Two Prominent Nonprofits for the Blind Merge

September 17, 2013 4:13 pm Last Updated: September 17, 2013 5:55 pm

NEW YORK—After a long discussion, lasting at least 65 years, two of New York’s most prominent nonprofit organizations for the blind announced their merger on Sept. 17.

The two organizations, Lighthouse International and Jewish Guild Healthcare, provided the same services for decades before going in different directions about 40 years ago. They still had enough in common, though, to finally merge into what is now called Lighthouse Guild International.

The new organization will offer a broader range of services to the visually impaired. Jewish Guild Healthcare president and CEO Alan Morse said it would also have the potential for expanding the model nationally.

“The more we ran into each other at meetings and the more we had a chance to sit and talk about what they’re doing and what we’re doing, it just seemed like a natural evolution,” Morse said. “Do we really need to have duplicates of every single department like finance and IT or can we find a way of consolidating that and focusing more on the clients that we’re serving?”

No immediate changes to the two organizations are expected before the first quarter of 2014, when the legal work and due diligence for the merger are expected to be complete. Morse met with Mark Ackermann, CEO of Lighthouse International, on the morning of Sept. 17 to discuss integrating phone and IT systems and medical records while the legal work proceeds.

Lighthouse International and Jewish Guild Healthcare combine more than two centuries of experience in assisting visually impaired people.

Lighthouse was founded in 1905 by Winifred and Edith Holt, two sisters who witnessed a group of blind children attend a concert in Florence with free tickets from a local organization. The two returned to New York City to found what has become one of the world’s leading resources for people who are dealing with vision loss.

The Jewish Guild began serving blind Jewish children in need in 1914 and opened its doors to the wider public in 1960. It moved to its current headquarters at 15 W. 65th St. in 1971.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Morse said. “It’s been a lot of work for a lot of people in both organizations. The motivation is to find better ways of serving people. I’m glad we’re able to be successful this time when so many times before it’s failed.”