Independence for the Blind of NW Florida

Innisfree’s vision for serving those who cannot see began with a man at the heart of our family.

Julian MacQueen’s wife, Kim MacQueen’s father lost his sight later in life, but he never lost sight of what was important. Together, the MacQueens have built a company rich with foresight and sensitive to the special needs of its guests, employees and the community at large. Innisfree Hotels has long been inspired by the blind and amazed by all they can accomplish.

Blind from birth, Nick Dotson is one of seven Hilton International team members in the world to navigate the complexities of the reservations and customer service desk without sight. He can be credited with introducing Innisfree to Independence for the Blind, a local organization with a mission to train people who become blind to learn basic life skills again.

Independence for the Blind provides an Independent Living Adult Program to teach skills such as reading Braille, money handling and food preparation; a Vocational Rehabilitation Program with computer keyboarding and interviewing techniques; a Transition Program to prepare high school students for college and the workforce; and an Early Intervention program for visually impaired babies and preschoolers. Serving 10 counties, it is the only nonprofit entirely devoted to educating the blind and visually impaired in West Florida.

Innisfree has supported Independence for the Blind since 1994, when Julian MacQueen aided in the formation of a proper not-for-profit board and assumed the role of its first chairperson. For 20 years, he has continued to offer financial, legal support and guidance.

As a tribute to Kim MacQueen’s father, Clarence, and all who have lost the ability to see, Innisfree gave a substantial donation to Independence for the Blind to build its Pensacola-based training facility, now known as the Clarence W. Gemmill Training Center. A garden on the property was named for her mother, Jean, to recognize those who support the blind.