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Sierra Services for the Blind Newsletter

August 2023

"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children." ~ Sitting Bull


Understanding Local Giving

In funding an agency like Sierra Services we are consistently having to adjust to changes in everything from the economy and society to the whims of the moment.  Donations from the public and the client have dropped dramatically, and we know the reasons.  We won’t complain, this article like our others is intended to be informative.

While our society is changing, the fact that one in three people will be legally blind at age eighty will not change.  We are the oldest county with people over age eighty in the state, which is also not changing.  We once had three local Opthalmologists, we now have many as valley doctors have local offices.

We have never charged our clients for our services.  Doing so would make many of them have to go without the education, transportation and counseling we provide.  An agency that is purely client service like Sierra Services for the Blind does not have a product to sell.  We do not have a profit margin to build on. 

The society that is Nevada County, and its view of the world is changing.  In the past most of our clients were born here and this was their community.  Today the community is somewhat less committed to local issues than national ones.  It is becoming not what we can do for the community as much as what the community can provide for us.  This has an effect on donations as it takes the funding out of the local economy.  A younger generation is more likely to work at home now, and less likely to have a business that depends on local support.  They order things from the internet which also sends the money out of town.  Those that were sent home to work during COVID are not returning to the office like they once did.  Thus, our perception of the community is not that of an inclusive neighborhood as it once was.

The greatest, and often the most dramatic pattern is the economy and inflation.  Cost rises.  If the stock market drops the value of our investments drop.  It is not simply what you see in the stock market reports.  It is more that corporations have less to pass on to the investor in the form of dividends.  It is the dividends that support an agency like Sierra Services for the Blind.  There is also a spiral effect.  If you have to use the funds from the investments to operate the agency, that amount diminishes the value of the account, which in turn means you will make less when dividends are paid.  As in our case, donations from estates created the investment account in the first place.  We do not have the inclination to approach our clients individually and encourage them to change their estate planning in our favor, yet we have made no secret that estate donations have sustained us.  We must admit that unless we find sustainable funding it won’t last forever.

Another trend is in fund raising events.  There is a reason they are also called “Friend Raising Events.”  You hope to attract a larger donation base.  These events are also economy driven.  If you have a raffle, businesses that are suffering cannot give what they once did.  If restaurants are down because of the economy, an agency that uses dinners to raise funds will also suffer.  Often the expense of the event makes the actual income less than one would think.  People who are not eating out as often are not able to pay more for a dinner to support an agency.  COVID canceled these events for us.  The dinners are hard to get started again with inflation raising costs and money they did raise is gone.  The golf tournament also was canceled by COVID.

Donations go down during national election years.  Millions of donor dollars are consistently headed that way and out of the local economy.  Government grants are for larger organizations to “innovate”.  We have a program that simply works.  Another trend is seasonal.  During the holiday season donations will come from the spirit of the season.  Tax season has an effect since people need to wait to see what they have left to give.

For 42 years we are also known as the agency that does what it says it will do.  Staff members worked without pay in the past, but services always were given and doctor’s appointments were made and kept.  COVID stopped the group meetings and were replaced with a more personal connection, other services were never stopped.  The staff simply adjusted to the times.  Local programs that feed people did the same and their needs doubled and tripled as well as ours.  When seniors and families are using their credit cards to buy food it is an indication of how deeply the economy cuts.  Credit cards do not pay for the groceries, you are taking out a high interest loan to feed your family.  Cultural non-profits like live theater, music and the arts are also effected.  Holiday street events are less attended.  We learned a few years ago that area code 95945, which is greater Grass Valley, has the same percentage of people on welfare as downtown Oakland.

Blindness is not a visually impressive disability that gains national attention.  It is our responsibility to observe societal changes when they occur to better serve our community and change with it.  We will continue to provide a service of proven worth and serve as example.  And educate when we can.

When the economy recovers, when you can, give locally.  Money sent elsewhere goes elsewhere.  Funding granted to a local agency like Sierra Services stays in the local community and economy, and it circulates locally an average of six times in a year.  That in turn allows our community to sustain itself.


"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education." ~ Albert Einstein


The Benefits of Education

The talk of education these days has reached a point of asking what education is.  Certainly it is the ability to read, and write, and enough math to participate in managing your own affairs.  Little is said about what for.

The ability to read is not found in knowing the words, it is in putting them together and understanding what is said.  The sentence has meaning the words do not, and the destination the story takes often means a chapter or book.  Poetry is the perfect example.  You have to take the journey of the image it creates to get the point of it.  Dealing with the loss of vision is much the same.  You can hear the words, but the value of the words is following that path they take you and putting it to practice.

Listening to books on tape is an example.  If you concentrate on each word the reader is saying you miss the point of what the sentence or phrase is saying.  It is the whole of it that allows the sentence to present an idea.  If you hear the whole paragraph sometimes you have to wait for the idea to take root in a chapter, and that is what makes reading an adventure.  Each chapter adds information until the book is done.  Finding out where it is taking you is the adventure.  Life itself is made in chapters, loss of vision is just another one.

But there is another level that makes education show the value in it.  Poetry is again a perfect example.  Robert Frost uses his walks in the woods to create an image as he takes. “…the path less traveled, and that made all the difference.”  It is not about the path, it is about making a decision.  If you have never walked a path in the woods, or never made a decision the words mean nothing.  But if you have walked in the woods you can travel along with him even though the path you will visualize is the forest you were in at the time.  The image of the road less traveled and the voyage is still filled with new experiences.  Each one is just around the corner.  Remember also that each time you hesitate and turn to look at what is behind you have turned your back on the future ahead of you.

Take note that the road, though less traveled, was already there.  Others have been that way and there is a destination at the end of it.  If you meet them along the way they will be able to tell you what to expect and that is what our peer groups are about.  You need not fear the unknown.  Though you may feel alone taking the new path, you are following footsteps others have made.

Education is more than words, it is how to take what we know and use it to add depth to our character and our lives.  Wisdom is found not by the miles we cover on the path, but what we have taken the time to appreciate along the way.  Often that means to simply stop and smell the roses we find each day.  And, to remember that even they have thorns.

We now live in a world of instant gratification.  We observe, but then we simply report.  Words we use on our cell phones are limited to characters, so we need not explain anything.  We are even allowed poor spelling to save space.  We have made a beautiful sunset into a “butfl snset” and it just isn’t the same.  There is no opportunity to take the reader on a journey, much less use the depth of our knowledge to make a point.  What we are left with is just called “chat”.  There is no lasting character in instant gratification, just a sensation.  Learning is not found spelled wrong on a small screen, it is found in having done something and being faced with two roads.  Education is not simply learning words, it is learning they have meaning beyond what is found in the dictionary.  Words like our lives are to be seen in the context they are found.

Some moments simply do not have the words to explain, but you simply “know”.

Accommodating the loss of vision is also more than the words.  It is a concept you may have to wait for as the words and the ideas develop with the practice of time.  Life has given you those experiences you will need to move on, to take “the path less traveled”.  That depth is in the character, and the education life has given you.  You just have to look beyond the words that tell your story, and into the meaning of them.

Education is in the end more than words and numbers, it is understanding.  The more you know the more you have to work with as you adjust to new ways of doing things.  As we have said, wisdom is not found in words, but in experiences.  We have learned more from our mistakes and the trials we have had to overcome than from our success.  You will also find as you travel into the shadow of vision loss there is an adventure to it.  Like the book, or the walk on a road less traveled there is always something new just around the corner.


"Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." ~ Ben Franklin


"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do." ~ Goethe


Return of the Golf Tournament

As our first outing into the fund raising events we are excited to announce the return of the golf tournament.  Play will be begin at 1:00 at the Alta Sierra Golf Club on Friday October 6th.  The $135 entry will include not only the day of golf, but we will again be offering a box lunch before the event, a complete buffet style dinner followed by a raffle and prizes including the Ultimate Putter Award.  There will also be the customary card draw, prizes for Closest to the Hole, and Longest Drive for both men and women.  We will also have other awards for mixed foursomes and a separate contest and trophy for service organizations such as Lions, Rotary or any others that join us.

Though much will be the same, some key aspects will be quite different.  We learned a lot, and we have had time to reflect.  We also have had a number of people call and ask when we will start again and we listened.  We now have a major sponsor come on as a partner in the event, and the Gold Country Classic will now become the “Event Helper Gold Country Classic.”  Other companies and organizations can also sponsor, a major sponsor included in our advertising ranges from $1500 to $750, and Tee Sponsors are $350.  And, of course, donations by individuals and organizations are welcomed the day of the event.

In many respects the event will be much like it has been in the past, both with quality golf and entertainment.  The changes are not new in that they are simply a recognition of suggestions from former players.  Their involvement going back to the very first tournament we had 19 years ago is appreciated.


Golf Balls are like eggs.  They’re white, sold by the dozen, and a week later you have to buy more.


Emotions of Grief and Vision Loss

Many of our clients have lost loved ones along the way.  It is one of the most dramatic events in any of our lives.  Getting through it is a ride on a roller coaster of emotion that leads to acceptance.  That acceptance gives us the chance to remember what was, and form the fondest memories we carry with us.

The five stages of grief after losing a loved one are almost identical to the five stages toward acceptance we use in vision loss.  First is shock when you get the news.  This is why after giving you the news the doctor tells you what to expect, and what can be done about it and you remember very little of it.  Shock makes the mind go silent for a moment.

The rest of the stages of grief are denial, then anger which feeds into depression.  People will also go on a search for a cure, a moment of magic that makes it all go away.  In the end, if we are lucky we come to acceptance and that is when we can go on with our lives.  That is when the real journey begins.

We spend a lot of time talking about the things you can do once vision starts to fade.  There is no magic fix, but there are ways to accommodate and adjust.  Like the loss of someone close to us, the discussion is only the goal we will set for ourselves.  As it does with a personal loss, the emotional side still needs attention with vision loss.  It is not the journey, it is the path along the way.  Do not think you have to leave the past behind.  While you may have lost the hand to hold, you have not lost the heart and the emotional connection that put it there in the first place.  You may have lost vision in the physical sense, but you will not lose the inner vision we all have.  It is that something that we never had the words for in the first place.

If we can take the grief and change it to fond remembrance, we can then make a companion of it which we can take that with us into the future.  That someone beside us, or within us we can share our experiences with.  We will in the end find acceptance, and the peace of mind that comes with it.  With the loss of vision we may only see the top of the horizon and the orange glow of a sunset, but it is a sunset and we know of them as a moment to share.  And acceptance that the journey we take after vision loss still has sunsets that lead to a new day.


Little Thinkers

Quotes come with one thing in common.  Someone looked at their lives and found a way to use their experiences to state the obvious.  Or, express a dream.  We all do it, we just need to remember them and use them to our own better good.  Since the human race first lived together in caves and started to build villages we have been giving each other advice in the hope what we have learned had some wisdom to it.  It may be as easy as living the way we told our children to live, or call it taking your own advice.  Then act on it.  As Ayn Rand said, “The question isn’t who is going to help me, it is who is going to stop me.”

“The beautiful thing about learning is no one can take it from you.” ~ B.B. King

“Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” ~Maya Angelo

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” ~ Ashland

 “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” ~ Oscar Wilde

 “Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you have to keep moving.” ~ Albert Einstein

 “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” ~ Dr. Seuss


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

(530) 265-2121

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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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