Our History

We trace our agency’s existence to 1928, when Helen Keller, the iconic activist for people with impaired sight and hearing capabilities, spoke to an audience of Lions Club leaders in Bethlehem, PA. During that momentous speech, she challenged the Lions to become “Knights of the Blind” in her crusade to eradicate vision loss.

Helen Keller’s words inspired two groups of Lions to action. Members of the Allentown Lions Club formed the Lehigh County Branch of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind (PAB). Members of four Lions Clubs, led by the Bethlehem Lions Club, formed the Northampton County Branch of the PAB that same year.

Our Lehigh County association and its Northampton County counterpart focused originally on helping people with visual impairments learn trade skills such as broom making. In the decades that followed, they both developed into agencies focused on the quality of life of their clients, began to provide vision screenings and community education programs, and evolved into independent nonprofit organizations with PAB affiliations.

 
 

Our Lehigh County association formed an affiliated endowment foundation in 1980 and adopted the name Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ABVI) in 1985. In 2008, our agency embarked on its most ambitious initiative to ensure that critical sight services would be provided in our communities for decades to come. After a two-year planning process, the Northampton County association – which had been expanded into Monroe County and renamed Visual Impairment and Blindness Services (VIABL) – was consolidated into ABVI on January 1, 2010. Our organization then assumed the name Center for Vision Loss. Our services for Lehigh and Northampton counties were combined at our Lehigh Valley Campus in Allentown, PA, while our Monroe Campus near Stroudsburg, PA, serves Monroe County.

In 2018, we adopted a mission statement that defines our future and honors our legacy. This mission statement – to enable personal triumphs over visual impairments – integrates our services for people with severe vision loss, prevention services, and education initiatives and identifies our most critical impact on humanity. Our fundamental successes are reflected in our clients who maintain or increase their level of independence; the children we help prepare to succeed in school and become independent, productive citizens; and the students and adults we inspire to preserve their eyesight throughout their lives.

 
Logo for the former ABVI
Logo for the former VIABL
Logo for the Center for Vision Loss

Our Leadership History

Dennis Zehner, 2020-Present
Douglas Yingling, 2011-2020
Stephanie Olexa, 2009-2011
Kathleen Meckes 1997-2009
Jeffrey Brightbill, 1990-1997

Frank Labaw, 1973-1990
Norine Shafer, 1973 +
Richard Ketterer, 1965-1973
G. Ernest Ward, 1928-1965

Represents the Lehigh County Branch of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind, ABVI, and the Center for Vision Loss
+ Interim Executive Director