Port Washington Patch: Helen Keller National Center Celebrates 50th Anniversary
By Angela Zapke, Port Washington Patch | February 8, 2017
Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults (HKNC), a division of Helen Keller Services (HKS), is marking its 50th anniversary in 2017. At a recent kick-off breakfast, HKS President and CEO Joseph Bruno and HKNC Executive Director Susan Ruzenski announced a series of anniversary-themed events and unveiled a 50th anniversary logo, which reads, “Honoring the Past. Changing the Future.”
“The 50th Anniversary of HKNC is a time to reflect on where we’ve been and all we have accomplished,” explained Ruzenski. “It is also a time to make clear that our focus is squarely on the future. We won’t be satisfied until all DeafBlind individuals in the United States, young and old, have access to opportunities to live full and empowered lives equal to their hearing and sighted neighbors. We remain committed to this mission and thank everyone who has contributed to our growth and success.”
HKS President and CEO Joe Bruno added, “A recent survey estimated that 2.4 million people in the United States have a combined vision and hearing loss. Clearly the need has never been greater for the many services offered by HKNC, which include employment and independent living training for youth, working-age adults, and senior citizens. As President and CEO of Helen Keller Services, the parent organization of Helen Keller Services for the Blind (HKSB) and HKNC, I am extremely proud of HKNC and the work it does. I look forward to participating in the various events scheduled to celebrate this important anniversary year.”
Numerous activities are planned that will incorporate the 50th Anniversary theme, including a Sip N’ Paint evening on March 15 at Il Bacco Ristorante in Little Neck, NY; a Community Open House on April 23 as part of HKNC’s signature fundraising event, Helen’s Run/Walk 2017, in Sands Point, NY; a reception on May 21 prior to a special performance of The Miracle Worker at The Queens Theater in the Park, Flushing Meadows, NY; the Helen Keller Services Annual Gala on September 14 at the Garden City Hotel, which will feature honorees tied to HKNC and its history; and an anniversary luncheon on October 7 at HKNC’s Sands Point Headquarters, where the HKNC Wall of Fame will be unveiled paying tribute to pioneers and innovators who paved the way in service to the DeafBlind community.
The origins of the Helen Keller National Center go back to October 3, 1967, when then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law amendments to the Vocational Rehabilitation Act that called for a National Center for people who are DeafBlind. Staff training began immediately and in 1970 the National Center moved into a converted warehouse in New Hyde Park, NY, before moving to its present headquarters in Sands Point, NY, in 1976. Today, Helen Keller National Center oversees 11 regional offices across the United States and is the only comprehensive national program that provides information, referral, support, and training exclusively to youths and adults who are DeafBlind.
“It is an honor to be HKNC’s executive director during this anniversary celebration,” concluded Ruzenski, who has worked at HKNC for 38 years and been its Executive Director since 2014. “The Center and our regional offices have touched the lives of tens of thousands of DeafBlind individuals throughout the years. We want to recognize our partners, the Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services and the many dedicated HKNC staff members, volunteers, state and local community partners, employers, generous donors and elected officials who have advocated for HKNC year in and year out. Most importantly, we want to thank the individuals who are DeafBlind with whom we’ve had the privilege to share this journey of learning and working together.”
Headquartered in Sands Point, New York, HKNC provides comprehensive vocational and independent living training to youths and adults who are DeafBlind. It offers support and learning opportunities to professionals and family members, and maintains a National Registry of Persons who are DeafBlind. The Center partners with other agencies across the United States to build their capacity to work with individuals who are DeafBlind. HKNC is a division of Helen Keller Services.