Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center continues helping those with vision loss as it works on repairing its home.
| 10:00 a.m. March 2, 2023
The ghost of Hurricane Ian still lingers at Lighthouse Vision Loss Education Center. Mother Nature’s rage tore its walls, ripped the ceiling and ruined the floor. However, that doesn’t stop the nonprofit from educating, empowering and providing resources to those with vision loss.
While still dealing with the effects that came along with pandemic, the arrival of Hurricane Ian brought along another set of challenges: the major one the loss of its building. Nevertheless, this Sarasota nonprofit organization took the first step toward a new normal by bringing back its 'Walk and Talk' gathering Feb. 24 at Payne Park.
When quarantine was in place, 'Walk and Talk' was placed on hold.
“Pre-covid we had weekly ‘Walk and Talks’ where the clients would come to the center and walk around the neighborhood,” said Lighthouse Communication Specialist Amanda Just. “It was just a time for them to be social, get some exercise and practice their orientation and mobility skills.”
Now with no building, it was no longer possible to hold "Walk and Talk" at the center, so its leaders got the idea to move it to a public outdoor space. Lighthouse plans to continue hosting the event on a monthly basis alternating between Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Fifteen people arrived at the park. Some called out each others’ name, fist bumped and hugged one other before strolling through the park with easy conversation about the little things.
Maria Acosta took this opportunity to get out of her New College dormitory and feel the sun rays against her skin. Acosta has been with Lighthouse for six months. She receives resources to help her get around the college campus, but even she gets tired of the college life. “This was something to do so that I’m not stuck in my dorm,” she said.
Lighthouse Vocational Rehabilitation, Technology and Mobility and Rehabilitation Manager Latricia Gambrell has been at Lighthouse the longest. She has seen the evolution of Lighthouse for the past 14 years and despite the challenges, she still sees the change it makes in the lives of those it serves.
“For the future, we are looking at how we can serve our outlying counties,” said Gambrell. “To plan more activities for them, and offer more trainings for them. I feel like that’s the route we are going.”
Although there's no timeline for repairs to its current center, Gambrell said that having a building in those outlying areas would be a great goal for the future. “It can be small,” she said. “Just one that we can call our home.”