The Visually Impaired Persons Center of Southwest Florida has a new look, a new name and a renewed enthusiasm of leaders and clients.
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, VIP officially changed its name to Lighthouse of SWFL. The announcement of new name and the unveiling of a new logo and sign took place in front of the center in North Fort Myers with several hundred guests in attendance.
"The Lighthouse name is known nationally for agencies that do rehabilitation for the visually impaired and blind," said Margaret Lincoln, director of operations. "I am thrilled, truly, from my heart, with this change, and also about our new board of directors who are really excited about the new direction for the agency."
Lighthouse of SWFL Assistive Technology Supervisor Gabino Lares and intern Ruth Ferguson at unveiling of new Lighthouse sign.
By changing their name to Lighthouse of SWFL the center hopes to become more streamlined with other agencies serving the blind and visually impaired throughout the country.
There were many emotional and heartfelt speeches about the positive growth change and about the services that have been offered there since 1974.
Those speeches included ones by Lighthouse board president Evan Connell and guest speaker Lee County Florida District 5 Commissioner Frank Mann.
Connell, who is visually impaired, shared his personal story with the audience. He lost his vision while in college.
"It took me a year and a half to go from a visual learner to an audio learner, but I mastered it," he said.
He has now enjoyed a 16-year career with the Lee County Sheriff's Department, and thanks the center for his success. He took classes there to secure the job and help him with daily living.
"It's a symbol of hope; my motto is independence," Connell said.
Mann talked about his many personal experiences with individuals who have all levels of visual impairment. A long-time huge supporter of the organization, he compared the new beginning with that of Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon.
"For VIP, now Lighthouse, we are celebrating a giant leap forward to help with challenges for visually impaired persons in Southwest Florida," he said.
"This is a whole new chapter in our history," said Executive Director Doug Fowler. "VIP has served the community since 1974. Currently, we serve over 400 people annually. As we enter the new chapter of our history, we look to serve more people of all ages and all cultures with visual impairment in Southwest Florida, and we are joining with other agencies across the U.S. that do what we do."
The staff is also very excited about the new center.
"We, the VIP as a whole, are extremely excited to enter into this new chapter," said Director of Marketing Allison Leone. "And we will continue to provide the same services and programs."
"It is a great change, a new start for us," said Assistant Technical Supervisor Gabio Larez.
Lighthouse of SWFL is a non-profit rehabilitation center, committed to ensuring individuals with blindness or visual impairment have the tools, support and opportunities necessary to successfully achieve their desired level of independence. The center serves hundreds of visually impaired and blind individuals from North Fort Myers, Cape Coral and many other Southwest Florida areas.
The center is at 35 West Marianna Ave. in North Fort Myers. For more information visit lighthouseswfl.org or call 997-7797.