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Sierra Services for the Blind

Newsletter, August 2020

"When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves."

~ Viktor Frankl

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Changes Due to COVID-19

Sierra Services, like all organizations has changed during the COVID-19 closures.  But we feel lucky to have been able to provide services throughout the entire time.

At first we only had one person in the office at a time, but we kept direct contact with the clients by calling on the day they would have had a support group.  We also worked from home.  We also called others who were not in our support groups to make sure they were doing well.  The largest drop in service was however in transportation.  We were unable to provide doctor visits, but at the same time the doctors limited their patient’s appointments and many went to phone appointments.

As the State opened things up we all returned to the office, and we were able with a new set of rules to begin transportation to doctors, therapy appointments and true emergencies.  Our staff and volunteers are also a part of the Senior Grocery Bag delivery program which provides food and other stapes to seniors.

Another program that proved helpful was our ability to access the Library of Congress talking book program when the State closed the program out of Sacramento.  We used their basic system of sending books requested through the mail by the Free Matter for the Blind and Handicapped postal program.  This allowed clients who used talking books to continue reading books of their choice.  It also proved it could take up almost all of one employee’s time.  We were just informed that the State Library is open again, but they are dealing with a backlog and will not be fully functional for some time.

We also learned a few things about ourselves and the clients.  The importance of human contact when the State imposes a quarantine.  By changing from a support group format to individual counseling we have been able to help individuals though this period of isolation even better in some ways.  It has caused us to have to increase the counseling hours, but that is a positive, not a negative.

If you come to the office masks are required, as they are in the van.  We still are subject to immediate changes as the State changes their requirements.  But we have seen no drop in the overall services we can provide our clients.  We are proud of the fact that throughout this difficult time, Sierra Services for the Bind never closed.  And, we never stopped being available to the client other than the mandated closer of transportation for just over a month.

We also want to thank the clients, and the community that has so often said how much they appreciated our efforts.

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"A man never steps in the same river twice For it is not the same river and he is not the same man."

~ Heraclitus

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Funding issues have changed

Most of you know we had to cancel the Golf Tournament, and the Mexican Dinner event that have been the backbone of fund raising events over the years.  We also had to cancel the Annual Meeting of the Membership dinner.  The loss of revenue is considerable, and the loss in public exposure to the agency and our purposes is hard to measure.  We are 100% self-funded.  But we have also been fortunate at the same time.  An estate that was two years in settling finally met court approval and allowed us to show a profit for only the second time in our almost 40 years of service.  Individuals have stepped up as well.

It remains true that estate donations have been an important part of our support and we rely on them for our continued existence.  We encourage you to consider adding a donation to Sierra Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired as a part of your will or trust planning.  Others donate annually as a part of their charitable contributions.

We were also able to receive some of the support provided by the government.  Acceptance in the Payroll Protection Program provided our payroll for just over one month.  We also received funding with the Forgivable loan program and have allied to the County for State funding.  Simply, the federal program to help small businesses and non-profits, and the match the State has given it has kept our doors open.  We used it as it was intended to be used, meet payroll.

We know every dollar donated to our service to the blind and visually impaired of our common community is intended to be used for our clients.  We, the staff and the Board of Directors honor that commitment throughout the year.

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Science continues to amaze in tough times

With the advent of the Corona Virus a new light is placed on the science of medicine.  People are more aware of the process of getting a vaccine tested, approved and on the market.  It is all the more reason to celebrate a little on the advances made by science that relate to the loss of vision.

Medications range from the simplicity of the A Reds 2 study of the effects of vitamins on the vision.  A product, Preservision, A Reds 2 has proven very effective in maintaining good eye health.  It is not a cure, it is a preventative.  There are medications like Lucentis and others that your doctor can use when Macular Degeneration has begun that are now accepted treatments.  And, of course there are the genetic studies for a cure for eye diseases that are proving can restore vision to 20-20 in some cases.  What is needed is time.  Time for the trial to be completed and accepted.  And time for the industry to make them affordable.  Today a genetic treatment is around $30,000.  Like all thing that will come down as it becomes more common.  In genetics a lot of time has been spend on finding the source of the stem cells needed to use, that too is being solved and in time they can use your own cells and all but eliminate the chance of rejection.

They delay in the medical solution to vision loss today is in cost, and finding sufficient proof through trials on human patients to find acceptance.  But like a vaccine, once done it becomes cost and availability.  Once found, it has to be made somewhere, and from there put in the hands of those who have use of it.  Doctors and nurses need to be trained on how to provide the service, and the fear we all have of something new must be calmed.  We almost took polio from our planet.  But somehow people quit vaccinating and it is returning.  But, that is a social issue, not a medical one.  We just need patience, and more time.

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"We don’t always remember days, we remember moments." 

~ Cesare Pavese

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When does an agency become a “Seasoned Citizen”?

It doesn’t seem possible that in a rural community something like Sierra Services for the Blind would have been around town for 40 years.  But this coming March it will be fact.  Our next newsletter will tout the fact, but we want to take note of it in the context of the need this community has.

One in four will be legally blind at age 80 from Macular Degeneration alone.  One in three from all vision problems.  We live in a community that has the highest percentage population over age 80 in the State of California.  Depending on the statistical base, that means between 2500 and 3500 of our citizens are legally blind.  This is also a nationwide crisis.  More and more people are having to live in facilities designed for their needs, and that in and of itself creates a sense of isolation.  In a rural community where transportation is an issue isolation is even more common.  The greatest threat to health issues is so simply sit.  It becomes too much trouble to cook a decent meal, especially if vision is an issue.  Matched with hearing loss, which is equally common, isolation becomes even more pronounced.

As an agency we too become what they call seasoned citizens.  The danger is that we to just sit on what we have done in the past.  We will not do that.  The fact that we have both one on one and group contact with our clients allows us to see changes as they occur in the community, and as different generations reach maturity.  We were once dominated by a younger clientele.  We worked with a lot of children until with our help the schools picked up that banner.  As the community aged that changed and we served more and more of the generation of the depression and World War II.  They were the “I’ll get by” generation.  They asked only for help when it was critical.  In their time the loss of vision or hearing was expected.

Today there is a lot of hope for the future of vision thanks to medical advancements.  The Baby Boomers are upon us now and they expected more than those who grew up in the Depression did.  Loss of vision may be expected, but there are things we can do about it.  Macular Degeneration isn’t the end all like it was.  They are also living longer and keeping in shape better.  They are more independent not in the personal sense, but in the sense of lifestyle and attitudes.  That meant we have had to change.  Technology is working for them.  Talking books are no longer a luxury only for those who can afford them, it is available to all at no cost.  Talking watches, thermometers, and a hundred other aids are available to keep them independent.  Transportation is more critical as the towns grow and spread out more so transportation becomes not just a convenience, it is a necessity that we also fill with volunteers.

We are as proud of our history of change as much as our history of service.  Change not driven by the desire to become something we are not, but by the needs of the client and community.  We have always kept one ear on the rail to know when the train is coming.  We always will.


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Learning things about ourselves

The Charles Dickens classic Tale of Two Cities begins with an equally classic quote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...”  We are finding both the best in ourselves as a nation and individuals, and things we are not so good at.  We are learning wisdom is the cure for an age of foolishness.  Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”  Yup, they are.

One of our best characteristics is helping each other.  Another is keeping a sense of humor as we learn how to survive catastrophe.

Example, the importance of toilet paper in our lives.  Many suggestions came forth ranging from where to find some, learning how often we use it because we didn’t really need it to pick up a bug, to the humor in using something like the New York Times or other media formats.  Comedians had a field day with it.

Wisdom often comes from those worst of times.  The lesson was in the supply chain we have in the nation.  The chain is only as good as the weakest link.  If you close down a factory, they don’t make things anymore.  If you shut down transportation what they do have can’t be delivered.  Our entire food and supply chain was hampered.  We also discovered like the fact that though we are first in the world at inventing new cures and medications for our ills, we don’t make those medications in this country.  There were a lot of things we didn’t make here anymore.  We have a lot to do with our new found wisdom.

While COVID-19 proved a lesson in isolation, it was not the only thing that happened.  The State required P.G. & E. to shut off our power for days on end.  If you have a well, toilet paper was not the only problem, the pot didn’t work because the water was off.  But we also learned that we need to stock up on some things, keep jugs of water, eat what was in the freezer first, and get used to eating things in cans you never thought you would but it was all they had.  You became friends with your camp stove again, and learned the night time value of open windows.

Those if us in the country did better than metropolitan areas because we know about power outages, isolation due to winter snow, and when a tree blocks the road it is common to us.  We have a sense of community based on more simple principles of neighborhood and cooperation.  Fire season means be ready and prepared for the worst as much as COVID-19 has.  We accept the reality of the worst of times we had no hand in, and we adjust.

We also learned how much we loved our favorite restaurant, how to keep our gas tank full, and who was as Ben Franklin put it, ’ A friend in need is a friend in deed.’  Family too.

In time it will get better, though we are entering the season of electric grid shut offs and fire season.  COVID-19 will have a solution like all of the diseases we live with.

Some of the best in us is patience, and the characteristics of self-reliance and compassion.  In time we can again go to the restaurant or other business and thank them for what they have done to stay alive.  You went there because they treated you like they appreciated your business and always had a smile.  It is time to show them you remember the kindness by returning it.  And, keep a stock of things in cans you do like to eat, and lots of paper products.

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"When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves."

~ William Arthur Ward

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Just some good advice


"Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see." ~M. Twain


"We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help some."  ~ R. Reagan


"Logic will take you from A to B, Imagination will take you anywhere."  ~ A. Einstein


"Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind it doesn’t matter." ~ M. Twain


"If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything."  ~ M. Twain


"Keep your face toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you."  ~ W. Whitman

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Talking Book Library Open Again

The latest information we have is that the talking book library in Sacramento has opened again.  However, they were faced with a tremendous backlog and it will take some time to reach the level of service they had before COVID-19.  It is also our understanding that when they started to open a month ago their employees didn’t all return.  This means some of you may not have the same librarian you had before

What this means is that those of you who had been receiving audio books from the State system should start receiving them again.  Eventually.

It also means a load will be taken off the office.  We have been providing books through the system in Washington DC, which has allowed many of our clients to continue having books to read.  We will continue to do so, as we did for books that were not available through Sacramento before the virus hit the state.

There is another difference of note.  Books from Sacramento must be returned within 5 weeks.  Books we download do not, you get to keep them.  However, having too many books on a cartridge can get confusing.  A cartridge can hold at least thirty books, making finding the one you want a bit of a chore.

We recommend you contact Sacramento first when you find a book you would like to read.  If it becomes one you would like to keep then let us get it for you.  But, try them first.  And, read it first before you decide you want it.

When we get back to having our support groups you will have a chance to tell others which books were good and recommend them.  If it is one we have, you can get it as soon as you have your cartridge ready.

It is reading that has kept many of our client from going nuts during the closures from the COVID-19 epidemic.  Should the library in Sacramento close again, we will immediately start our system again.

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

(530) 265-2121

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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,

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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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