New home for the Lighthouse Guild

Posted on 10/06/2017

Posted by Straus News

Celebrating a move on the Upper West Side for the nonprofit dedicated to helping people with vision impairment

James Dubin, Chairman of the Board of the Lighthouse Guild, cuts the ribbon at the Guild’s new location on the Upper West Side, with Council Member Helen Rosenthal and Manhattan Borough President Gayle Brewer (to right of Dubin). Photo: Ben Asen

The Lighthouse Guild has relocated on the Upper West Side to 64th Street and West End Avenue. At their ribbon-cutting ceremony, they had speakers associated with the Lighthouse Guild, as well as City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, speak about the work the Guild does and their partnerships.

“People who are blind are at the core of who New York City is,” Rosenthal said as she welcomed the Lighthouse Guild to the “coolest area of the Upper West Side.” (The previous location was at 15 West 65th Street.)

The Lighthouse Guild also featured testimonies from Adrienne Norbeck and Yvette Ramos-Stuckey, two people who received help from the organization. Both described the Lighthouse Guild as their “home.”

“The Lighthouse to me is home because it makes me feel normal and like everyone else,” said Ramos-Stuckey. She was joined by her husband, who she said goes everywhere with her.

Ramos-Stuckey choked back tears while she was making her speech. She was born with a vein in her eye that wasn’t fully developed. She said doctors predicted she would lose her vision in her teenage years, but she retained her sight until she was in her fifties. The loss still affected her deeply. She said she didn’t think she could even peel a potato. But teachers encouraged her and gave her the confidence to live her life.

“The best part is helping the 25,000 people we help — that’s what it’s all about,” said Alan Morse, president and CEO of the Guild.

Morse said his passion right now is with vision studies and health care. He is active in the role of making sure people prevent vision loss and get the resources and technology they need to live normally with it.

“We’ve been remiss,” Morse said. “We’re not doing enough to prevent vision loss.”

Adrienne Norbeck looked like Alice in Wonderland with her light blue dress and her cropped, blonde hair as she told her story to the audience. She spoke with a soft voice about the trials she’s had to overcome and how the Lighthouse Guild helped her take the first steps to being independent.

“I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was two,” Norbeck said. “And as a teenager, I didn’t take very good care of myself.”

Norbeck lost her vision completely when she was 28 because of her diabetes. She said she spent a lot of time alone while her husband had to work and she was afraid of everything. She fell into a deep depression before she sought help at the Guild.

“I learned how to read Braille first because I loved to read,” she said. “Now, I want to get a degree in nutrition so I can help people and prevent what happened to me.”

In her time, she’s seen many improvements for the blind throughout the city. Norbeck said she loves the “little bumps” that let her know that a sidewalk ends. She also appreciates the voice that indicates when it’s safe for her to cross the street.

The Lighthouse Guild has been officially around since 2013, when the Jewish Guild Healthcare and Lighthouse International merged, but their history can be traced back to helping people who are visually impaired since 1905.

Each floor of the new building is designed for the needs of its occupants. A patient can visit two or three doctors without having to travel through different floors. A student can take a technology class and a cooking class conveniently on another floor as well.

The Lighthouse Guild has leased several floors within the building, which were recently renovated to accommodate the specific needs of their patients and students. The music school, for example, worked with architects to sound-proof their rooms to create an ideal acoustical environment.

The entire construction took about a year and a half to complete. But now that it’s done, it’s the new home for people like Norbeck and Ramos-Stuckley.