Established in 1949, the Blind Community Center of San Diego (formerly the Blind Recreation Center) in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization devoted to enriching the lives of blind and visually impaired adults and children, preparing them for a normal, active life in a society that is principally sighted.
The idea for the Center began in 1947, when C. Anthony Moran was chair of the Sight Conservation Committee. Dr. Moran had been legally blind for 10 years, after which his sight was miraculously restored. As a former member of the Braille Club, Dr. Moran was aware of their 20 year effort to save money for a building where the Club could meet and socialize. Following Moran’s dream, the Lions Sight Conservation Committee made the building of a recreation center for the blind their major goal.
Through the help of several Lions Club members, a piece of property located on the north side of Balboa Park was found, and a lease was made with the city to use the land for the building. During the construction of the original building it was decided that the Center should be run by the blind community, and the decision was made to incorporate as the Blind Recreation Center, a freestanding nonprofit organization whose purpose was to operate the Center.
The building was completed and dedicated Sunday, May 8, 1949. The original building contained a 200 seat auditorium, a hobby room, and a kitchen. By 1961, the community had outgrown the building, and an expansion was made. The auditorium size was doubled, and the kitchen, restrooms, and craft room were expanded. In 1961 the Optometric Association and the Lions Club formed the Lions Optometric Vision Clinic, providing eye testing and glasses for those unable to pay. Two rooms were added to the building to make room for the Lions Optometric Vision Clinic, which still operates in the building to this day.
In 1991, after 41 years of operation, space had again become a problem, with the community outgrowing the available building. The San Diego Hosts Lions Club committed to raising funds and constructing a new, safer building with enough room for the blind community. The proposed building would have a basement, a main floor, and an upper floor, and would include a new youth activities center, be fire resistant, and handicap accessible.
Construction on the new building began in October 1997, and in August 2000 the new Blind Community Center of San Diego was dedicated and opened. The new building sits in north Balboa Park, on the same footprint of the original building. The building boasts a large auditorium, several kitchens, a conference room, a large crafts/ multipurpose room, a youth room, and still houses the Lions Optometric Vision Clinic.
The Blind Community Center has several programs that enrich the lives of the blind and visually impaired including: crafts, digital technology and accessibility classes, advocacy and leadership classes, sports classes (including bowling and martial arts), theater classes, an active choir, as well as several programs for special events and holidays. The Blind Community Center is continually striving to provide current and new programs that fulfill our mission of enriching the lives of blind and visually impaired adults and children, preparing them for a normal, active life in a society that is principally sighted.
This brief history contains excerpts from “Be Thankful You Can See: A History of the San Diego Blind Recreation Center and the San Diego Hosts Lions Club” written by Lions Les E. Earnest, C. Anthony Moran, and Karenlee Robinson.