Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Inc.

Through education, training, research and vision enhancement, Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides hope, confidence, and independence to people of all ages.

It's Possible to See Without Sight™

601 Southwest Eighth Avenue, FL 33130 · Ph: 305.856.2288 · Fx: 305-285.6967 · 

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Awards and What They're Saying About Miami Lighthouse

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 Events by Year: 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2008


Miami Lighthouse achieves perfect score of 100 on the Charity Navigator Leadership and Adaptability Encompass Beacon.


Miami Lighthouse achieved a perfect score of 100 on the Charity Navigator Leadership and Adaptability Encompass Beacon.

Categories evaluated and our scores are:

  • Mission 10
  • Vision 10
  • Goals 20
  • Leadership Development 15
  • Mobilizing for Mission 15
  • Adaptability Story 30

Details are available in the Miami Lighthouse listing on


Miami Lighthouse among Top 1% of Nonprofits in the Nation

Miami Lighthouse has received 13 consecutive 4-star ratings, the highest rating possible, from the national evaluator Charity Navigator placing us in the top 1% of nonprofits in the nation. Miami Lighthouse is currently the only the only not-for-profit organization in Miami achieving this highly coveted status. After a comprehensive review, our overall score was 100 out of 100 based on our sound financial management, accountability and transparency.

Click here to read our 2020 Charity Navigator letter

Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2020 award for "Best in Nonprofit" campaign by PRWeek referred to as the "Oscars of the PR industry".

To read more, please click here.


2019 South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Women’s Society Network Advocacy Award

Rotary Club of Miami Honors CEO Jacko with 2019 "Distinguished Citizens Award"

Miami Lighthouse's President and CEO Virginia Jacko received Rotary Club of Miami's 2019 "Distinguished Citizens Award" at the 103rd Presidential Installation Ceremony for their new President, Norby Rudel. This award acknowledges a special individual for their contributions to the community and Rotary Club of Miami presented a check of $500 to Miami Lighthouse in CEO Jacko's honor.

Our Miami Lighthouse dates back to the late 1920's when the Miami Rotarians worked with Dolly Gamble, a remarkable blind activist and promoter of Braille literacy, to found the Florida Association of Workers for the Blind which later became Miami Lighthouse for the Blind.

We thank the Rotarians for this honor and wish the best of luck to the new Rotary Club of Miami President Norby Rudel!

2019 Dr. Ramiro Collazo Outstanding Service Award, Miami Cuban Lions Club


CEO Jacko receives Lions Clubs International 2018 President's Leadership Award

At the Lions Clubs International 100th Anniversary Board of Directors Meeting in Miami, President & CEO Virginia Jacko was presented by Lions International Chair, Dr. Naresh Aggarwal, the highly selective 2018 President's Leadership Award.


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 click here.

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’s contributions in health, education cited

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 Organization.

From its beginnings, in a 900-square-foot bungalow, the nonprofit has grown to a 55,000- square-foot, state-of-the-art 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 basis.

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 for employment.

“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 Sapphire Award

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 Education

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.

AXA Advisors Businesswoman of the Year Awards

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.


Miami Lighthouse was recognized as the 2013 Most Valuable Non-Profit at the Switchboard of Miami All Star Non-Profit Awards Luncheon on October 25

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 Difference” Honoree

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.”

Miami Lighthouse For The Blind And Visually Impaired Better Chance Music Production Program™ Receives Mockingbird Foundation Grant

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.

Miami Lighthouse Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program Receives Special Recognition For Outstanding Service Miami-Dade County Public Schoolchildren


Virginia Jacko 2012 Florida Women of Achievement Honoree

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 Ceremony

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

Click here 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 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.

Click here to read the School Board Proclamation.

Isabel Chica, Miami Lighthouse Manager of Children’s Programs,
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 4th.

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.

Chairman Owen Freed awarded the Alliance for
Aging President's Distinguished Service Award for Excellence

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 Lighthouse.”



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Miami Lighthouse is AER accredited distinguishing that an agency or school operates at the highest level of quality and is positioned to generate the outcomes needed by the clients.


Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2020 award for "Best in Nonprofit" campaign by PRWeek referred to as the "Oscars of the PR industry".


Miami Lighthouse ranks among the elite 1% of U.S. nonprofits having earned 13 consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator, the nation's premier independent nonprofit evaluator. Receiving such a distinction reflects our sound fiscal management, responsible use of donor dollars, and financial strength.


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 Learning Center for Children™ is a Florida gold seal and nationally Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment (APPLE)


Miami Lighthouse was recognized at the 2015 Florida Blue Foundation Sapphire Awards luncheon as an organization that has demonstrated excellence and innovation in community health.


Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2015 Beacon Award in Education at the 13th Annual Beacon Council Awards.


Miami Lighthouse is a two-time Charity Partner (2013 and 2014) of the Marlins Foundation and a 2017 Major League Baseball All-Star Game Legacy Partner. Our Florida Heiken Children's Vision Program has received over $300,000 in charitable donations through these partnerships.


Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious 2008 Concern Award from Health Foundation of South Florida.


Miami Lighthouse received a Silver medal at the 2016 Miami Today Gold Medal Awards Ceremony.


Miami Lighthouse named "Best of Miami" Charity 2017 by the New Times.


Miami Lighthouse received United Homecare’s 2012 Thelma Gibson Community Service Award at the 18th Annual Claude Pepper Memorial Awards Ceremony.


Miami Lighthouse received the prestigious South Florida Business Journal 2011 Excellence in Health Care Award in the Community Outreach category.


Miami Lighthouse honored by being named the recipient of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce 2010 Non-Profit Business Diamond Award.