by Doug Fowler, Executive Director
This summer, as the SWFL Community Foundation gears up for the next competitive grant cycle, we have asked our 2015 grantees to send us their stories. Here this week we learn from Doug Fowler of Lighthouse. The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change makers. If you have ideas and hope for the future, we’d love to hear from you at [email protected] or @SWFLCFnd on Twitter.
Eight years ago, I accepted a positon to serve as Executive Director of an agency that provides vision rehabilitation to those with major vision loss through total blindness. Services started at age 14 through the balance of the life. The focus was on elderly people with blindness. Sadly, a large amount of services would not be needed if those who lost full vision as a child or at birth were provided with high quality vision rehabilitation services.
Over this span of time, the agency required to be transformed. Funding for a Blind Babies program was provided by the State of Florida, Division of Blind Services four years ago. Children, ages 6 to 14, were not funded by traditional sources of funding for vision rehab services.
Research in Lee, Hendry, and Glades Counties revealed 53 visually impaired children received educational instruction in their schools. However, social and independence skills were not addressed. Parental education about their child’s condition was also a great unmet need in the three county area.
The ingredients were cultivated: children and parents identified in the three school systems, research for quality curriculum was completed, and finding a highly qualified teacher whose focus is on non-academic issues. The one ingredient that was critical was funding.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation confidently provided funding to start the program. From that decision, a church, a business person, and other resources contributed enough funding to start the program January 5, 2015 and it is now serving 6 children with visual impairments.
The Lighthouse of SWFL is one of the few Lighthouses in the state of Florida to have a Children’s Program in place and operating successfully. The program is growing as we are adding more children in and expanding its facility and outreach abilities. Children will be taught skills and disciplines to not only enhance their lives but also encourage independent living. In addition parents and other family members are included in the curriculum to help promote understanding and give guidance on how to help their child with a visual impairment.
The Lighthouse of SWFL, Inc. is positioned to grow our programs to all cultures living in our service area, become a training center for graduate school interns in vision rehabilitation, providing cutting edge vision rehabilitation, and teaching skills from basic living to using computer, iPad, Tablet, Smart Phones, as well as any sighted person in any environment.
If you’d like to learn more about Lighthouse services, call 239-997-7797 or visit www.lighthouseswfl.org.
About the SWFL Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $61.2 million to date in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com