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Sierra Services for the Blind Newsletter

February 2021


"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience."

~  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.


40 Proud Years of Service

Writing the history of Sierra Services for the Blind is a story of events to be sure, but it is more a story of people.  Over the years three groups have blended together to make the whole of the agency.  Certainly the clients who are the reason for our formation, but also the staff and members of the Board of Directors who have blended together to change, mold and administer the program for 40 years.

We were formed to fill a void by Marilyn Beckwith, herself blind and the director when Society for the Blind in Sacramento closed their Auburn office.  We were organized around the ideal that the client should have the say in how they would be served, and we continue that tradition today.  The Membership, mostly clients voted the board of directors into existence and formed the Bylaws that stand today with little change from the original.  Membership changed some from three classes of member to simply two.  Life and Annual memberships.  The cost did not change and an annual membership remains just ten dollars a year so that the client, often on a fixed income can afford it.  The one hundred dollar Life membership was directed at the community who we also wanted to have a say in the organization and with the client make sure we continue to do what we say we will do.

It is the services that is unique, and was developed over the years by meeting the individual needs of a client.  It has changed dramatically from one that served younger adults to one that concentrated more on children as it move from Auburn to Grass Valley.  Once the schools provided proper training for the kids we again had to change to meet a client base and community that would become predominately elderly.  When the community jumped from eight to thirty percent seniors in ten years it meant we also had to change.

Today eighty seven percent of the clients are over age 70.  This represents a change not only in the need of the client, but of the community at large.  We remain the county with the oldest population in the State.  And are projected to be over 50% senior in just a few years.  At age 80 one in three will be legally blind.  The blind are more likely to be living in a facility than others, and more likely to be doing so with financing from the state or other members of the family.

It is therefore important that we direct our program to keep the individual independent as long as possible.  That requires education.  How do you maintain a home when you can no longer see the dials on the stove, read the labels on products or keep your medications straight?  Now do you maintain your health and see your doctor if you are no longer able to drive in a rural community with little or no public transportation outside the towns?  And how do you make the emotional adjustments you will have to make within the frustration of not being able to read a book, watch television or follow your life long hobby.  How do you continue to be active with friends, and find new ones as others move to be closer to family or are no longer with us?

It then becomes the function of staff to provide the education, transportation and counseling the individual needs.  And it is the need of the individual that counts.  If we have 350 clients we say we have 350 programs.  Some we hear from once a year or so, other most every day for one reason or another.

The counseling groups were formed so the client can meet new people who have the same problems and experiences they have with blindness.  If a group has six people in it, there are likely six ways to solve a problem.  And the friendships created there are priceless.  The original group consisted of a woman who owned one of the larges businesses in town, an opera singer from San Francisco. a woman who held three doctorates and had lived all over the world, a farmer’s wife with nine kids, and a secretary.  Women who would never have met in the course of their lives, but finding themselves together were fascinated by each other and helped each other more than we could.  Our counselor sat in awe of them.

The staff has changed over the years and is equally as interesting.  After Marilyn Beckwith we had several Executive Directors.  The present Executive Director, after a twenty year career in education as teacher and administrator and business owner of an advertising agency and artist, as well as poet and writer, and as CEO of an international software company has been here for almost 28 years.  The original Transportation Coordinator was here for 25 years after a career as a teacher and a career as mother and in business.  We have had executives from the Bell Telephone Company, an IBM Executive Vice President who lived all over the world, local business owners and others serve as our Office Coordinators.  The Program Counselors are required to be themselves visually impaired and have been individuals who were blind since childhood as well as those who have lost vision suddenly.  One was a water management expert with a dream of becoming a registered nurse when sudden vision loss made it impossible to finish.  The present one was the only blind teacher for students seeking employment in the auto repair industry in the nation who lost his vision on the job one day but stayed on for 20 years.  All of them had one thing in common.  Of all of the jobs we have held over the years this one is the most gratifying.  This is the one that makes an immediate difference in the lives of others.

The Board of Directors has also had a share of expertise and longevity.  We have had doctors, educators, large and small business owners, and a number of clients.  We once had term limits but found we could not retain people who wanted to remain because of the work we were doing.  Some left for a year and returned like the past Lion’s club District Governor Doug Wight, to Katherine and Vern Kimmey served sequentially for 26 years, this year President Greg Fowler and Vice-President Larry Mast will have served 20 years.  We can attest to the fact we are not in it for the money, it is not your everyday job and the best pay is in human terms.

It has not all been easy.  We were once known as the agency most likely to fail for lack of funds.  But we survived.  We were also called the “Best Kept Secret” in town though we did all we could to let the community know we were here.  The joke was that we did non-profit better than anyone.

People have a natural tendency to not want to deal with blindness.  It scares them more than any other disability.  There is the thought that as we have it is just something that happens like losing our hearing and remembering names.  Were it any other thing that would hit one in three that caused permanent disability there would be a program for it.  But few know what to do with blindness.  Denial is the first emotion when it occurs.  The idea is live with it, and that is what we help the client do.  Denial is a river in Egypt around here, acceptance and accommodation are the rule.

In the end, we may celebrate 40 years of service to the community.  But internally it is a celebration of 40 years of the most interesting and dedicated clients and staff any non-profit could hope to have.  We have seen the lives of our clients changed, and they in turn have thanked us with their presence and kind words.  We have over the years had clients hit bottom, and we have stopped several suicide attempts, we have more often turned the proverbial light on.  We have been involved in cases of abuse, and helped put families together again.  We have provided solace to the lonely, and a future too many who felt it was slipping away from them.  We are proud of what we have accomplished in 40 years.

The one thing that cannot be taken away from us is the friends we have made.  We have a hope for the future that medical science will eliminate blindness, and they are well on the way to doing just that.  It will take another forty years we suppose, and until them we will make every effort to be here for those that need us.  That too is part of the history of the agency.


"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."

~ William Arthur Ward


Importance of Sleep and Glaucoma

In the recent issue of GLEAMS, the publication of the Glaucoma Research Foundation, they explain the importance of sleep as it relates to glaucoma.  The news is good and bad for sleep, but makes a clear statement on the benefits and need for regular sleep habits.

When we sleep we lay down.  When we do the eye produces less aqueous fluid, which is good as that is what causes the pressure that damages the optic nerve.  However, sleep also blocks the drainage and eye pressure actually rises from 10% to 20%.  At the same time blood pressure decreases during sleep, which is good for overall health but decreases the flow of oxygen to the optic nerve.  This is especially true if you are taking medications for blood pressure.

Another problem is for those that have Sleep Apnea.  Sleep Apnea is when a person stops breathing while they are asleep.  This stops the flow of oxygen to the optic nerve as well.  Sleep Apnea patients often don’t know they have it.  Symptoms include snoring, or gasping which can wake you up suddenly for what seems no reason.  If you wake up groggy, show signs of fatigue during the day, or are dizzy when you first get up you may have Sleep Apnea.  If you are overweight you are a perfect candidate for this problem as well.

As a result people who have glaucoma are more likely to have Sleep Apnea, and those with Sleep Apnea are more likely to have glaucoma.

It is the classic Catch 22.  Too little and too much sleep both have a dramatic effect on glaucoma, and on health in general.  Make sure your time for sleeping is consistent.  Turn out the lights and get rid of noise like the TV at the same time each day.  If you nap in a chair during the day you will not sleep well at night, so keep active.  Go for that walk if you feel droopy during the day.  And, tell your doctor about it.

The study also found proper sleep helps those with Alzheimer’s, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke and obesity.  If you remember, your mother and your grandmother told you about it too.


"Life is the art of drawing without an eraser."

~ John Gardner


Thank you for keeping the doors open during COVID shutdown

Thank you to the donors that have come at a time of trial.  We had to cancel all or our fund raising events due to COVID restrictions and you stepped in to make the difference this year.  Both those who gave us funding to keep the doors open, and those that donated their time and support.  Businesses like Event Helper, B&C Home and Garden Center, the Fowler Family, the Verbas Foundation, Lions clubs and many others dug a little deeper this year.  So too the individuals who added another figure to their annual donation.  Estate donations have made the difference and we encourage people to make us a part of their will or trust planning.  They have been an important part of our support, and we rely on them for our continued existence.  Each donation allows our service to the clients.  We also were able to finish our fiscal year under budget once more.  We cannot thank you enough.

We must also thank our volunteers that provide so much of the transportation to critical appointments.  Countless hours were logged by: Kathleen Bowmen, Diane Chayra, Arlene, Conni, and Gary Folwer, Richard Fernandez, Toni Halloran, Les Hickinbotham, Ginger and Terry Jackson, Melise Munroe, Doug Stanford and Kathy Tuttle.  As well as Paul Dean and Don Barnes who always do the dishes at our events.

Sponsor Level - ($50 at $99)

Forester & Jean Turley-Sinclair, Don & Elizabeth Tallitsch,

Linda Gartner, Susan Healy-Harman, Byron Lake, MD.,

Lorraine Magee, RL & Kathleen Montavon, John & Maureen Rumsey,

and Jones Solar Electric

Copper Level ($100 at $199)

Jim & Susan Stubblefield, Suzanna Renoir, Doris McGill,

Tom & Susan Hopkins, Madelyn Helling, Katherine Bradley,

Dave & Phylis Allison, Robert & Jan Wenzel, Darrell Takeoka D.D.S.,

 Lorene Plumlee, Dee Miller, Ray & Margaret Lassing,

Courteney Harbour, Dennis & Patricia Gruntorad, Ron Graddy,

Elizabeth Ekblad, Robert Bielenberg, Joseph & Shirley Griggs,

Franz & Cathleen Borncamp, Les Moran, Gertrude Maier and

Michael Green

Bronze Level ($200 at $499)

Amos & Beverly Seghezzi, Barbara Leslie, Ken & Joanne Harris, Leah Garcia,

Joe Glick, Terence & Robin Prechter,

Roger & Jean Poff, Edwin Frazier, Raymond Bryars, Gail Glick,

Mick & Kathy Tuttle, Lawerence & Carolyn McGrath, Paul Dean,

Saint Canice Ladies Guild and Higgins Diggins Lions Club

Silver Level ($500 to $999)

Pat Ekstam, Kenneth & Mary Jacobs, Telestream,

and B&C Ace Home & Garden Center

Gold Level ($1000 and above)

Gay Morgan, Ken Mann, Glenn & Mary Welz, Hilary Hedman,

Ronald & Beverly Mathis, Duane Vrbas, Greg & Conni Fowler,

Cindi Rogers, Sandy Walsh & Dave Harbour, James Whitehead,

John Meeks, Foothills Lions Club, Grass Valley Host Lions Club,

Hattie, Harley & Anna Robinson Foundation, Briar Patch Food Co-op,

Bob Croul and The Event Helper


"Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see."

~ Mark Twain


Membership Drive Begins

This year our Membership drive takes on special importance.  With the restrictions of COVID-19 we have had to cancel all of our dinners and the golf tournament that comprised our fund raising events for the year.  We have no idea when we can start them up again, and how well they will do when we are able to.  Fund raising events become a pattern, and if you break the pattern you have a hard time getting people back in to the habit.  Some decide they didn’t need that event.  They play golf all the time without the added expense of a tournament.

So for this year the membership drive is it.  We need to remind folks just what the membership is.

Our membership is a voting membership.  Like stock holders is some ways.  Each year we have to have the Annual Meeting of the Membership in which we present to the members what we have done over the last year, how we are doing financially, and if we wish to make a change of some kind in the direction the agency is going we have to have the vote of the members to do it.  The reason is simple, we want the client and the community to make sure we continue to do what we say we will do and provide assistance, education, counseling and transportation to the client.  If we fail to do it, they can vote out the board of directors and vote in a new one that will make sure we toe the line.

We also know, especially for clients on fixed incomes that cost is a problem and the annual membership is only $10 for that reason.  We want them to be a part of the organization.  There is a life membership for $100 if you don’t want the reminder each year.  But it is also a time when many add a little to the process.  A $25 donation is a membership with a $15 tax deductible donation added to it.  Life members also use the time to make their tax deductible donation.

Unfortunately last year we had the cancel the dinner and meeting of the membership due to COVID restrictions, and we hope they well be lifted before the May meeting this year.  Time will tell.  We put the information that would have been given at the meeting in the newsletter, and will again if that is all we can do.  But your input is welcomed at any time.

We hope you can join us this year.  It is a critical time for all of us.


"We do not remember days, we remember moments."

~ Cesare Pavese



We are looking for volunteer drivers! Interested? Please talk with Niki

(530) 265-2121

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New From BARD

Cotton's War


By Phil Dunlap. Reading time: 7 hours, 54 minutes.
Read by Nelson Goud. A production of Indiana State Library, Indiana Talking Book and Braille Library.

Western Stories

When Virgil Cruz and his gang kidnap the woman he loves and threaten to kill her if he interferes with their plans, Sheriff Cotton Burke turns to Memphis Jack Stump, the only man he trusts to infiltrate Cruz's gang, for help. Some descriptions of sex, strong language, violence.


Smithsonian Magazine,

July 2018



The loss of the S.S. Titanic: its story and its lessons DB 91999

By Lawrence Beesley. Reading time 4 hours, 40 minutes.
Read by Steven Carpenter. A production of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.

Subjects: Travel

Description: The personal record of one of the 705 survivors of the Titanic disaster in 1912. His eyewitness account is augmented by those of other passengers who were spared, contributing to a general report of events and behavior the night the ship sank within three hours of colliding with an iceberg. 1912.

BARD is a National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.




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