from Daniel T. Mann, President & CEO
This year, we begin our 60th year serving the blind and visually impaired in Pinellas County. In 1956, a group of dedicated individuals in the Lion’s Club of St. Petersburg established the Community Center for the Blind to provide assistance to the growing number of residents with impaired vision. Ten years later, John and Muriel Watson established Channel Markers in northern Pinellas County as a social club to offer socialization and support to the same population. The two organizations merged nearly 20 years later and eventually became Lighthouse of Pinellas, the ONLY private not-for-profit agency in Pinellas County providing comprehensive vision rehabilitation services to individuals of all ages under one roof.
We were established from humble beginnings in a time when Dwight D. Eisenhower was the US president, Dick Clark took over as host of American Bandstand and America’s favorite television show was I Love Lucy. The average cost of a new home was $11,700, a new car was $2,050 and the average yearly salary was $4,450.
From that time of innocence until today, Lighthouse of Pinellas transformed from a modest organization serving the social needs of those with severe vision loss primarily through the tireless work of volunteers, to a vital accredited agency of specially-trained experts providing rehabilitative, vocational and occupational therapy services to today’s vision-impaired community.
As we take this year to reflect fondly on the many accomplishments and milestones of the last 60 years, my attention is passionately focused on the future. With the Baby Boomer generation entering its mid-60s, vision experts are predicting the number of people afflicted with severe vision loss will double by 2030. As people continue to live longer and the population of those experiencing diabetes increases, serious eye diseases will become more prevalent and demand for rehabilitative and medical services will be critical.
The Lighthouse of Pinellas is the only provider of vision rehabilitative and therapeutic care that employs specialists who are certified and/or licensed in vision rehabilitation, vision orientation and mobility, low vision therapy, occupational therapy and certified diabetes education. We are also the only agency to offer clients the services of a licensed mental health counselor who experienced blindness in adulthood. Our clients receive the most advanced and comprehensive care from the highest qualified staff in Pinellas County.
To our employees, clients, volunteers and donors, past and present, thank you for your dedication to the blind and visually impaired in our community. But, we still have a lot of work to do. As we position our organization for the future, we need your support more than ever to help this next generation live safely and healthy. Afterall, we really do see things differently.