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Arkanasas Lighthouse for the Blind

The Lighthouse began in 1940 as the dream of blind Methodist minister, the late Rev. Jeff Smith. Superintendent Smith, with the help of a few friends and a $100 donation, set up a small workshop behind the Arkansas School for the Blind.

Helen Keller

Later a shop was opened on the east side of Little Rock with an expansion in service to blind citizens through employment.  Helen Keller dedicated this Ninth Street workshop on a trip to Little Rock in 1945.

In the 40s and 50s, the Lighthouse produced straw brooms, rubber mats, push brooms, banners and pennants, mail bags, billfolds, mops, aprons and pillowcases.  But the Ninth Street facility was small and a new manufacturing plant was needed. 

ALB History photo

On June 6, 1965 a groundbreaking for a new plant began a campaign that resulted in more than 50,000 contributions from Arkansans.  It took 16 months to raise money to complete the building at 69th and Murray Streets which was dedicated in March of 1966 and remains the location of the Lighthouse.  The $300,000 plant housed 45 employees in 1966. 

ALB History photo

In the 60s the Arkansas Lighthouse began manufacturing products for the United States government.  Detonators made at the plant were shipped to Vietnam in 1966.  Then in 1976 the Lighthouse began making notebooks and military belts.  As a part of National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the Lighthouse continues to acknowledge Department of Defense contracts as the backbone of its client base. 

In 2010 the Lighthouse completed a major expansion. A new 20,000-square-foot warehouse was constructed, and the existing warehouse was converted into 17,000 square feet of manufacturing and production space.  A new roof, gallery, rest rooms, employee break room and outside dining facilities were completed, and renovated portions of the old production areas now stand ready to accommodate new products and services.

A Contact Center has been set up to promote business services and a new conference room allows ALB to host regional National Industries for the Blind meetings and invite Lions Clubs and community groups associated with the blind to utilize our meeting room in addition to providing a training space with computers for use by our employees. 

ALB Aerial Photo

Today we have the space and the facilities to add new product lines, provide new services and hire more employees who are blind and visually impaired. The past five years have seen tremendous growth here, but the future holds even more opportunity to improve employees’ quality of life as we produce quality products for our customers.

 

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