The New Hampshire Association for the Blind was established by Mrs. Emma Coolidge Weston and friends of Hancock, NH. A blind fair was organized on the Hancock Town Green to showcase the abilities and accomplishments of persons who were blind.
The New Hampshire Association for the Blind is incorporated and an office is opened in Concord, NH. Services continue to be provided by volunteers.
1940’s – 1960’s
The association hires its first Executive Director, William McGreal. A focus on advocacy helps to establish the State of NH Bureau of Blind Services under the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Social work counseling is provided by volunteers from the Association’s Home craft and Recreation Programs along with untrained workers. A statewide public education and support mail program is initiated along with the launch of a statewide prevention of blindness campaign.
Gale Stickler succeeds William McGreal as Executive Director in the 1960’s. Services are professionalized with social work becoming the core service that coordinates the Orientation & Mobility Training and Daily Living Skills Services. Acquisition of a building in Concord, NH becomes the statewide headquarters.
1970’s – 1990’s
Low vision services are introduced for the first time in New Hampshire including a satellite office in the North Country following a 3-year outreach effort. Following a successful $1M capital building and endowment campaign the Association moves to its new and still today, headquarters at 25 Walker Street. The building is named The McGreal Sight Center. The Association formulates a strategic plan to meet the growing needs of the states aging population facing blindness and vision loss. A restructuring of the Association successfully streamlines services to maintain a balanced budget and enhance the effectiveness of service programs. The William and Elizabeth Yates McGreal Society is formed to recognize individuals who have uniquely supported the Association with bequests and planned gifts.
The Association continues strong renewal of service programs supported by the generosity of New Hampshire residents, corporations, service clubs and foundations. Partnerships continue to be strengthened and expanded.
90th Anniversary celebrated and the first employment conference sponsored by the Association is held to address barriers to employment.
Education services for blind and visually impaired children is added to the Association’s core services. Providing services was a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) and a dedicated Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M) with funding provided by the Gibney Family Foundation. This service has grown tremendously; currently serving more than 70 students in 25 school districts statewide.
In an effort to build awareness, recruit volunteers and raise money special events were added – Spooky Silent Auction (4 years), 3K Walk for Sight (11 years), various concerts and comedy shows held in various parts of the state.
Association collaborates with the NH Arts Association and local NH galleries to bring tactile art to the blind and visually impaired. Great success was had with these events in Portsmouth, Peterborough and Dover. Most recently the Association has introduced “Dinners in the Dark” at local restaurants to educate and raise money. These are primarily organized by regional advisory committees, which are made up of volunteers looking to get involved in their community.
The Association celebrated its 100th anniversary of services to NH residents living with blindness and vision loss. A celebratory picnic with clients, friends, staff and supporters was held at a NH State Park.
The Board of Directors addresses governance issues and planned giving becomes the focus of the Development Department. The Association continues to enhance its social media presence with website redesign, coverage on Facebook and Twitter along with community outreach efforts to local retirement communities and senior centers statewide.