Our History

While our name has changed and our offerings have evolved, Sights for Hope, formerly Center for Vision Loss, is defined by the timeless values that spurred Helen Keller to appeal to Lehigh Valley-area Lions Club leaders nearly a century ago and inspired those Lions to act. Those values – that knowledge, innovation, and determination are stronger than visual impairments; that everybody has the right to pursue their destiny; and that the most meaningful triumphs are personal – define an unbroken tradition of service we carry on with contemporary practices and specialized technologies.

When Helen Keller spoke to the audience of Lions in Bethlehem, PA, in 1928, she challenged them to become “Knights of the Blind” in her crusade to eradicate visual impairments. In response to that clarion call, 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 our Northampton County counterpart focused originally on helping people with visual impairments learn trade skills such as broom making. In the decades that followed, 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 member organizations of PAB. 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.

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

In 2008, our agency embarked on an ambitious initiative to ensure that our critical services would be provided 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. On that date, we assumed the name Center for Vision Loss.

On April 6, 2021, we became Sights for Hope to reflect the life-changing nature of our services, our guiding philosophy of focusing on hope instead of loss, our enduring mission, and the transformative impact we make on people’s lives throughout Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley and Monroe County. Our adopted slogan of “Seize Independence Now” issues its own clarion call to act, one that is answered every day when our clients choose hope when confronted by one of life’s greatest challenges.

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, Center for Vision Loss, and Sights for Hope
+ Interim Executive Director