NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — A year after breaking ground on their new Ridge Road location, officials and staff with the Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind in Pasco County are getting ready to move into their new home.

"It's very exciting for us to be in this fabulous new facility," said LVIB CEO Jonathan Fister. "Our folks have been working in very difficult circumstances for many years, very small office space. This is going to change our lives and the lives of our clients."

The new building covers about 17,500 square feet, while Lighthouse's current headquarters on Galen Wilson Boulevard provides about a third of that – 6,000 square feet – in space.

"We've been in that small location we're in now a little over 20 years," said LVIB Operations Manager Sandy Barley. "This is going to allow us to continue what we do on a much larger scale."

While the current facility only allows the non-profit to schedule one program at a time, the new one can comfortably host multiple services at once for each of the age groups Lighthouse serves – children, teens, and adults.

The new location features learning spaces where clients will learn life skills including how to make their way around a kitchen and how to identify currency, an access technology lab that allows both people with limited vision and those who are blind to work on computers, and the first ever baby room Lighthouse has had in Pasco, which will help the youngest clients with orientation, mobility, and concept development.

"We'll have a little house here," Fister said, gesturing to a spot in the then-empty room, "In that little house, they’ll be able to reach up and touch their ceiling and know, 'Oh, that thing over my head – that’s a ceiling.'"

The new space also includes a workshop area that will allow Lighthouse to expand a program it currently offers in which working-age people can work making different items for the state and federal government.

Fister said the employment opportunity is just one way Lighthouse helps people with vision problems achieve independence. A room near the front of the building will be turned into a store that will sell some of the items made by blind and visually impaired individuals.

"I don't know that we're going to sell a lot of those things, but that's not the point. The point is to have the public see what capabilities of blind people are," said Fister.

Fister said the new Ridge Road location is also expected to raise awareness of Lighthouse and the services it offers and help attract more clients. He said services are expected to begin being offered from the new facility in early April.