Blind World Magazine

Can Lighthouse survive?

Palm Beach Post (Florida).
Friday, April 28, 2006.

Restructure. Rebirth. Rebuild.

Lighthouse for the Blind closes its doors today, but Sandra Lamb uses those hopeful terms to speak about Palm Beach County's oldest and primary private, not-for-profit educational and rehabilitation agency for the blind and visually impaired. "We're still hoping for the miracle," Ms. Lamb, Lighthouse's vice president of administration, said Thursday afternoon, "but it hasn't come as of now. Yet."

As Post reporter Ron Hayes has chronicled since February, the 60-year-old agency has had to cut programs and staff positions because individual donations, particularly bequests, have dropped sharply since 9/11 and the 2004 hurricanes. Three grants from the Florida Division of Blind Services totaling $363,000 this year barely covered a fourth of the cost to provide such free services - within the county and beyond - as how to use a cane, avoid or identify objects, memorize travel routes, cook, sew, manage medications, groom and handle finances. In Palm Beach County, with a third of the population 55 or over, a disproportionate and growing number of seniors need help for age-related eye diseases.

Lighthouse President and CEO Bill Thompson plans to meet next week with officials from three agencies in Broward County, Tampa and Orlando, hoping they might be able to extend their services "from university-trained, certified teachers" to Lighthouse's 8,699 clients in this area. Most clients have been referred to their local office of the Division of Blind Services. Services already had been cut for residents of Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties.

Lighthouse's board of directors will remain intact, holding in escrow - "for the rebirth," Ms. Lamb said - assets from the sale of the agency's 16,000-square-foot building in West Palm Beach. Mr. Thompson and the directors, she said, also are looking for ways to "approach fund-raising in a different way, to meet today's charitable climate." That means more public financing to help the estimated 48,000 blind and visually impaired residents in Palm Beach County and those nearby.

Two months after Lighthouse sounded an SOS, the private rescue hasn't come. It's not too late for donors to ensure Lighthouse's revival.

End of article.

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