Local Nonprofit Provides Support To Visually Impaired In The Inland Empire


Ted Wilbrecht, president of the board of directors of the Inland Empire Lighthouse For The Blind.

“The Power Of Effecting Changes For the Better Is Within Ourselves, Not In The Favorableness Of Circumstances.”

One of Helen Keller’s famous quotes can be found in the Inland Empire Lighthouse for the Blind. Keller lost her sight and hearing at the age of nineteen months due to illness. She went on to become an author, political activist, and lecturer.

Keller was 71 years-old when the Inland Empire Lighthouse for the Blind was formed as a nonprofit in San Bernardino. It was conceived earlier by a group of residents and eventually, a benefactor, the late J. Dale Gentry, purchased a 4,400 square-feet building at 762 North Sierra Way to provide services and programs for the visually impaired. Since its inception in 1951, the nonprofit evolved and the services and programs were housed in a permanent purchased building located at 359 Parkcenter Circle, San Bernardino.

According to Sandra Woods, who has been the organization’s executive director since 1979, the Inland Empire Lighthouse for the Blind provides a range of classes for the legally blind ranging from reading braille, using computers and smart phones, cooking to basket weaving.

Training Kitchen. Student, Marta Amesquita with teacher, Kathy Viveros and student volunteer, Carol Sevy

On what motivates her to work at the nonprofit, Wood stated that it is “the fellowship, encouragement, and improvement that I see in people’s lives, the comradery, and understanding that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

The nonprofit is governed by a board of directors and has an operational staff of eleven, of which three work full-time and rest are part-time. The president of the Board of Directors, Ted Wilbrecht, is visually impaired as are three of the instructors. They are supported by a group 40 volunteers who serve the 300 registered students. The students are provided hot meals as the facility is equipped with a complete kitchen. It is privately funded and organizes three annual fundraisers.

“The age group varies. Eighty percent are over the age of 50 years, there are a few in their twenties and thirties,” Wood commented on the 60 students who participate in the programs and classes daily. A requirement to participate is that they must be legally blind with a statement from their doctor.

Ceramic teacher. Amy Rosebure with student, Ben Barnes at the potters wheel.

She stated that the philosophy of the organization is based on teaching the clients to live independently.

“You do everything you did before - short of driving - but you need to learn it a different way,” she said.

When the pandemic hit, Wood said the facility was immediately closed on March 12, 2020. The classes ceased and the organization conducted distance learning classes by Zoom. Food commodity was delivered to the students’ homes.

“We delivered the commodities with our 15-passenger vans which we use to pick them up with and return home when classes are in session, Wood said.

She pointed out that the organization was impacted by a catalytic converter theft that cost them $13,000. The vans are now having to be stored offsite and the organization is planning a steel garage enclosure construction project.

The Inland Empire Lighthouse for the Blind will officially open to students on August 10 for in-person instruction and other programs.

To learn more about upcoming events, to donate, visit, or know someone who may benefit from the classes and programs at the Inland Empire Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., call 909-884-3121. Email: info@ielighthousefortheblind.org. Website: www.ielighthousefortheblind.org.

One of the nonprofit's transportation vehicles.
Student reading machine.
Students at a craft class.
Golf Tournament Sponsors
Golf Tournament which took place on June 11, 2021
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified