'Service to community' more than motto at IAMAW

Guide Dogs of America volunteer Adam Beasley

That Adam Beasley is committed to Guide Dogs of America is not a question.

Even his eyes smile as he talks about the 72-year-old organization that has provided enhanced mobility and independence for thousands of the sight impaired.

For nearly two decades Beasley has volunteered with Guide Dogs of America, an organization founded by an International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers member.

“A guide dog is the highest trained dog there is because a person’s life depends on it,” Beasley said.

“It is so amazing to see somebody walk with their guide dog for the first time,” Beasley said as he talked about his commitment to the program. “We think about freedom a lot in our country but one of the freedoms that we don’t think about is the freedom that the guide dog gives to a blind or visually impaired person. They can, maybe for the first time, go and do things without the assistance of anybody else.”

Guide Dogs of America was founded by a machinist who had retired at the age of 57 because he lost his sight, Beasley said. Told that he was not eligible to receive a guide dog because of his “advanced age,” Joseph Jones spoke to the board of directors of the IAMAW in 1946 about the feasibility of starting a guide dog school that would not discriminate on the basis of the age of the client.

With the full support of the machinist union behind him, Jones established the International Guiding Eyes school in 1948. It was one of the first guide dog schools to be founded by a blind individual. It was also one of the first schools to adopt a policy of no upper age discrimination. With no government funding, the school relies on donations and fundraising to provide guide dogs—free of charge.

Thousands of blind and visually impaired men and women have been partnered with “life-changing” guide dogs. “We’re the only labor organization that has a school like this,” Beasley said. “Our motto is ‘Justice on the job and service to the community’ and this is part of our service to the community. IAMAW continues to be a generous supporter of the school’s mission.”

In 1992, International Guiding Eyes changed its name to Guide Dogs of America to communicate more clearly the services provided, Beasley explained. “The IAMAW is a strong supporter of Guide Dogs of America and is proud of our role in the founding of the guide dog school, which is on a 7.5-acre campus in Sylmar, Calif.”

At the guide dog school more than 230 Labradors, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are bred, raised and trained each year. At the age of eight weeks, the puppies go to “puppy raisers” for 18 months.

“The puppy raisers give them love and care, basic obedience training and socialize them,” Beasley said. “We evaluate the dogs all the way through the program to see if they are going to have what it takes for them to be a guide dog.”

Sometimes, the prospective guide dogs need what Beasley calls a “career change.” That was the case of Jayco, the German Shepherd that Guide Dogs of America and IAMAW Local Lodge 2003 recently donated to the Enterprise Police Department to use as a community relations service dog. “Jayco was a puppy in training and he decided he did not want to be a guide dog,” Beasley said. “So we gave him an opportunity to do something else. I am so happy that this worked out.

“I know of no other police department having a community dog that will be out in the public,” he added. “Just think of the positive impact that’s going to have on young children.”

The right partner, a strong bond and a solid support system are the keys to a successful guide dog team, Beasley said. “Our trainers are experts at pairing students with the right canine partner, with special consideration given to their personalities and unique characteristics, work and home environments, physical abilities and a variety of other factors.

“We have an almost 100 percent success rate when we pair these dogs,” he said. “Dogs have as many personalities as we do.”

Beasley is the face of Guide Dogs of America in the tri-state area, providing educational programs for schools and civic organizations. “I love what I do. You never know whose life you are going to touch,” he said. “I’m really excited about helping get Jayco for the Enterprise Police Department. I think it’s going to change lives here in Enterprise.

“Guide Dogs of America has blessed my life,” Beasley said, adding his appreciation for IAMAW and M1 Support Services. “They are so supportive of my effort.

“The IAMAW gives back to the community though this charity,” Beasley added. “We’re proud to be able to do it.”

To make a tax-deductible donation, go to www.guidedogsofamerica.org and click on the red “donate” button on the top right hand side of the home page.

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