In the late 1920s blind activist Dolly Gamble enlisted the Miami Lions and Miami Rotary clubs to help the blind attain independence. From their efforts the Florida Association of Workers for the Blind, which would later be called Miami Lighthouse, was born. Today we are Florida's largest and oldest nonprofit serving the needs of the blind and visually impaired. Through education, training, research and vision enhancement, Miami Lighthouse provides hope, confidence, and independence to people of all ages, transforming the lives of over 75,000 blind and visually impaired people annually, from babies to seniors, and their families.
Our programs’ impact is statewide, national, and international. The Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program, cited by the American Optometric Association as a national model other states should adopt, provides comprehensive eye exams and prescription glasses for underserved school-children throughout Florida using our fleet of five mobile eye care units. Our Lighthouse Learning Center’s innovative programs, such as our internationally recognized inclusion pre-kindergarten – from which we are developing a certificate program with a sister institution in Israel, new kindergarten and mothers’ play days for their blind toddlers, make a difference in the lives of children and their families. Through GED and ESOL classes for adults, offered in collaboration with Miami-Dade County Schools Adult Education; our nationally recognized music inclusion program, which trains students, enrolled nationally and internationally, for employment in the music industry; and a job-readiness training program that prepares participants for mainstream, competitive, integrated employment, we strive to ensure that our clients can take their place in the workforce and lead productive, fulfilling lives.
Miami Lighthouse has always been about collaboration. In the late 1920’s, soon after Helen Keller exhorted the Lions Club to be “knights for the blind,” a dedicated group of Floridians, led by Thomas Grady, who enlisted the Lions Club, and Dolly Gamble, a remarkable, young, blind activist and promoter of Braille literacy, worked together to found the Florida Association of Workers for the Blind. During the Depression, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Mrs. Charles Brickell, and Mrs. Harvey Firestone, among other notables, hosted garden party fundraisers.
As early as 1943, University of Miami Trustee Dr. Bascom Palmer and Miami Lighthouse discussed establishment of an eye clinic to serve the local community. Dr. Palmer made it his life’s work to raise funds and support for the eye hospital in cooperation with Miami Lighthouse, and finally, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute was dedicated in 1962. Six years later, Miami Lighthouse contributed substantial funds to build a hospital to house the Institute. A strong collaboration between Miami Lighthouse and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute continues to this day, as both institutions transform lives through vision-related services and research.
To fulfill our education mission, Miami Lighthouse partners with Florida International University on continuing education “Living with Low Vision” workshops for Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists and Nurses. To date, more than 100 occupational therapy students have completed their practicum experience and universities throughout the U.S. also partner on orientation and mobility practicums at Miami Lighthouse.
Miami Lighthouse also contracts with the School Board of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (the 3rd largest school district in the U.S.) for our Birth to 2, pre-kindergarten, new kindergarten, functional vision and learning media assessments, Braille transcribing, Braille music distance learning, Adult Basic Education/ GED, English as a Second Language for visually impaired adults, and the Florida Heiken Children’s Vision Program.
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Miami Lighthouse was recognized at the 2015 Florida Blue Foundation Sapphire Awards luncheon as an organization that has demonstrated excellence and innovation in community health.
Miami Lighthouse ranks among the elite 1% of U.S. nonprofits having earned 12 consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator, the nation's premier independent nonprofit evaluator. Receiving such a distinction reflects our sound fiscal management, responsible use of donor dollars, and financial strength.
Miami Lighthouse has earned the Gold participation level through the GuideStar Exchange which is a testament to Miami Lighthouse's commitment to data transparency.
Early Intervention Blind Babies Program Named the Children's Trust 2016 Program of the Year. This most prestigious award recognizes this Early Intervention Program, in particular, for including parents as teachers.
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2015 Beacon Award in Education at the 13th Annual Beacon Council Awards.
Miami Lighthouse received a Silver medal at the 2016 Miami Today Gold Medal Awards Ceremony.
Miami Lighthouse is a two-time Charity Partner (2013 and 2014) of the Marlins Foundation and a 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game Legacy Partner. Our Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program has received over $300,000 in charitable donations through these partnerships.
Miami Lighthouse named "Best of Miami" Charity 2017 by the New Times.
Miami Lighthouse received United Homecareï¿½s 2012 Thelma Gibson Community Service Award at the 18th Annual Claude Pepper Memorial Awards Ceremony.
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious South Florida Business Journal 2011 Excellence in Health Care Award in the Community Outreach category.
Miami Lighthouse honored by being named the recipient of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce 2010 Non-Profit Business Diamond Award.
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2008 Concern Award from Health Foundation of South Florida.