History of VABVI

1926 – Five Burlington residents founded the Vermont Committee for the Blind (VCB), precursor to VABVI, with assistance and encouragement from Helen Keller and the American Foundation for the Blind.

Early activities focused on providing eyeglasses, medical treatments and hospitalization to those in need. The Executive Board consisted of a: President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary.

1947 – Department of Social Welfare in Montpelier informs the board that “the state department is not able to spend any money for preventative work or medical attention to keep people from getting worse.” VCB then stated its mission as “for glasses, medical treatments and hospitalization. We serve to prevent blindness – a work which is not covered by state laws.”

1950 – VABVI receives tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in April.

1969 – Organization turned its attention from buying eyeglasses toward more direct services. Meeting notes from 1969 indicate that “it was the general feeling that we were not doing enough for the blind or the prevention of blindness, but rather too much time was being spent on dispensing glasses.”

1970 – VABVI starts putting an “emphasis on enhanced services,” and Dr. Rupert A. Chittick was hired as Executive Director for the new education program (the position was filled by Stuart Corbin in 1971; by William Sullivan in 1977; by Jules Cote in 1988; and by Steven Pouliot in 2001).

1974 – VABVI hires its first mobility and rehabilitation teachers to provide support and training to adults. Charles Vitagliano was hired as the rehabilitation teacher and program director, to be headquartered at the office space rented at 687 Pine Street in Burlington.

1976 – VABVI purchases the K. B. Walker House property located at 37 Elmwood Avenue for $42,200 and moves into its first permanent office building. The office building was built in 1881 for K. B. Walker, manager of the Howard Opera House; it was later used as a funeral home.
Meeting notes from 1979 predict that, “over the upcoming years, the organization will become more respected and renowned as a blind services agency rather than as a dispenser of eyeglasses.”

1980s – Offices open in Rutland and St. Johnsbury, and the first issue of the VOICE newsletter goes out to 4,000 homes in 1982.

1985 – Teachers of the Visually Impaired were hired to expand into the arena of children’s services.

1987 – The Brattleboro office opens with a “Brownout” — area restaurants and sweet shops donated chocolate treats for a public tasting and award night.
The agency’s Constitution and By-Laws, adopted by the Board of Directors on December 2, 1988, stated the purpose of the organization “to encourage and promote programs and conditions, which enable blind and visually impaired persons and all persons with disabilities to live independently and be fully involved in all decisions affecting their lives.”

1990s – VABVI again re-evaluates and re-focuses its services, deciding to move beyond its previous scope to offer both education and social networking services for its clients. VABVI hosted its first Intensive Residential Life Experiences (IRLE) camps for children in 1990, emphasizing both social skills and career preparation. Peer Assisted Learning and Support (PALS) groups were also developed for adults to provide a comfortable meeting place for learning and sharing.

2004 – VABVI successfully concludes its first-ever capital campaign raising $500,00 to construct a Mini Center in Montpelier.

2009 – VABVI completed our 2nd capital campaign to build a new state of the art headquarters in South Burlington. Over 2 million dollars was raised for the Gibney Family Vision Center!

TODAY – Our mission is to enable Vermonters with vision problems, whether blindness or impairment, to achieve and maintain their independence.