The BVIC History

The Blind & Visually Impaired Center of Monterey County, Inc. (BVIC) was formed in 1971 by a small group of concerned citizens led by Ike Soskin. It began as a social, recreational, and educational organization for the blind and visually impaired that met at the local senior center. In 1973 the BVIC was moved to its current facility at 225 Laurel Ave, Pacific Grove. The Lions Building for the Blind, a consortium of local Lions Clubs, owns the property and leases it to the BVIC one dollar a year.

By 1988 the BVIC’s vision had grown to include comprehensive rehabilitation services for the visually impaired. The county’s premier low vision clinic was established under the leadership of Cindy Hazard, Kathy Henson and Mike Tomlin, O. D. In 2006 the center had a major remodel and the clinic was named the Marjorie R. McNeely Low Vision Clinic.

The BVIC offers a complete spectrum of services that help people adapt to the loss of sight. A 13-member Board of Directors oversees the policies and direction of the center. To truly reflect the needs of its constituents, seven of its members must be visually impaired.

Services are available to Monterey County residents with all levels of vision loss which prevent individuals, even with best-corrected vision, from doing everyday tasks independently. This includes those with no light perception, those that have low vision and those who are legally blind. The majority of clients are legally blind or visually impaired. Many eye conditions are age-related, therefore most clients are seniors who often have other health challenges.

The age of a client has ranged as young as a toddler to 104 years old. People of all races, who make up our culturally diverse county, utilize the services. Macular Degeneration remains the most common eye condition, with the majority of those affected falling into the 80+ age group. Diabetic retinopathy is the most prevalent eye condition among our Latino clients. In addition, Glaucoma and Cataracts are other leading causes of vision loss.

Services are available to county residents regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, race or disability. The BVIC is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization that is funded by donations, grants, and fundraisers. Services are free to clients, except for visits with the OD in the Low Vision Clinic.

The BVIC’s professional specialists work one on one with clients yet have an integrated team approach. Outreach Services are available in a person’s everyday surrounding of home, work or other community settings. They are offered without charge on an appointment only basis. Just as there are different levels of visual impairment, the service need will vary with each individual.

The BVIC Timeline

1970 – The Reverend Elmer Roy, a member of the Old Capitol Lions Club (OCL) met with a group of blind & visually impaired people who were meeting socially at The Scholze Park Center in New Monterey. It was agreed that this group would benefit from a “home of their own”. The Old Capitol Lions and other area Lions Clubs agreed to form a consortium to purchase a permanent home for the blind & visually impaired of our community.

1971 – The group had been called “Second Sight” and was changed to “The Blind Service Center” (BSC). Membership dues established at $1.00 per member per year.

1971 – Activities:

1972 – The Lions Clubs consortium located and purchased buildings located at 225 Laurel Ave. Pacific Grove, CA from the Odd Fellows Fraternal organization for $35,000. A mortgage was created with the Odd Fellows which was paid off in 10 years. The buildings had been built as a church starting in 1929 and were repaired and remodeled to serve the blind and visually impaired by the Lions consortium.

1973 – The Lions Building consortium set up a 20-year lease for the Blind Service Center at $1.00 per year and agreed to provide fire insurance and maintain the exterior of the buildings.

1973 – The first President of the Blind Service Center was Rev. Elmer Roy, a member of Old Capitol Lions (OCL). The first Director of the Blind Center was Bill Read, a blind member of the BSC and a member of OCL.

1984 – Bill Read retired after 13 years as Director of the BSC and Kathy Wise (later Kathy Henson) became the Director of the BSC. Kathy was blind and had been a board member and active member of the BSC for several years. Cheri Padin was hired as a secretary for the center, later to become bookkeeper.

1988 – Our O&M instructor, Cindy Hazard, planned and opened our first Low Vision Clinic with the assistance of Kathy Henson and Dr. Mike Tomlin, OD – our Low Vision Optometrist.

1993 – The second renovation of the buildings was accomplished by the BSC adding square footage for three new offices.

1994 – The Blind Service Center name was changed to” The Blind & Visually Impaired Center of Monterey County, Inc. “The Lions Building consortium name had been changed to “The Lions Building for the Blind”.

1997 – Kathy Henson retired as Director of the BVIC. Jeannie Cordero, Kathy’s assistant, and Cheri Padin were appointed as Co-Directors of the BVIC, Cheri as Business Director and Jeannie as Program Director.

2006 – The third renovation of the center was accomplished by the BVIC using funds donated to the program. The Low Vision Clinic was redesigned under the direction of our Low Vision Specialist, Moonset Yu and our Low Vision Optometrist, Dr. Andrew Wodecki. OD. The low vision clinic was named for a major donor, Marjorie R. McNeely.

2015 – Jeannie Cordero retired as Co-Director/Program Director. Diana Trapani was hired as the Executive Director of the BVIC. Rena Weaver, O&M Specialist retired after 25 years of service. Shirley Doolittle retired from the Board and as a volunteer after dedicating more than 40 years of service to the Center, Lions and the field of vision loss.

2016 – Dr. Moonset Yu retired after 18 years of service. Dr. Andrew Wodecki moved-on after 20 years of service. The board adopted a new strategic plan.

2017 – Katie Wendt, OD becomes the new low-vision optometrist

2019 – Diana Trapani moved on as Executive Director after 4 years of service. Dr. Lucy Yen and Dr. Megan Carter are brought in as low vision doctors.

2020 – Steven Macias is appointed the new Executive Director.

Data Compiled by Russ Hatch, Board Member 4/8/2016

Updated March 6, 2020