Meet Our Team

Carolyn Lapp

Founder and Executive Director of FOCB

Carolyn lost her sight at age 14 as the result of an automobile accident. “I cried for five minutes and then moved on.” Originally from Circleville, Ohio, she graduated from Ft. Pierce Central High School with honors. She went on to earn an A.S. in Psychology from Valencia State College with a 4.0 GPA.

Carolyn has worked with children from pre-school through elementary school on reading, spelling, math, and language skills, as well as learning skills. She helped organize seven chapters of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida and was President of two of them. Carolyn served as Vice-President at the state level and chaired several committees and divisions.

Along with her husband Bill Lapp, who is also visually-impaired, Carolyn created the Florida Outreach Center for the Blind in 2003 because she felt the area needed a place where visually-impaired people could go to be taught the skills that were necessary for success and independence. She directs all phases of the operation of FOCB, at the direction of the Board.

Shari Gerson

Executive Assistant

Shari is the newest addition to our Center, coming to us with over 40 years of experience in office administration and management with expertise in public relations, marketing and advertising, as well as customer relations. Born and raised in New York, she moved to Florida in the 1970s and has a love and passion for the outdoors and the ocean, being an avid fisherman, snorkeler and water sports enthusiast. A writer, poet, and children’s book author, Shari has over 400 published articles under her belt. Also an award-winning, professional photographer, Shari has enjoyed having her work in galleries, shows and competitions and has traveled the world many times over, photographing life around her.

Shari’s passion for helping others who are less fortunate than most, has brought her to FOCB and her empathy, compassion and ability to encourage people to be the best that they can be is a great asset to FOCB.

Manes Pacius


Manes comes to FOCB with skills in accounting and computer information systems. He completed his undergraduate degree at Mercer County College and Rider University in New Jersey and obtained his MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Manes is fluent in French, Creole, and Spanish. He is proficient in many forms of business software and use of the Internet. Prior to joining FOCB, Mr. Pacius held auditing and financially-related positions with Holiday Inn, Copeland Companies, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

In addition to his duties as bookkeeper, Manes also provides instruction in various skills to visually-impaired students for whom English is not their primary language. He is also responsible for submitting reports and additional information into the State of Florida’s AWARE system, and also manages the funds for the local Transportation Disadvantaged Program and is the Youth Minister at his Church.

Judy Porro, COMS CVRT

Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist & Vision Rehabilitation Therapist

Ms. Porro has six years’ experience with working as an orientation and mobility specialist (O&M) and as a VRT. She has two Masters Degrees: One in vision studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and the other in vocational special needs at Virginia Tech.

Ms. Porro also has an Educational Specialist Degree from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, specializing in brain-based learning. She has 20+ years as a special education teacher and at least five of those years was in administration and supervision.

As a certified vision rehabilitation therapist, she teaches FOCB students independent living skills, such as: Managing money and their medications, how to do laundry, cook, clean and everything and anything to help the visually-impaired to be independent.
She teaches orientation and mobility to FOBC students; How to navigate safely either using a white cane or guide dog…or even a person with a wheelchair or walker who is visually impaired.

Jason Goldfield

Assistive Technology Specialist

Jason is a specialist in Adaptive Technology as well as in customer relations. He received his A.S. Degree in Computer Information Systems from Palm Beach State College. While at PBSC, Jason taught students in the use of software applications. He then worked as a Customer Service Resolution Specialist for Office Depot and was advanced to Account Manager.

Jason has received an endorsement certificate in screen reader and magnification software from the State of Florida Division of Blind Services. At FOCB, he instructs students in all phases of adaptive technology for the visually-impaired and blind. In addition to the PC, students may receive training on note takers, Victor Stream Reader, IPad, IPhone and the Apple Mac.

Jason serves on the Board of the Palm Beach Chapter of the Florida Council of the Blind and has a guide dog named Zila. In 2014, he and his wife have extended their family tree by adopting a 14-year-old daughter.

Maria (Luz) Norris

Braille & Independent Living Skills Instructor

Ms. Norris (known as “Luz” to her friends and family) was born with myopia, has glaucoma in her left eye, and a detached retina in both eyes. She has been totally blind since 1987 due to a surgical procedure to attach her retinas.

Ms. Norris has a degree in education from the Caldas University in Columbia and has supplemented that degree with courses at Palm Beach State College and the Hadley School for the Blind. Prior to becoming employed with FOCB as an instructor in Braille and Independent Livings Skills, she taught those subjects at the Lighthouse for the Blind as a volunteer. She also worked as a despatcher for a tow-truck service. Ms. Norris was one of the Center’s first volunteer instructors and has supported it since it was organized.

William Lapp

Braille & Program Assistant and Store Manager

Mr. Lapp has done it all. From working as a merchant marine on the Great Lakes to a three month hiking journey on the Appalachian Trail. From captain of a cross-country skiing team to hitch hiking across America. From landscaping to working at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. And all the while being severely visually impaired. Originally from upstate New York, he finally settled down in Florida more than thirty years ago when he met his wife, Carolyn. Mr. Lapp assisted Carolyn in organizing the Center and operating FOCB.

Kathleen Herd

Grants Manager

Kathleen is in charge of obtaining much-needed grants for FOCB.


Robert LaBelle

Volunteer, Office

Pat Erickson

Volunteer, Arts & Crafts Classes

Ms. Erickson came to West Palm Beach from Evanston, Indiana, where she was active in many faith-based charities, including aiding the homeless. She has glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

It was during one of FOCB’s outreach programs at the Mae Volen center in Boca Raton that she made the acquaintance of our Executive Director, Carolyn Lapp and her husband and volunteer Bill. She said that when she “became aware of FOCB and the many important and useful services it provides” she offered to share her experience by serving on the Board. That experience includes administration and marketing for her own business as well as fundraising and community outreach for various charities and religious groups.

Rita Martine
Volunteer Office Worker

Rita Martine has been FOCB’s tireless volunteer since 2016, making important wellness calls to our students. She loves promoting FOCB to them and others, keeping them informed on all of our classes, new workshops, book clubs, and meetings, along with promoting all of FOCB resources. Additionally, she helps with advertising our annual fundraiser, Dining in the Dark. Rita has been legally blind since birth. She attended the Phoenix School of Design in New York, receiving her certificate in advertising and photography. She loves helping others and enjoyed volunteering for years at a senior center on the west coast. Her tenacity and spirit is a great asset to FOCB and others, always seeing the best in everything and everyone.

Aileen Jasper

Volunteer Office Worker

Aileen was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, living here for all of her life. Born visually-impaired, Aileen learned how to be self-sufficient and navigate life in every aspect. She attended school at Palm Beach Junior College, receiving her AA Degree.  She has been a volunteer with FOCB since 2012, helping the center with their many office duties. Aileen loves volunteering and helping others and volunteers at her church as an assistant Sunday school teacher for its nursery for young children.

Dr. Louis Criden

Volunteer and Caring & Sharing Peer Support Group Leader

“Our goal is to watch our students lose their fear and become self-confident and independent individuals”, says Dr. Louis Criden.
Louis is the FOCB’s amazing therapy group leader. He has been with the center for four years…first as a student, and now as volunteer leading our support group which he created. Students share anything and everything in a private, a confidential setting and the therapy is an integral part of the center…and people’s lives. A retired OBGYN, Louis has been visually challenged for eight years now. He was Medical Director for seven years of the Springfield branch of Crozer Chester Medical Center in Chesterfield, Pennsylvania. Additionally, Louis was a facilitator, leading groups for six years at the Faulk Center in Boca Raton, Florida.