In May 2017, Julian MacQueen received a ‘Successful 75’ award from the Division of Blind Services on behalf of Innisfree Hotels and the work the company consistently performs for the blind and visually impaired community.

Based out of Tallahaseee, Fla., the Division of Blind services (DBS) presented the awards to celebrate 75 years of fostering independence for blind and visually impaired Floridians. DBS Director Robert Doyle and Rep. Frank White presided over the ceremony, held May 10, 2017 at Innisfree’s Hyatt Place Pensacola Airport hotel.

Other area businesses who took home a ‘Successful 75’ award included Pensacola Lions Club, Mike Hage, Emerald Coast Vision Aids and Bruce Watson for the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County.

These organizations were considered “examples of excellence in service to the blind,” according to Sally McConnell of Independence for the Blind of West Florida (IBWest) – a 501(c)3 that teaches independent living skills to persons who are blind or visually impaired free of charge in 10 counties throughout Northwest Florida.

Julian MacQueen and Innisfree Hotels have long supported Independence for the Blind. In fact, the organization was deemed a project of significance when Innisfree established its Corporate Social Responsibility Program, The Hive, in 2016.

MacQueen was the first chairman of IBWest, taking on the legal work to make it a nonprofit more than 20 years ago.

Of the honor of this award, MacQueen says: “I am grateful that others who were not there at the time remembered and recognized our contributions over the years, culminating in the building and funding for the C.W. Gemmill Learning Center where IBWest is located in Pensacola.”

Clarence Gemmill was Kim MacQueen’s father, who became blind when he was 34 years old with three daughters in the early 1950s. He forged forward to become a regional manager for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind for the province of Manitoba, providing a nice income and home for his family.

“In many ways, he showed me how debilitating blindness can be and how the right training could allow a blind person to achieve,” MacQueen shares.

The training center named for Kim’s father is Innisfree’s proudest contribution to IBWest. Additionally, Innisfree sponsors the Eye Ball fundraiser at the Hilton Pensacola Beach each year to raise much needed funds to pay training staff. And every summer, the hotel company stages a raffle giveaway of a Hilton stay over Blue Angels weekend to raise even more money for the nonprofit.  

“One kind of quirky but effective contribution is an auction of a ride in our flying boat to open the Pensacola Beach Air Show,” MacQueen notes. “This has always been a popular auction item, but this year we hit a peak of $14,000!”

To learn more about Innisfree’s vision for serving those who cannot see, please visit our Hive Page.

– Ashley Kahn Salley

Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels