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The Marilyn Lichtman Foundation

Neighborly chat leads to $50,000 grant

By Chris Michlewicz; photo courtesy of the Marilyn Lichtman Foundation

Photo of grant presentation i

Castle Pines resident Michael Scott, Blind Institute of Technology founder Mike Hess, Blind Institute of Technology Board Chairman Mark Vivien, and Castle Pines resident Elaine Hussey attended the grant presentation in late July. The parties involved wish to thank LIV Sotheby’s and the Castle Pines Chamber of Commerce for allowing the presentation to take place on their patio.

A conversation between neighbors in Glen Oaks set in motion a chain of events that could positively impact job opportunities for the visually impaired for years to come.

It was in May that Elaine Hussey and Michael Scott were discussing healthcare when Hussey casually mentioned that a foundation for which she coordinates social media was seeking grant applications from nonprofits that fit with the foundation’s mission and purpose.

When Scott read the Marilyn Lichtman Foundation’s eligibility requirements for the grant, he immediately thought of his friend, Mike Hess, who seven years ago created the Denver-based Blind Institute of Technology. The nonprofit provides job training for those with visual impairments and acts as a staffing agency for large corporations looking to provide more opportunities for people with disabilities.

Scott, a Castle Pines resident for 18 years and president of the financial advisor division at the Colorado Hospital Association, encouraged Hess to apply. Two months later, on July 28, a small group gathered at the Castle Pines Chamber of Commerce to watch the presentation of a $50,000 grant to the Blind Institute of Technology.

The Marilyn Lichtman Foundation supports a range of causes, from military and police organizations to cancer research to nonprofit entities that assist the disabled.

Hess, who is blind and previously worked as an engineer, can attest to the challenges and barriers facing those with impairments, and skills training is only part of the battle.

“The training component is not the challenge; it’s convincing employers that people who are visually impaired are one hundred percent able to do the job,” said Hess, whose ultimate goal is to place 10,000 visually-impaired workers into full-time positions.

The $50,000 grant is the second-largest grant the Foundation has awarded and ties the highest amount the Blind Institute of Technology has ever received. In fact, the grant came on the heels of another $50,000 grant from Salesforce, which also designated the Blind Institute of Technology as its exclusive national trainer for people with disabilities.

Hussey and Scott both attended the grant presentation ceremony and are grateful to have had a crucial role in connecting the organizations.

“For them to get an infusion of cash to continue their amazing work, it’s a tremendous thing to be a part of,” Hussey said.

Good to know:

  • October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
  • In mid-2017, the labor force participation rate for those with visual impairments stood at 39 percent, according to the American Foundation for the Blind.
  • The Marilyn Lichtman Foundation has provided funding for homeless shelters, first responders, food banks, wildlife conservation groups, military veterans and many others.
  • The 30th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act occurred in July, the same month as the grant presentation to the Blind Institute of Technology.


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