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Our Organization History


A Visionary's Dream and Community Action

The Tri-State Independent Blind Society, founded in December 1972 and incorporated on February 27, 1973, stands as a testament to the vision of Donald H. Gagne and the collective efforts of ten community-driven individuals. Recognizing the lack of support for the visually impaired, Don Gagne, inspired by his personal experiences of vision loss, joined forces with others to create a society dedicated to helping those with vision loss.

Our Founding Mission

Our founders set out with a clear mission: to advocate for the education, welfare, and safety of both the blind and partially blind, to foster their talents and skills, and to help them become useful, productive, and happy members of society. This vision was underpinned by a desire to provide a sense of belonging and companionship among peers.


Pioneering the First Low Vision Eye Clinic

In the 1980s, under the auspices of our organization, Iowa's first Low Vision Eye Clinic was established, with Dr. Doug Spyrison, Dr. Martha Smith, and Dr. Kent Hillary offering their services. This clinic marked a significant milestone in our journey to provide specialized care and support to the visually impaired.

Expansion and Growth

By 1988, the growing needs of our community and our expanding services necessitated a move to our current location. This relocation was a strategic step to accommodate our long-range goals and to continue the legacy initiated by Don Gagne and our founders.


Comprehensive Community Services

Over the years, we've served thousands of families, led initiatives in transportation for the blind and handicapped, and introduced a range of educational programs. These include computer classes, cane travel, Braille lessons, cooking classes, and more, all aimed at fostering independence and skills development.

Community Support and Partnerships

Our journey has been bolstered by the support of the Dubuque Racing Association and other community partners. Their contributions have been pivotal in sustaining our diverse programs and services. Our used bookstore, fueled by community donations, offers an array of resources, furthering our mission of support and engagement.


Carrying Forward the Legacy

As we celebrate our milestones and look to the future, we honor the vision and dedication of Donald H. Gagne and our founding members. Their passion and commitment have shaped our Society into a beacon of hope and empowerment for the visually impaired in the tri-state area.

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