every business owner though. Mark is legally blind.  
He used to work in the jewelry business, but then in the 1990's, he gradually started to lose his vision because of a retinal disorder.
"I gave up hope," said Mark. "I gave up any opportunity of finding something that would bring my life back to the point where it was once at."
That's where the Business Enterprise Program comes in. It teaches people who are legally blind to be their own business owners.
Like Mark, they can operate cafeterias or vending services in any federal, state, county or municipal building. The program has been around for a while, but now, it's starting to expand into the private sector.
"They're capable of being successful, and they're capable of running their own business," said Cindy Kerkemeyer with the program.
"The program just helps them be their own business operator and to train individuals to man their own business for them."  
About 25 business owners are in the program right now across Arizona. Mark has four employees. He hires his own people and buys his own products.
But besides now running his own business, Mark is getting his life back and even better, giving back to the community.
"Find opportunities that you can take yourself away from yourself and put yourself more involved in other people's lives," said Mark. "Ways you can make other people's lives better."
If you know a private business in Arizona that would like to get involved with the Business Enterprise Program, contact their offices at 602-774-9101.