History

1907-1920

May 1907

The first formal meeting of the Buffalo Association for the Blind was held. Mr. Carlton Sprague was elected president.

July 1907

A broom factory employing blind workers was opened at 489 Ellicott Street. A horse and wagon aided in marketing and distribution efforts.

December 1908

A Certificate of Incorporation for the agency was issued, stating in part its objective “to improve the condition of the blind within the County of Erie.”

November 1913

The Wishbone Club, the agency’s first social club, was formed to promote social life among its membership of blind women.

January 1916

Rug weaving, chair caning and basketmaking were added to workshop activities.

February 1917

The agency worked with the New York State Commission for the Blind in providing home visits to blind community members. In one year alone, nearly 1,400 home calls were made for the purposes of tutoring, sick calls and friendly visitation.

1919

To fuel fundraising efforts, the agency joined with eight other social agencies in the city to form the “Federation of Charities and Social Agencies for Financial and Other Purposes,” which ultimately became the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.


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1921-1940

June 1923

Rapid growth necessitated the relocation of the agency’s headquarters to the old Lutheran Church at Michigan and Goodell Streets. The property included five small apartments that were rented to blind tenants.

July 1926

Edna Stainton was hired as the first executive secretary to coordinate the increasing activities of the agency’s various departments.

July 1927

Dr. Conrad Wettlaufer, Board President, donated the necessary funds to remodel agency headquarters to house the Buffalo Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, also known as the Wettlaufer Clinic.

1936

As part of the WPA, the agency became a distributor of Talking Book Machines. Manufactured under the aegis of the Library of Congress, the machines read pre-recorded books and magazines.

September 1937

The agency’s first news and cigar stand, operated by blind vendor Anthony Obstarczyk, opened on the first floor of the Erie County Office Building.

December 1937

A telegram from Helen Keller recognized the agency’s 30th anniversary, commending the organization’s “pioneer work in broadening the field of opportunity for sightless people.”


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1941-1960

May 1946

The Board of Directors voted to purchase the property at 864 Delaware Avenue to better accommodate the growing organization.

September 1946

The agency’s first preschool, the Michael Nursery School, was opened to help prepare blind children for mainstream schooling.

June 1949

The first client to the agency’s newly established “Testing and Rehabilitation Center” was accepted, receiving training in skills of daily living and household carpentry.

December 1949

The Lighthouse Unit, a women’s service guild, was organized. Sixty women signed up to begin the tradition of volunteerism and fundraising that lasted until the group’s disbandment in 1999.

January 1953

Sub-contract work stitching cardboard cartons for the Iroquois Brewing Co. was secured in the workshop. Soon after, broom production was phased out as more sub-contract jobs were accepted.

January 1957

The agency became a member of Industries for the Blind of New York State, an organization that secures orders from state institutions for workshops for the blind throughout New York State.


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1961-1980

January 1962

Renovations began on the agency’s current building at 1170 Main Street due to an urgent need for more space.

July 1964

The agency initiated an Orientation and Mobility program, including training in the use of the white cane.

April 1971

A new rehabilitation center replaced the phased out testing and rehabilitation center. This new and improved program included counseling and training in self-care, home-making, and communication techniques, as well as vocational evaluation.

December 1971

The agency became an affiliate of National Industries for the Blind, a workshop development organization.

January 1974

An open house was held to announce the agency’s new name: the Blind Association of Western New York. The name reflected the agency’s widened scope of services for individuals throughout the eight western counties of New York State.

1975

The agency acquired its first closed circuit television visual aid, the Visualtek, which enabled people with some functional vision to read books and other written materials.

1976

The Low Vision Clinic opened, providing people with impaired sight with specialized optometric exams and prescriptions.

1979

The Skills of Daily Living apartment was opened, featuring a living room, bathroom, laundry area and kitchen where clients could train in performing day-to-day activities.

Fall 1980

The Technical Advisory Committee developed the first-ever Braille desk calendar, filling a strong need expressed by blind professional workers.


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1981-2000

March 1983

The Visually Impaired Preschool (VIP), a home-based program for infants and pre-schoolers up to age five, was initiated.

August 1983

The first Ride in Plain Sight bike tour was held, an annual fundraiser that featured tandem bicycles ridden by visually impaired cyclists with sighted partners. In 1988, a stationary bike corporate challenge was added to the event.

October 1985

The agency developed its first long range plan, intended to serve as a proactive guide to meeting changing trends and future challenges.

January 1987

Senior Vision Services was started, a program serving Erie County senior citizens who, while not legally blind, are experiencing diminishing sight.

September 1992

GuildCare, an adult day health care program, is opened as a joint initiative with the Jewish Guild for the Blind. A second GuildCare program was established in Niagara Falls in 1996.

November 1993

The agency opened its first apartment building, Excelsior Manor, in the city’s Lovejoy area. This project, like the many similar projects to follow, provided affordable, specially designed housing for visually impaired or physically disabled tenants.

February 1996

The agency began overseeing switchboard operations at the Buffalo Veterans Administration Medical Center, employing a full staff of blind and visually impaired operators.

March 1996

GuildCare Niagara Falls, an adult day health care program, is opened as a joint initiative with the Jewish Guild for the Blind. Guildcare Buffalo was opened in September 1992.

May 1996

A $5.2 million capital campaign to renovate the agency’s headquarters was launched.

June 1997

A grand opening celebration was held for Gratwick Manor, the second housing project for visually impaired or physically disabled tenants.

August 1999

The National Statler Center for Careers in Hospitality Service, a program that prepares visually impaired or physically handicapped individuals for careers in the hospitality industry, was kicked off with a visit from New York State Governor George Pataki.

September 1999

The National Statler Center for Careers in Hospitality Service conducted its first class with students.

December 1999

Austin Manor, the agency’s third housing project, opened its doors to visually impaired or physically disabled tenants.

December 1999

The agency changed its name to the Elizabeth Pierce Olmsted, M.D. Center for the Visually Impaired.

October 2000

A grand opening celebration was held to show off the completed renovations. New features include an education center/auditorium, an expanded vision rehabilitation clinic, a resource library and an atrium.


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2001-Present

May 2001

Olmsted Center adopted the theme line “Where Challenges Meet Solutions”.

September 2001

Olmsted Center’s manufacturing division supplied all the U.S. Flags at the opening game at Yankee Stadium following the tragedy on September 11, 2001. This was the largest distribution of flags in New York State.

January 2003

The manufacturing division at Olmsted Center secured its first federal contract with the Department of Defense for flight jerseys for the Navy.

February 2003

Elizabeth Harvey Apartments in the North Tonawanda, the agency’s fourth housing project, opened its doors to visually impaired and physically disabled tenants.

May 2003

The agency began overseeing switchboard operations at the Erie Veterans Administration Medical Center in Erie, Pennsylvania, employing a full staff of blind and visually impaired operators.

January 2005

Statler Center accepts its first international student from Canada.

February 2006

Construction is completed on the Haskell Stovroff Apartments in Cheektowaga, New York. This is the agency’s fifth housing project to open it doors to visually impaired and physically disabled tenants.

March 2006

Construction begins on the Ira G. Ross Eye Institute. The Ross Eye Institute is a unique and nationally innovative collaboration among the Department of Ophthalmology of the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired, and University Ophthalmology Services. Envisioned as the premier research, ophthalmologic education and subspecialty eye care program in Western New York, this Institute will include a nationally unique state-of-art, university and human services linked campus that will provide a continuum of integrated prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services to individuals of all ages in need of holistic vision care; as well as, new research facilities at the medical school.

November 2006

Olmsted Center brings property management of all five of its properties in-house.

January 2007

Statler Center hosted its first class outside of Buffalo, New York. The Blind Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, became home to Statler Center for 10 weeks and became the 23rd graduating class since its inception in 1999.

March 2007

After gaining approval in June 2006 from the New York State Public Health Council to open a subsidiary Article 28 Diagnostic and Treatment Center, the Paul T. Bulger Vision Rehabilitation Clinic opened its doors. This new holistic medical center will be housed within Olmsted Center within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and adjacent to the future Ross Eye Institute. The Bulger Vision Clinic will provide the services of a physiatrist, nurse practitioner and occupational therapist in addition to the optometric, rehabilitation teaching, social work and orientation and mobility instruction previously offered. Treatment will address not only vision loss, but other physical, cognitive and emotional issues which may relate to visual impairment.

May 2007

Statler Center was awarded $457,000 from the Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc. This money will allow Statler Center to train and work with disabled people more strategically in career development. In this model, job placement will actually be “front-loaded” through the development of corporate relationships with businesses that have shown commitment to hiring the disabled, have positions available, and are willing to partner in advance with Statler Center for training and job placement.

June 2007

The Olmsted Institute of Business and Technology is established.

December 2007

Olmsted Center celebrates 100 years since inception. A centennial celebration takes place in summer 2008 since the corporation was officially formed in December 2008.

January 2008

Statler Center begins training of the first contact center training program.

June 2008

  • Avaya Corporation generously donates a new telecommunications system for the entire organization enabling Olmsted Center to open a call/contact center. The system provides additional functionality for all users who are blind.
  • Olmsted’s Summer Employment Program (SEE) for students between the ages of 16 to 19 who are blind is expanded to include weekend programming allowing students from across the state to participate.

November 2008

Statler Center, in partnership with Lighthouse of Central Florida and the Department of Education, Division of Blind Services, brings their successful hospitality and customer service training program for the blind or visually impaired to Orland, Florida.

June 2010

  • Nelson Hopkins Apartments officially opens. It is Olmsted Center’s sixth residential affordable apartment building specifically designed and built for people with physical disabilities.
  • Olmsted’s Early Education Program opens a private daycare for children, working with children age’s three to five.

June 2011

Central Referral Services/211WNY formally merges to become a program of Olmsted Center. 211WNY has a national presence in approximately 45 states and provides health & human services information and referral resources to the community at large.

December 2011

  • Regional Action Phone (RAP), based in Batavia, New York, officially becomes a subsidiary of Olmsted Center.
  • Olmsted’s Early Education Program begins providing school age contracts for expanded vision services.

April 2012

  • Olmsted Center hosts it first annual Dining in the Dark fundraiser, raising over $25,000 for agency programs in its inaugural year.
  • Vision Rehabilitation offers Diagnostic Vocational Evaluations.
  • Renovations are complete on the fourth floor of 1170 Main Street.

June 2012

  • Olmsted Center holds its first Fore Sight Golf Tournament at Chestnut Hill Country Club. The event is intended to raise both awareness and dollars for programming. The inaugural event attracted 94 golfers and raised over $9,000.
  • Statler Center hosts a graduation ceremony at the historic and newly re-opened Statler Hotel. The celebration is of significance since Ellsworth Statler built the hotel in the early 1900s and was widely recognized as a pioneer of the entire hospitality industry. This event also was the unveiling of a commemorative display highlighting the life of Ellsworth Statler to be displayed permanently at Olmsted Center.

August 2012

Vision Rehabilitation Department launches a new summer program for children. Youth Experiencing Success (YES) is a program designed to introduce and reinforce the necessary life skills to students ages 10-14. This four-day, 24 hour program, will focus on socialization, self-advocacy, daily living skills, identifying personality traits and interests.

September 2012

  • Ron Maier, President for 27 years, retires from Olmsted Center.
  • Olmsted Center begins its first annual “Dining in the Dark” fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency. 200 in attendance, $20K profit.

November 2012

Statler Center conducted training program in Albany, NY for 12 legally blind students.

March 2013

The Rehab Department introduced FOCUS, a two-day, one overnight, recreational program for children who are blind/legally blind. The program takes place at Beaver Hollow Conference Center and will be offered twice each year. Program objectives focus on the student’s socialization, self-confidence, teamwork and leadership skills. Students have access to numerous physical activities including swimming, hiking, rock climbing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, yoga and a full state-of-the-art fitness center.

April 2013

  • Tamara Owen started as President/CEO.
  • Olmsted/Statler Center partners with Veterans One Stop and has dedicated office hours helping disabled and blind veterans.

June 2013

2nd Annual “Fore Sight” Golf Tournament @ Chestnut Hill

August 2013

Statler Center trained 11 blind students for contact center work in El Paso, TX. Six were hired at Hewlett Packard’s contact center for a homeland security contract and one was hired at Austin Lighthouse.

September 2013

  • RAP merger is complete.
    AIRS Re-Certification is awarded to the 2-1-1 campaign.
    2-1-1 launches “Healthy Mom, Healthy baby campaign”.
  • 2nd “Annual Dining in the Dark” fundraiser held at Hyatt Regency.
    300 in attendance almost tripled from prior year, $34K profit

February 2014

Contact Center launches 1st large NIB B2B contract with large national lighting firm.

May 2014

May 13-15, seven representatives from OCS staff and Board travel to Washington to receive sustainable funding training from Benevon.

September 2014

3rd Annual Dining in the Dark, 375 people, $70K profit

December 2014

Section-14c certificate surrendered, Sheltered Work Activities Program closed.

September 2015

4th Annual Dining in the Dark, 440 attendees, $91K profit

June 2016

Launched Business Development Partnership with CABVI

September 2016

5th Annual Dining in the Dark, 490 attendees, $98,552 profit

September 2017

  • Transitioned the operations of the Center-based Pre-school Program to Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center
  • 6th Annual Dining in the Dark, 525 attendees, $108,434 profit

January 2018

Received DASNY $975K Grant for renovation of 1st floor of 1170 Main Street in an effort to integrate programing.

September 2018

7th Annual Dining in the Dark, 525 attendees, $124,000 profit

October 2018

Commenced Construction Renovations – 1st floor


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