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Sierra Services for the Blind

Newsletter  -  November 2019

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“Do not follow in the footsteps of the men of old, seek what they sought.”

~ Nitsuo Basho

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“When walking in a party of three I always have teachers.

I can select the good qualities of one for imitation,

and the bad ones from the other to correct in myself.”

~ King Fu Tsi (Confucius)

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Longevity and the Purpose of the Agency

A year and a half from now Sierra Services for the Blind will celebrate 40 years of service to the community.  We have been asked how it is we have lasted so long, and the reason is in why we came to be in the first place.  There was a population in our community that had a special need, they were either blind or so visually impaired it changed the way they have to live their lives.  It was a specific need, and there were specific things that could be done to help them negotiate those changes.  Our stated purpose was not some lengthy statement about our community or our client base.  It was one sentence.

The purpose of this Corporation is to provide services to and advocate for the rights of blind and visually impaired persons and persons with hearing deficiencies of all ages, with the goal of assisting persons served to gain access to all facets of life in the community and to maximize their potential for independent living.

The only change in almost 40 years was the addition of hearing.  It is common for our clients to have both issues as we age.  Once said it was our responsibility to do it, and who better to tell us what to do than the client themselves.  As the community changed, as client became older we had to change with it.  But the change was to the individual, not one in our purpose.

New clients are often amazed that we stick to old fashioned ideals like service.  If we say we will do it, we do it.  If we can’t we say that too.  We also don’t charge for any of our services.  Many of our clients could not afford it if we did.  We have a membership, but the cost is just $10 a year, $100 lifetime, and it is a voting membership.  We cannot change the agency without the permission of the voting membership, and most of them are clients.

What we have found that forms the base of our agency is that people need transportation.  We can’t do it all, but we provide transportation to everything we do, group meetings, community access events like a lunch on the fifth Wednesday if a month has one, or other trips necessary to maintaining independence and health.  We found people losing vision also lose contact with others, and our focus group meetings allow them to meet with people who have the same problems they do and find solutions.  They are no longer alone.  The groups also allow us to educate not only in the manner of getting things done, but what to expect as vision weakens and new challenges arrive.  That includes something as simple as how to keep track of money to the fear of losing your mind when Phantom Vision strikes.

Being unable to read after a life with books is a critical loss.  We provide access to outside programs such as the Talking Book program and others to keep the mind active and help the client learn and entertain their time as they always have.  Some were not lifelong readers and find it new, and enjoy it all the more.

Many new clients are also surprised that we know what they are going through with family and friends.  Husbands or wives, or the children of the client usually react the same.  They have empathy, they fear for the one losing vision, and they have to adjust to the position of caregiver.  In a sense the whole family becomes our client as everyone must adjust.  The greatest problem most have is when they give up and just sit.  Not only will their health deteriorate, the ability of the family to help creates frustration that permeates their relationships.  The offered hand must be taken, but it must also not be inappropriately demanded or brushed off without grace.

What is seen with the eye and how things are done changes, who you are should not.

We are proud of our old fashioned way of doing things.  We do not dictate, we ask what is needed and we do what we can.  We don’t duplicate other agencies, we work with them toward the common goal of service to the individual need of each client.  Independence is the institutional goal, but maintaining the quality of life is the personal goal.

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“Life can either be accepted or changed.

If it is not accepted, it must be changed.

IF it cannot be changed then it must be accepted.”

                                                                                                ~ Winston Churchill

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Different ways to support your agency of choice

While it is the donation, or the gift from an estate that is the usual way we are funded, there are many other ways to support Sierra Services for the Blind and our clients.

Volunteer as a driver.  Our clients don’t drive, and getting to that doctor appointment is critical to overall health.  When we have an event like the lunch bunch where we go to a restaurant with around thirty clients we need extra drivers.  Same with our dinners which are fund raising events.

Become a voting Member.  Just $10 for the Annual Membership and $100 for Life Membership

Tell someone who needs our services about us.  Many who are losing vision don’t want to make an issue of it.  They deny the problem, or simply say it is the price of aging and I will deal with it myself.

Use the script and other programs to help fund us.  SPD has the script program where one percent of your purchase goes to the nonprofit of your choice.  We are part of the Amazon Smile program.  If you order from Amazon they make a donation to us or other agencies.  In December we are a Briar Patch CAUSE recipient.

We are also a part of the Giving Tuesday program which is held after Cyber Monday, just after Thanksgiving.  This allows not only you, but people or relatives you know to donate on that day, December 3rd.

Attend our fund raising events.  We hold two dinners each year, and a golf tournament.  All three are said to the best of their kind in town.

Donate to something specific.  You can be a sponsor of the three events with a donation, or sponsor items like magnifiers for clients who can hardly afford one, or sponsor the groceries for the Holiday Dinner we put on for our clients and drivers each December.

If you include an agency in a regular giving program through Tithing or a simple generous twenty dollar a month donation adds up to $240 a year, and pays a month in the van.  A $100 a month adds up to $1,200 per year which pays the rent for one month.  This kind of sustained giving allows us to maintain a steady income.  These donations, like an annual one are tax deductible and we provide the letter you will need.

And, as it has proven to be the source of larger donations, include us in your estate planning where deductions are often a balance to the taxation that comes.  Some forms of endowment can give you income while you are still active, and keep the funds from taxation while you are using them.

We are 100% self-funded.  This means we are also dependent upon our reputation as we serve our community.  We also do not charge for any of our services.  While this allows us to best serve the client without outside restrictions, it also insures that we will do what we say we will do.

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“Think of three things.

Whence you came, where you are going,

and to whom you must account.”

                                                                      ~ Ben Franklin

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Client Holiday Dinner is coming December 12th

Each year we put on a complete Holiday feast for our clients, and for the drivers and volunteers who have worked with us all year.  Many of our clients live alone, or with a spouse and the rest of the family lives elsewhere.  So we chose years ago to use the Holiday season to get together and say thank you for the year we have had, and for the people we have had the privilege to serve.  It is a traditional meal with all the “fixin’s” served at noon.  This year it is again at the Love Building in Condon Park, with the facility sponsored by the Host Lions Club as it has been for twenty five years.  There is no cost, this is not a fund raising event.  The dinner is a client event sponsored by the Board of Directors and staff of Sierra Services.

We will begin our calls to get a count and order the groceries after Thanksgiving.  If you are a client be sure to let us know if you will attend.  If you are a driver, let us know you want to be part of it as well.  It is a chance for the clients and the volunteers to get together, have a wonderful meal, and wear that funny holiday sweater and hat someone gave you.  There is often a sweater with lights in it, and we have seen more than one set of antlers.

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“We should behave to our friends as we should wish our friends to behave to us.”


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“There was an old owl who sat in a oak.  The more he saw the less he spoke. 

The less he spoke the more he heard. Why can’t we be like that wise old bird?”

                                                                             ~ Old Proverb

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When the answer is in the question

There are times when we teach those things the blind and visually impaired, and those who care for them.  But more times when we need to just listen.  In our peer support groups the course of the conversations can range from simply allowing people to talk as friends about life and things that happen.  Yet, to someone that is having a serious problem that needs a solution.  We often find that problem hidden in a question.

Forming a question is a hard thing to do without admitting the core of the problem.  It also needs to be to the point.  That is when we become listeners.  It is also a time when the client must do what we constantly tell them.  They need to advocate for themselves.  When in a store sometimes you have to let the clerk know you cannot see very well.  At these times your question needs to tell them what you want or need in a manner they can understand.  If the answer they give is not clear, or to the point, it might have been the question they heard, not the one you asked.  Questions, like answers, are subject to the law or common sense.

For instance, if you ask where an item in the store is and they say down Isle three, you have not given them enough information.  Tell them you have a vision problem, and with a sense of humor tell them you have no idea where isle three is or what is in it if you did find it.  You have to use the humor to put them at ease, and give them reason to say they will help you find it.  Remember, a question is how you ask, not a demand.  A question needs to be short and to the point, and a little humility goes a long way.  More than one question will be answered one at a time, so ask them one at a time.

Another aspect is to realize you are asking a question, and to form it you have to take stock in what the problem is.  If you are not sure what the problem is, especially when it a group setting like we use, have the group help form the question.  We often ask a question only to have the other person ask a question as well.  Seeing their question often answers your problem because they have seen something in what you have asked and they need to clarify it for themselves.  Also, the only dumb question is so because you didn’t ask it.

There are two versions of the Golden Rule, one common in Western culture, the other Eastern cultures.

“Do onto others as you would have them do onto you”

“Do not do onto others as you would not have them do onto you.”

Remember both of them.  And when asked a question Confucius had some advice on how to answer it.

“When you know a thing say that you know it,

 when you do not know a thing, admit that you do not know it.  That is knowledge.”

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“Life is fraught with opportunities to keep your mouth shut.”

~ Winston Churchill

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Giving Tuesday is only one new funding concept

Like all organizations who receive donations at this time of year it is the little acts of kindness that make a significant impact on our organization and our clients. While generous monetary donations keep the doors open, it is these small acts of kindness that drive the culture of Sierra Services as it is with all nonprofits.  In the new cyber world there are many new ways of giving, and should you wish to make a regular donation using Pro Pay that gives us dependable monthly income.

We wish to celebrate this concept as we finish out the year and on #GivingTuesday.  You can help Sierra Services now and all through the year.  During December 2019, we are Briar Patch’s CAUSE recipient. When you shop ask the cashier to round up your purchase and they will donate that amount to us!  We have the forms for the SPD Community Card Program in the office.  As you make your Amazon purchases use the Smile Program and click on Sierra Services for the Blind.  These small acts of kindness sustain our organization and help those who lost their vision remain active members of our community.  As with our dinners and the golf tournament, we do take credit cards.

One of the things that has changed in any nonprofit funding venture is how many people no long write a check, they want to do their donations electronically.  It gives them an instant record of their donation both at the source and at home.  It also allows some sense of privacy.  We wish to assure anyone that might donate to our organization their information is held in the strictest confidence.

You can find out more about #GivingTuesday at Sierra Services by visiting the DONATE page or clicking the #GivingTuesday box below.

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"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."

                                                        ~Elizabeth Andrew

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New Glaucoma News

In the last issue of GLEEMS, a publication of the Glaucoma Foundation, Dr. Louis B. Cantor explains the relationship between blood pressure and ocular pressure as it relates to Glaucoma.

If the pressure in the eye is greater than the pressure in the blood system the blood has difficulty getting into the eye.  They have found that low blood pressure and the pressure in the eye are usually regulated by the body.  However, in some individuals the pressure is not regulated, and this tends to deny the ocular system the oxygen it needs to remain healthy.

Recent studies have shown that the lack of oxygen is what causes the optic nerve to deteriorate.  While they presently don’t think there is a direct correlation between the low blood pressure and the high ocular pressure causes glaucoma, it seems to contribute to how fast glaucoma progresses.  If your doctor is treating you for low blood pressure recent studies indicate that how much you raise the blood pressure should be correlated with eye pressure.

The other option, one that is most common, is for the ocular pressure to be relieved.  This is done through several methods.  One is medication, usually using eye drops.  Another is to put a valve or other process to allow drainage of excess pressure.

Controlling the balance between blood pressure and ocular pressure is not a cure.  There are other reasons glaucoma strikes.  There is much more to learn, and research needs to take this new stream of evidence and see where it goes.  Experiments on all medical research are exactly what they say they are.  Experiments.  Finding a correlation between ocular pressure and blood pressure was previously the realm of two medical specialties.  We now have a chance for the two to work together.  And, like all such things, we will hold out hope something happens that will show progress in vision loss.

In other news, stem cell research is finding similarities in the nerve losses in Parkinson’s disease and vision loss.  Specifically Retinitis Pigmentosa.  This means two things.  One is that two groups can now share their research and learn from each other.  Second is that new money through Parkinson’s research will allow both aspects to look deeper in to the world of our cellular operations, and find a cure of the core of any of the related neural diseases. 

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

(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.




Sierra Services for the Blind

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  Locally, SPD participates in this program.