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Woman helped form club for the blind

May 27, 2011|By Katherine Yamada
  • Alice James, second from left, was instrumental in founding the Foothill Service Club for the Blind in Glendale. James is shown here with founding club members, from left, Harry Hill, Walter Dorrance, Chester Parish, John Heitz and Frances Brown Clarno. Joe Hagemier, on the right, from the Eagle Rock Lions Club, holds a drawing of the future club house. Photo was taken in the late 1940s. (Courtesy Foothill Service Club for the Blind)
Alice James, second from left, was instrumental in founding…

There’s an old saying that if you want something done you should ask a busy person to do it.

That certainly applies to a Glendale resident named Alice James, who in 1939 brought together a group of people who then went on to form the Foothill Service Club for the Blind.

James was a very involved community volunteer, donating her time to the local humane society and presenting animal-related programs in elementary schools. She also served as a driver for a Los Angeles club for the blind.

James often drove Walter Dorrance and his guide dog, Judy, to meetings.

Soon, she invited the duo to visit classrooms with her.

On the way home from one of these visits, James and Dorrance discussed forming a club for the blind in Glendale. Dorrance suggested they meet with Chester Parish, a Glendale osteopath who was also blind.

Parish offered to have a meeting in his home and invited Harry Hill and John Heitz, also blind, to attend. When James noted that they needed a secretary, Dorrance suggested asking Frances Brown, also blind, who could read Braille and type. (It was Brown who went on to compile this history of the club’s early years.) Within a week, James picked everyone up and drove them to Parish’s home.


First item on the agenda was contacting potential members. They agreed to approach the Lions Club, which already had the welfare of the blind as a project. With James driving, Hill called on George Hammond, then chair of the Lions committee for the blind, who gave them a list of potential members.

James concentrated on finding a meeting place, finally selecting a building on South Glendale Avenue near Broadway. When one of the founding members mentioned that they would like to own their own place, James replied, “well, that takes a lot of money,” according to the club history.

After James and Hill presented their ideas, the Lions (later known as Glendale Host Lions) voted to support the project by assessing their members a certain amount; the funds were to be used for the new Foothill Service Club for the Blind. The name was proposed by James.

The Glendale Avenue building was soon modified to meet their needs, furniture was donated by members of the Lions and the La Cañada Delta Gamma Alumnae Sorority came to assist. By early 1940 the club was ready.

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