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History of  The Seeing Hand Association, Inc. Wheeling, WV

The first written record that we have is a typed committee report dated May 23, 1936. It is addressed to Mrs. Nell Humphrey and signed by Mrs. Eleanor Russell. Thanks is expressed to the YMCA and Mr. Ivan Justice, Director, “for their generosity and helpfulness to us during the past season.” They called themselves the Sponsoring Committee for the blind.

Members were asked to write to Governor Kemp, “urging him to include legislation for the needy blind of West Virginia as part of the new Social Security Act” Mrs. Russell then reminded that, “we have no dues or help in any other way, and that contributions may be made to the Sponsors for the Blind and sent to Mrs. James M. Hawley, Hawley Building,
Wheeling, WV.

An undated report of a Board meeting that may have occurred in March 1937, mentions that five committees had been formed, and that the flood had delayed their meetings.
Recreation and Social – Miss Cummins
Enumeration and Description of Blind --- Mrs. James Hawley
Education and Vocational Education-- Mrs. Robert Hazlett
Social Security and Pensions-- Mr. Spillers
Publicity and Transportation

FEBRUARY 23, 1937, Meeting at YMCA
Some of the blind workers had called themselves “The Seeing Blind.” Mr. Justice, YMCA Director, after some discussion, suggested “The Seeing Hand” and this was adopted to be used with the subtitle, „Ohio County Association for the Blind.” Another important matter was the discussion about holding a sale of blind products. Mr. Cerone spoke of the success of such a sale, and said that it would provide an opportunity to see the blind at work. A
benefit concert was also proposed, and discussion groups with professional speakers.
Mr. Justice reported that councilman Duffy agreed to sponsor the appearance of Mr. Cerone to present a petition to establish a stand in the City Hall. The need for a traffic ordinance to protect blind pedestrians was proposed. This ordinance was later passed by the City council but not until 1949.

December 1942 and January 1943 visits by Harriet Dinwiddie. No minutes during the World War II years.

September 1946: Regular minutes until 1954

September 1946: Mrs. Courtland Smith joined the board.

September 3, 1946: charter approved by WV. Filed on April 11, 1947, in Ohio County, first chartered by the state of WV as The Seeing Hand Ohio County Association for the Prevention and Treatment of Blindness. The first organization serving the blind in WV.

October 1946: Miss Elikan became board member. Died 1997. Hall of Fame dinner March, 1998

April 1947: Need for center for the blind --Mr. Cerone

January 23, 1948: Offer by the American Legion of 737 Market Street. The Legion offered to raise $25-30,000 with $12,000 going to pay for 737 Market St. property. Mr. Joe Jefferson – board approved.

January 29, 1948: a resolution of approval was drafted at the request of the Legion. Unanimously carried. Mr. Jefferson expressed assurance that the American Legion would always have the interest of the blind on their minds, and promised interest and aid. Mr.
Cerone and Mr. Monfredi were elected co-chairmen.

March 1948: saw the formation of the Sightless Workers Guild.

April 1948: The Guild wanted to do all the ordering and have a blind overseer for workshop.
1949: Mention of funds on hand to be transferred to The Community Foundation for the Blind.

May 1949: First luncheon at 737 Market by board.

May 1950: Mary Hood elected to the board.

June 22, 1950: Formal Dedication.

December 1950: Christmas party was held and 97 were present and 55 baskets were prepared.

September 1950: Weaving classes started. Mrs. Tyler Davis instructing rug looms and chair caning by Henry Rowland.

December 1950: Miss Elikan returning treasury checks. Also cooking classes started.

January 1951: first rug weaving loom purchased and leather class in operation.

November 1952: Mrs. Scott and Miss. Elikan visited Lighthouse for the blind. Lighthouse secretary said that we were the 10th center in the US who serve the local blind.

November 1953: Seven blind bowlers sponsored by the Rotary. Mrs. Smith gives Court credit for starting bowling.

January 1954: Gene Bates bowling and bowling was scheduled for 13 weeks and to be continued for 10 more weeks.

July 1954: Mr. Jim Castor joins board, Broom machine offered by the Warwood Lions and they wood sell brooms.

September 1954: mop making machine.

January 1955: agreed to make mops only.

March 1955: Donald Pruitt made 34 mops in one day

May 1955: Braille lessons by Mrs. Megale.

November 1955: Mrs. Minns complains about unfairness.

January 1956: Mr. Cerone to be President of the American

Federation of the Blind. Mr. Cerone antipathy for the Seeing Hand.

April 1956: one local blind woman made 200 phone calls saying not to patronize Seeing Hand sales as this was taking away her means of livelihood.

October 1956: The idea of a camp was proposed.

November 18, 1956: Miss Elikan makes braille telephone book.

February 1957: Cheerful Bowlers planning tournament in May in Cincinnati.

March 1957: Helen Di Prosperis, new client learning braille and knitting.

April 1957: Subcontract work for Billiards Company discussed.

May 1957: Summer camp started for 50 blind. Mrs. Louise Smith arranged for a nature evening with Mr. Breiding for Camp.

September 1957: typing course offered by Wheeling College of Commerce.

September 1962: Louise and Courtland Smith design a garden for the blind, using a room in Wilson Lodge. It was filled with plants and flowers raised by Court and Louise. Each plant had an identification card with the name written in English and braille.

February 1997 Miss Ethel Claire Elikan died.

February 6, 1997: The named was changed to: “The Seeing Hand Association, Inc.

April 1997 the property at 750 Main Street is purchased as the new Center and dedicated and named “The Elikan Center.”

October 1998: An Open House was held in honor of the opening of the new facility.

March 1998: Miss Ethel Claire Elikan was named to the Wheeling Hall of Fame.

May 1999: The property at 737 Market Street was sold to Franz von Fuhrer.

May 1999: The mortgage for the property at 750 Main Street is paid in full.
The Cheerful Bowlers of The Seeing Hand Association were national champions for many years during the 1950s and 60s.

Following the passing of Ms. Elikan, there were several interim Directors, most notably Board member Edwin (Ted) Spears.

R. Alvin Schafer Jr. was the CEO/President from March of 1999 until his retirement in September of 2009. Director Schafer developed the “Adviser” newsletter and expanded the staff. Mr. Schafer oversaw the computerization of the office and development of Camp
Independence. The Low Vision clinic also became a reality during Mr. Schafer's tenure.

Carolyn S. Heath, began her role as the leader of the Seeing Hand Association on September 8, 2009. Director Heath comes from the world of banking having reached the level of Branch Manager with United Bank. Director Heath has been working with the daily trials and tribulations of a blind individual as her daughter has been visually impaired her entire life. Director Heath brings with her a strong financial background, coupled with her knowledge of the field of rehabilitation services for the blind and visually impaired and a relentless desire to stabilize the financial standing of the Seeing Hand Association for the forseeable future. Carolyn has the “we can do this” attitude needed to secure the availability of services for the blind and visually impaired of the upper Ohio Valley. The future looks brighter as we try to help the blind and visually impaired and their families see more clearly than ever before.


The Seeing Hand Association, Inc.
750 Main Street
Wheeling, WV 26003
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