UTSA business with S.A. Lighthouse for the Blind helps change lives

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(Aug. 21, 2013) -- The connection of UTSA and the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind (SALB) began with a conversation several years ago between two friends whose children went to the same school. Something that started small has become a collaboration with a great impact on the community.

Several years ago, a meeting between Olivia Lopez, program coordinator for the UTSA Mexico Center and the Bank of America Child and Adolescent Policy Research Institute (CAPRI), and Chris Crane, national sales manager for the SALB, led to a significant business relationship. UTSA is now one of the top three commercial accounts with the SALB, purchasing office supplies, equipment and furniture.

The San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization incorporated in Texas. For 80 years, the group has helped people who are blind or visually impaired live high-quality, independent lives by providing rehabilitation services, technology training and employment in its light manufacturing assembly plant.

"I've known Chris Crane for a long time because our kids went to grade school together," said Lopez. "We got together for a meeting, and I realized what a great impact their work was having. She saw the potential for collaboration between the university and the Lighthouse, so Dr. Harriett Romo, the director of CAPRI and the Mexico Center, and I helped set up the Lighthouse as a UTSA vendor. They supplied office materials to us and then other departments started buying from them, and it grew. I've always liked UTSA's commitment to helping others."

"We call our major commercial customers Visionary Partners, so UTSA has that distinction within our agency and when we refer to the school in public," said Crane. "With more than 50,000 blind people in San Antonio, partnering with UTSA has made a significant impact in the lives of many of our neighbors. Since there is a 70-percent unemployment rate among the blind, UTSA purchases help to create jobs for people who are blind and support for these individuals and their families."

The SALB recently was awarded the paper contracts for the John Peace Library and College of Business copy centers at UTSA, along with providing everything from paper clips to printers from a selection of more than 41,000 items for offices across the three UTSA campuses.

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About the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind

Serving more than 6,000 clients each year, the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind is a San Antonio icon for training and educating the blind and severely visually impaired and is a leader in manufacturing for military and government agencies.

Founded in 1933, the Lighthouse began as a small sewing plant on the San Antonio South Side and has grown into an agency that provides employment for more than 450 employees in a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing and rehabilitation facility. More than half of its employees are blind or visually impaired.

The SALB manufacturing operation supports our nation's military efforts by manufacturing office supplies, military helmet chin straps and textile apparel, spill kits and absorbent products, aerospace insulation blankets and airplane floorboards.

SALB operates 14 base service centers on 11 military installations in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico as part of the AbilityOne program, which helps blind and disabled employees nationwide find jobs. AbilityOne partners with nonprofits to provide products made by the blind and disabled to the federal government at fair market prices.

SALB also hosts community events such as Art in the Dark and the SALB Walk Run. To volunteer, visit the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind website.