isabel_kennedy_history

Isabel Kennedy

Although there were agencies devoted to educating the blind, Mrs. Kennedy was unable to locate any organization engaged in assisting the impoverished blind for basic human needs.

In 1909, with a $50 gift from a friend, Mrs. Kennedy founded The Blind Relief Fund of Philadelphia. During that first winter, the Fund distributed coal, groceries, clothing, and small amounts of money to 75 needy blind persons. Out of concern for their social and emotional needs, Mrs. Kennedy organized various recreational activities and social outings.

In 1920, Mrs. Kennedy was able to establish an investment account after receiving an anonymous gift of $10,000 in securities. At this time Mrs. Kennedy articulated her vision that The Blind Relief Fund be a privately funded organization and not become dependent upon funding from government or public agencies. This position enables The Blind Relief Fund to side step the bureaucracy and red tape that often impedes an agency’s ability to immediately respond to the needs of its clients.

Mrs. Kennedy established the concept of the “Friendly Visitor” and The Blind Relief Fund’s longstanding policy of coordinating all services through home visitations by an experienced case manager.

Frank W. Harris, Jr.

Frank W. Harris, Jr.

In 1952, Frank W. Harris, Jr., who had volunteered accounting and legal services for 22 years, took the reins of leadership. His financial skills had guided The Blind Relief Fund through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War – all extremely difficult times for charitable organizations.

Nelson G. Harris succeeded his father, Frank Harris, as President of The Blind Relief Fund in 1968 and served in that capacity for 32 years. Nelson Harris, also a lawyer and a Certified Public Accountant, continued to provide the astute fiscal leadership to preserve Mrs. Kennedy’s dream.

Today, the President of The Blind Relief Fund of Philadelphia is Stephen J. Harris, who has been an active member of the Board of Managers for 32 years and represents the third generation of the Harris family to serve in this capacity. Under his guidance, the Fund works closely with other agencies to intervene on behalf of blind clients whose health or safety is threatened.

Nelson Harris

Nelson Harris

The Blind Relief Fund has, over the years, developed a deeper awareness of the interconnection between financial, emotional, and social issues that confront blind adults. Resolving this tangle of problems and bringing hope and comfort to perhaps the most disadvantaged of Philadelphia’s citizens remains our solemn moral obligation.