Awards and Recognitions
Events by Year:
Able Trust recognizes Miami Lighthouse leadership
The Able Trust named our President & CEO, Virginia Jacko, as the winner of this year's prestigious "Dr. George L. Spelios Leadership Award." This highly competitive award recognizes outstanding leadership and advocacy efforts of an executive director or president of a Florida non-profit disability organization. To read more
Miami Lighthouse was named "Best of Miami" Charity 2017 by Miami New Times.
"Last year, a WalletHub survey ranked Miami one of the least caring cities in the United States. How did the Magic City measure so poorly? According to WalletHub, its researchers found a distinct lack of volunteerism and car-ing for the vulnerable, suggesting Miamians are perhaps a bit self-centered. But it's never too late to change that perception, and there's no better place to begin than at Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, one of the city's oldest charitable organizations serving the visually impaired. And though not eve-ryone has deep pockets to make a considerable donation, Miami Lighthouse offers other ways for people to help. Simply fill out a volunteer application on its website to help with everything from children's programs to vision screenings and fundraising. Because Miami Lighthouse has a four-star Charity Navigator rating, volunteers and donors can trust that their time and money will be well spent."
Miami Lighthouse Early Intervention Blind Babies Program Named the
Children's Trust 2016 Program of the Year!
This most prestigious award recognizes this Early Intervention
Program, in particular, for including parents as teachers.
Miami Lighthouse among Top 1% of Nonprofits in the Nation
Miami Lighthouse has received nine consecutive 4-star ratings from the national evaluator Charity Navigator placing us in the top 1% of nonprofits in the nation and is the only not-for-profit organization in Miami-Dade County to attain this highly coveted status. After a comprehensive review, our overall score was 98.06 out of 100 based on our sound financial management, accountability and transparency.
"As Chairman of the Board during our 85th year of service to the blind and visually impaired in Miami, I am proud of this recognition of Miami Lighthouse for its commitment to its donors to maximize program support through wise stewardship of their philanthropic investments," said Ramon Casas, Chairman of the Board.
Click here to read
our 2016 Charity Navigator letter.
Miami Lighthouse’s contributions in health, education
Miami Lighthouse for the Blind
and Visually Impaired – the oldest
private agency in Florida serving the
blind – received two major awards in
2015. A Sapphire Award from Florida
Blue Foundation acknowledged it as an
outstanding nonprofit community
healthcare organization; the Beacon
Council’s Distinguised Industry
Award honored it for outstanding
contributions to education.
In recognition of these tributes,
Miami Today’s Gold Medal Award
judges have given Miami Lighthouse
the 2016 Silver Medal for an
From its beginnings in 1931, in
a 900-square-foot bungalow, the
nonprofit has grown to a 55,000-
educational and rehabilitation center
serving the blind and visually impaired
at every stage of life, says Miami
Lighthouse President and CEO
Virginia A. Jacko.
“We have a major expansion under
way,” says Board Chair Ramón F. Casas, “that will include full-service
daycare and pre-kindergarten for blind
children in collaboration with Miami-
Dade County Public Schools and the
Early Learning Coalition. We’re already
offering intervention from birth, but
now we’ll be able to do so on a daily
Daily instruction in Braille, math and
using an iPad, Ms. Jacko says, will
ensure that when the children enter the
public school system “they will have all the
skills they need for a level playing field.”
Miami Lighthouse’s four mobile eyecare
units provide free eyecare exams and
glasses for kids having trouble at school
due to impaired vision but whose parents
can’t afford eyecare services.
“A survey of the parents of 1,400 kids
assisted in that program showed tht 74%
had academic proof that their child’s
performance had improved by getting
glasses from us at no cost,” Ms. Jacko says.
As children enter their teens, Miami
Lighthouse focuses on preparing them
“We’re helping them do whatever
they have to do to be ready for a career –
such a getting them job-shadowing
opportunities as well as jobs during
spring break,” Ms. Jacko says.
“Our GED program for blind adults,
a collaboration with Miami-Dade Public
Schools’ Adult and Career Technical
Education programs, includes help for
those who first need to take English as
a second language.”
Numerous challenges face those who
lose their vision as adults – a group that
is growing as the population ages.
Ms. Jacko says studies show one in
four adults over 75 will experience
uncorrectable vision loss.
“They need to relearn how to use
a computer, cook, put on makeup, label
clothing, do laundry, cross the street
safely with a guide dog, do their
shopping, among other things,” says
Ms. Jacko, who speaks from experience. A former university executive, she
originally came to Miami Lighthouse as a client determined to learn how to
continue to be a successful administrator.
Her success as chief executive of the nonprofit speaks
eloquently of the effectiveness of its programs.
“When I began at Miami Lighthouse 10 years ago,” she says,
“we were serving about 450 people annually. Now we assist over 15,000.
That’s because the need is great.
Florida Blue Names Miami Lighthouse Winner of 2015
Miami Lighthouse was honored at the Florida Blue
Foundation’s 2015 Sapphire Awards as an outstanding nonprofit organization
in community health care in recognition of distinguished leadership,
innovation and achievements in community health. Penny Shaffer, Market
President at Florida Blue, said "The Sapphire Awards embody our desire to
recognize excellence among organizations, programs and individuals that
have made a significant, positive impact on health-related outcomes for
Florida's at-risk people and communities. Miami Lighthouse for the Blind
has demonstrated excellence and serves as a model for others to emulate
addressing their community's needs with unmatched dedication and courage."
Finalists were selected by an independent panel of experts with state and
national expertise in community health best practices. The announcement
was at the Sapphire Awards Symposium luncheon on April 23, 2015. Miami
Lighthouse is honored to have received such distinguished recognition.
Miami Lighthouse Receives Distinguished Award for
The Beacon Council has announced that Miami Lighthouse
will be the recipient of its Distinguished Award for Education at the 13th
Annual Beacon Awards. The prestigious awards, cited by the Beacon Council
as "A One Community One Goal Initiative," are sponsored by major
corporations and financial institutions in the Greater Miami area and
recognize outstanding contributions to the community by individuals,
non-profits and various organizations.
CEO Virginia Jacko will accept the award for Miami
Lighthouse at the annual event on April 2nd at the University of Miami.
Molina Health Care of Florida Community Champion Award
CEO Virginia Jacko was honored as a Community Champion by
Molina Health Care of Florida on May 29, 2014. The recognition included an
award of $1,000 to Miami Lighthouse which was earmarked for our Owen S.
Freed Job Placement Fund. The event honors the unsung heroes who work in
our communities and inspire others through their selflessness,
extraordinary service and contributions, which positively affect the lives
of those around them. This award was established to honor the memory of
Molina Healthcare’s physician founder, Dr. C. David Molina who believed in
community partners working together to create programs that would help
care for those in need.
Board Director Donna Abood was chosen as the 2014
Businesswoman of the Year in the Outstanding Corporate Leader category,
and CEO Virginia Jacko was chosen as Businesswoman of the Year in the
Public Servant/Non Profit Professional category.
Purdue University Honors CEO Virginia Jacko
The highest honor Purdue University bestows upon its
graduates who have held significant leadership positions is to be called
an "Old Master." Selected from a list of 400 nominees, CEO Virginia Jacko
was one of ten distinguished alums honored at the 2013 Old Masters
recognition ceremony at Purdue in November.
Virginia Jacko, Junior League of Miami, Inc., 2013 “Women Who Make a
CEO Virginia Jacko was honored by the Junior League at a
luncheon held at Jungle Island’s Treetop Ballroom on Sunday, April 7,
2013. The award notification letter stated, “Your outstanding achievement
and volunteerism make you an example of how service can positively impact
so many people. Your work is an inspiration to us all.”
The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Better Chance Music Production Program™ has been awarded a grant by The
Mockingbird Foundation, an all-volunteer nonprofit organization founded by
Phish fans, supporting music education for children.
Virginia Jacko 2012 Florida Women of Achievement
Click here to
read press release and biographies of honorees.
Virginia Jacko receives United Homecare’s Thelma Gibson
Community Service Award at the 18th Annual Claude Pepper Memorial Awards
Click here to view the photos.
Miami Lighthouse's Heiken Children's Vision Program
wins the bronze medal for their service to thousands of under-served
children in public schools at Miami Today Gold Medal Awards Ceremony.
Click here to view the article in Miami Today.
Virginia Jacko receives Purdue University College of
Health and Human Sciences 2012 Distinguished Alumni Award
to view the photos.
Miami Lighthouse Wins South Florida Business Journal
Excellence In Health Care - Community Outreach Award
Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious South Florida
Business Journal 2011 Excellence in Health Care Award in the Community
Outreach category at an award ceremony October 6.
Click here for press release.
In an interview with South Florida Business Journal
CEO Virginia A. Jacko remarked on the importance of community partnerships
in bringing eye wellness to as many people as possible: "You cannot do
this alone...you need to grow and maintain key collaborations.
Click here to read the South Florida Business Journal article
announcing the award.
"The award is a reflection of Miami Lighthouse's growing
presence in the community and our strategic plan beginning in 2006 to
become a recognized Center of Excellence in Low Vision Rehabilitation,"
CEO Jacko said.
In the 2010-2011 school year, the Miami Lighthouse Florida
Heiken Children's Vision Program performed 7,950 eye exams for children
from low-income families who have no other resource for eye care. Nearly
6,000 of those children received free eyeglasses through the program.
University research has indicated that low vision is a factor in poor
school performance and resulting delinquency, and receiving vision
correction as early as possible helps kids succeed in school and in life.
The Miami Lighthouse Florida Heiken Children’s Vision Program, through a
contract with the state Department of Health, now brings eye wellness
services to children in 42 Florida counties.
Florida Heiken Children’s Vision Program Honored by
Miami-Dade County School Board
A proclamation recognizing the Miami Lighthouse Heiken
Children's Vision Program for distinguished services to county
schoolchildren was presented at the April 14th, 2010 meeting of the
Miami-Dade County School Board.
to read the School Board Proclamation.
Isabel Chica, Miami Lighthouse Manager of Children’s
Receives 2010 Direct Support Professionals Award from Irwin
Siegel Agency, Inc.
Isabel Chica has worked at the Miami Lighthouse for the
Blind and Visually Impaired since 2003. Isabel has two sons who are
visually impaired. This aspect of her life left her with a fierce passion
for serving children who are blind or visually impaired as well as give
others the hope, confidence, and tools they need to help their children.
With Isabel’s help, parents have learned how to advocate for their child.
Her knowledge of early child development has enabled her to teach these
parents how to understand age-appropriate cognitive, fine and gross motor
skills in order to help their children enter school without suffering
long-term developmental delays.
Isabel manages the children’s department at Miami
Lighthouse. In 2003, the blind babies program served 60 blind babies and
their mothers. In 2009 that number increased to 205. Isabel was
instrumental in advocating for and starting weekly playgroup sessions
where children participate in different playgroups stimulating their fine
sensory motor skills and developing their social skills. Parents also
participate and learn different techniques to further stimulate their
child at home. The play group was featured on NBC in June 2010.
Isabel’s collaboration with parents, caregivers and
teachers has led the Summer Training and Recreation Program (STAR) to be a
huge success. STAR is a fun and educational experience for the children
who participate. Ms. Chica holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education, a
Master’s degree in Reading Education, she completed the VIISA Program
curriculum for family centered intervention for infants, toddlers and
preschoolers who are visually impaired as well as INSITE; a resource
curriculum for use with families who have children ages 0-5 who are deaf,
hearing impaired, blind or visually impaired with additional disabilities.
Isabel’s extensive education has enabled her to research and implement an
evidence based curriculum for children ages 5-13. Isabel has not only
worked with over 200 families seeking professional guidance, she also
provided in-service trainings to more than 125 professionals who are
visually impaired or blind.
Isabel’s warm, charismatic spirit welcomes others to
express their concerns and ask for advice. Her experience and wealth of
knowledge shines through when she speaks to parents. She is highly
creative in developing material for playgroup and is deeply committed to
helping children achieve independence. Isabel is always willing to go the
extra mile, and is full of love and compassion for her job. Isabel sees
people for what they can become and she tirelessly dedicates herself to
ensuring each child lives up to his/her ability.
Click here to download featured PDF file.
Miami Lighthouse Receives Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce
2010 Non-Profit Diamond Award
Miami Lighthouse was honored to be named the recipient of the Coral Gables
Chamber of Commerce 2010 Non-Profit Business Diamond Award on November
The Diamond Awards were created in 1997 by the Coral Gables Chamber of
Commerce to honor excellence in Business. The criteria used to judge
applicants are excellence in business achievement, corporate citizenship,
customer service and workplace environment. These attributes show a
commitment to providing exceptional products and services, while accepting
the responsibility to address the many needs in our community.
Congratulations to Chairman Owen Freed. He was awarded the
Alliance for Aging President's Distinguished Service Award for Excellence
at the Positive Living Awards Dinner. He is the inaugural recipient of
this honor. Under Owen's leadership, the Miami Lighthouse has truly moved
to the next level, and we have great admiration for his leadership of the
Miami Lighthouse. In addition, he has provided outstanding service to the
Rotary beginning in 1964 as founding chairman of the Rotary International
6990 Youth Exchange. He currently serves as coordinator of the Alumni of
the Rotary Foundation for Zone 34; he also currently serves as a member of
the FIU Advisory Board for the School of International and Public Affairs
among many other public service appointments also including Honorary
Consul of Honduras since 1968. We all extend our congratulations to Owen.
22nd Annual In the Company of
Women Awards Ceremony
Congratulations to Board Director State Representative Yolly Roberson who
is the recipient of the Miami-Dade County In the Company of Women Award
in the category of Outstanding Woman in Government and Law. These awards
recognize local women from various disciplines for their outstanding
achievements and contributions to the citizens of Miami-Dade County. The
award was presented at the 22nd Annual In the Company of Women Awards
Ceremony on March 18th.
Miami Lighthouse CEO Virginia
Jacko Receives Concern Award from Health Foundation of South Florida
CEO Virginia Jacko
received the prestigious 2008 Concern Award recently from Health
Foundation of South Florida. The award includes a $25,000 grant to the
charity of the recipient’s choice; naturally CEO Jacko’s choice is Miami
Lighthouse. She was nominated for the Concern Award by Arthur H. Hertz,
CEO of Wometco Enterprises and Miami Seaquarium.
This year, both
Concern Award winners lead organizations that help people who share their
own disability. CEO Jacko lost her eyesight to retinitis pigmentosa; the
other award recipient, Pedro Rodriguez, founded Spinal Cord
Living-Assistance Development after his own spinal cord injury.
''I know about a lot
of awards programs,'' said Steven Marcus, CEO of the Health Foundation. “I
think this is the only one in the United States where the award winners
head up organizations that offer services to people who share their
disability.'' More than 300 community leaders were present at the awards
luncheon in December.
“I am humbled by
this recognition by Health Foundation of South Florida,” CEO Jacko said,
“and grateful to Arthur Hertz for nominating me, and so happy to be able
to share this award with Miami Lighthouse. Every bit of assistance we receive
helps us transform lives, just as my life was transformed by Miami