Alphapointe recently unveiled a striking new display in its Richmond Hill, N.Y., facility highlighting portions of the history of serving New Yorkers with vision impairment.
The story of programs to employ people who are blind in New York City began with an organization called the New York Association for the Blind (later called The Lighthouse), which was founded in 1905 by Winifred and Edith Holt. In its early existence, The Lighthouse offered many programs similar to those offered by Alphapointe, including home counseling and instruction programs for the visually impaired, in order to help them earn a living in the early 1900s. Among the many programs established by the Holts was a workshop opened on East 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan in 1912.
The first of several Lighthouse camps for children with impaired vision opened in 1912. Called the River Lighthouse, the camp opened in Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, N.Y. The success of this summer program led to expansion and the launch of Camp Munger in Bear Mountain, N.Y. in 1923.
In 1945, The Lighthouse won the Army-Navy E-Award for its contribution to the war effort, an honor presented by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1995, Lighthouse closed its Lighthouse Industries Program to focus on rehabilitation and research. Rick Bland, former Director of The Lighthouse, formed the New York City Industries for the Blind (NYCIB), the only industrial employer of people who are blind in the city.
NYCIB Joins Forces with Alphapointe
By 2013, NYCIB had achieved what many had considered to be an improbable victory, successfully launching and then growing a not-for-profit industrial program in New York City. Through the personal connections and enterprising spirit of Rick Bland, NYCIB had grown to more than 220 employees, including 140 who were blind.
As administrative costs became harder to recover and rents continued to escalate, it became clear that a change was needed. After considering various options, it was concluded that merging with another not-for-profit might allow for administrative costs to be spread across a larger enterprise, while ensuring jobs in New York City were saved.
In June 2013, NYCIB agreed to be acquired by Alphapointe. The agreement ensured that jobs for people who are blind would be maintained in New York City, while administrative services such as accounting, payroll and human resources would be provided remotely from Kansas City.
The merger was approved by the New York State Supreme Court on May 1, 2014. The merger allowed Alphapointe, which had once been focused and rooted exclusively in Kansas City, to solidify its position as a truly national organization. This protected the jobs of more than 100 New York City residents who are blind and afforded them improved employee benefits and lower health insurance premiums.
After an extensive search for an accessible property with good transportation for employees, Alphapointe eventually purchased a new building to be the new home of Alphapointe in New York City at 87-46 123rd St. in Richmond Hill.
The rest, as they say, is history.