We help blind and visually impaired individuals stay in their homes and out of institutions.

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Sierra Services for the Blind Newsletter

November 2022

"The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop."

~ Mark Twain


Transportation continues to be number one

Transportation is still our busiest program.  Each day anywhere from two to six or seven individuals will require transportation to a doctor, therapy, dentist, a peer group at the office, or a dozen other things that come up.  And, clients generally get their appointments within the 10:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon window when we are open and staff or volunteers can easily accommodate.

We understand some medical appointments are at the convenience of the doctor, especially those that are down the road a short way from when they are made.  And doctors like mornings.  What we do need is for clients to tell us the appointments when they get them, not when we are getting close to them.  We have the twenty four hour rule, which gives is a chance to get the ride lined up, especially those that we need to use a volunteer.  Volunteers have lives too, and calling them with one day notice is unfair to them, and they are more likely to have other things they have to do that day and time.  Thus, even if the appointment is six months away, let us know so we can see it coming too.

When you call in we need to also know which doctor you are seeing, and a little something of why.  If your appointment is simple and your doctor is one that is on time the driver might do better to simply stay there until you are done.  Other doctors run a little late as the day goes on, and an appointment that includes a procedure or testing takes long enough the driver can leave to run an errand of their own and return.  It is not uncommon that with some doctors and appointments the driver of our van is not even back to the office before the doctor’s office calls for us to pick you up, and that makes us late getting back to you.

Other clients have family and friends to take them to appointments and use us only if that does not pan out.  We still need to know the appointment.  If an appointment is three or more months down the road you will not know if the family member is going to be available.  We would rather have you cancel than get that last moment call.  We also need to know not only the doctor and the time of the appointment, but often if it is a specialist we will need the address when you call.  This is particularly important with appointments out of town.  We had one case where the volunteer showed up for a trip to a doctor they thought was in town and found out it was a trip to Sacramento.  They had to call us and we had to use staff to do it.

Despite the last couple of years with COVID, which effected the volunteers that were available, and recent staff shortages and changes we have had to make, we are still able to meet all reasonable requests.  While blindness is our focus, the general health of our clients is paramount to that process as it is the individual we serve.  Like the quote we had in a recent newsletter by William Osler, “It is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has.”

We are proud of the fact that if we have 150 clients, we have 150 programs.  Most other organizations for the blind are centered top serve a city population and have a program they fit the client into.  Our clients are hidden all over the county, and some are on dirt roads or hidden in the trees and the bus just doesn’t go there.  But, we do.  We have to fit their need.



"Never limit yourself because of others limited imagination, never limit others because of your limited imagination."

~ Mae Jamison


Holiday Gathering Returns

For three years we have been unable to have our Annual Holliday Dinner.  Another loss to COVID.  It has been our tradition for over thirty years to have a meal together as staff, clients who may not know of each other, and volunteers to get to know each other better and say thank you for another year.  It is a complete holiday meal in the traditions of the season.  Finally we can have it again, and it will be held at the Horsemen’s Lodge in Grass Valley on December 16th.  We will gather at around 1:30 and serve at 2:00.  We will make calls to see who is coming as we get closer to it and people know what their plans are.  If you have a spouse, person who drives you to the store, or a caregiver they are welcome too.  It is a chance for you to say thank you as well.  If you want to come let us know, we have to plan on how many to feed and set up transportation.  It is not a fund raiser and there is no cost associated with it, it is presented as our gift to the clients and volunteers.


Donation patterns are changing.

At the end of each calendar year we review the donations for the year and make sure letters for tax purposes are up to date.  Some individuals give more than once each year, and though they get a letter for the IRS each time they donate, we send one for the whole years so they have it in one place for their tax documents.  In the process we get a look at the whole of the year and can see where we are doing well, and were we see changes in giving patterns.  More people are using events like the Giving Tuesday which is a national program, or Amazon Prime and Script, and so are we.  With a card SPD markets uses the script system as a donation.

This last year COVID not only forced us to cancel our fund raising events, it changed donations dramatically.  Smaller donors were less common, but with economic changes larger donors gave more.  Donations always drop during national election years as well.  It will take another year to solidify major changes, the effects of inflation and other forces that change giving patterns.  It is for us to adjust to the changes, which will take a little time.

The biggest change was in donations as a part of an estate, and in individual foundation donations.  It was an estate donation that gave us our endowment, and it has been estate donations that have kept it to a level where we can access funding when it is needed.  Most were small from the families of clients who have passed on.  Some were granted in their wills as their estates were administered through their estate planning.  A few were allocated by foundations or retirement plans as part of their tax program.  A couple of individuals use their foundation or financial program to give monthly as a part of planned giving.  As an example, a comfortable one hundred dollar donation each month is twelve hundred for the year.  One individual gives us a stock transfer each December.  As a result it is planned giving which is now our number one source of income.  It is also invested and does not sit idle.

Understanding the tax benefits of investments becomes more complicated every year.  Using an IRA as an example as Required Minimum Distributions are taxed.  Your remaining assets are taxed.  And if you leave them to your heirs they are taxed again.  An IRA is taxed three times unless you structure it in such a way you can use it as a tax deduction.  If you donate your taxable retirement assets to a 501 C3 non-profit like Sierra Services for the Blind, your taxable retirement assets will benefit Sierra Services and your community Tax Free each year.  And they will not have to be taxed again.

Further, by naming Sierra Services as a beneficiary of your Required Minimum Distribution from your IRA, 401{k) and/or 403(b), you will be assured that every dollar that would have gone to taxes will be used to benefit your community.  Local donations will circulate in the local economy six times over a year.  Taxed income circulates once and may go anywhere.

Another great benefit of naming an 501C(3) organization like Sierra Services for the Blind as a beneficiary of your retirement assets is avoiding probate, which can also be costly.  By making a gift of your taxable retirement benefits, your charitable wishes can be fulfilled with ease and knowing your assets will provide a service to your community tax free.  It also makes the transition of your estate far easier to manage by your trustee.

To take advantage of the tax savings simply notify the custodian of your retirement account and let them know that you wish to name Sierra Services as the recipient of your taxable Required Minimum Distribution annually.  If you so desire, you can also name Sierra Services for the Blind as your beneficiary of some or all of your IRA upon your passing.

A simple statement like “Thank you” is inadequate to express how your donations have allowed us to serve the blind and visually impaired or our common community for over 40 years.  It is for us then to answer and acknowledge your trust by continuing to provide the transportation, education and counseling the clients need to maintain their independence.  We are constantly given praise for what we do from the clients, especially during COVID when so many were locked down and our call broke the silence.  This praise is equally applied to those of you who make it possible for us to provide the service that makes their lives so much the better.  So, on behalf of the organization, the staff and the clients we will say it.

Thank You.



"Truth is found when the personal impressions we put on experience are stripped away as chaff from the seed. Out of context a swan was the ugly duckling."

                                                                                                                                                        ~ A. Nonymous


The case for wisdom

One of the advantages of aging is the wisdom one gains along the way.  One of the disadvantages of aging is the frustration of what to do with it.  You look at the generations behind you, and like every generation back to Adam and Eve you see chaos where intellect should be.  There is a solution.  Remember that the opposite of common sense is nonsense, and see the humor in it.  If you impart your wisdom like some great Sage they roll their eyes, but if you keep it simple for their simple minds and add some humor they will think on it.  And, when they need it the idea will be there.  The lessons are found in children’s stories, in our religion, and in the advice our parents and grandparents gave us.  What the generations gain from us over time is the example we set by how we act, and react in our lives.  We gained our wisdom by falling down and getting up.  When we get up we put things in perspective and see the truth in them.  The lesson is in the application of what we learned from the examples life gave us.

Truth is the divider between wisdom and sense and nonsense.  As Isaac Asimov puts it, “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

We know the simple truth of things.  As Dolly Parton put it, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow you gotta put up with the rain.”  William Arthur Ward took it a little farther, “A pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails.”  The years teach us by example.  Words didn’t mean much to us when we were younger any more than they do to those behind us now.  Experience makes sense of things.

Twenty five hundred years ago Kung Fu Tsi said, “All he needed for an education was to walk with two others and learn the good from one and the bad from the other”.  It matters which one you are listening to.  And, both examples are within yourself.  Carl Jung put it, “Everything that irritates us about another can lead us to understanding of ourselves.”

But we cannot stand still.  As Roy Rogers put it, “Even if you are on the right track you will get run over if you just sit still.”  The loss of vision is but one more example of change that experience will find the accommodation for.  Epictertus the Greek noted, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”  Or, Aldous Huxley said much the same, “Experience is not what happens to you, it’s what you do with what happens to you.”

The point of this article is simple.  Nothing is new, just something we have personalized.  Wisdom is simply knowing those things that are always true and applying them.  As we took the path to where we now are everyone goes through the same in life no matter what things have happened to them.  The path goes on, and so many more things will be there for us to discover if we remember that it is a process, and learning is never done.  Wisdom is not inspiration, it is born of the practice of living.  Wisdom is found in simplicity.  The rainbow comes after the rain.


"It is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has."

~ William Osler


What tomorrow holds

The main aspect of our counseling program has two interrelated aspects.  One is the information you need to make your adjustments to the loss of vision, and the other is a sense that while you are limited in some ways by vision loss, in other ways you are on a new adventure.  Someone named Sidney said that, “When I hear someone say life is hard I want to ask compared to what?”

Our ideal is found in the ability of the individual to continue to be independent as much as possible.  What differs is the definition of independence.  What is common is how to achieve that goal.  Muhammad Ali put it simply, “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

All of our lives we had a vision of what we wanted tomorrow to be like.  Some of them were dreams bordering on fantasy we knew were just daydreaming.  Others were things that were attainable.  Some turned out, some did not.  What was important was that they let us take our lives in a certain direction and we took the chance.  Abe Lincoln made it clear, “The best way to predict your future is to be the one to create it.”

Then, suddenly, you are older, and there is a tendency to let the days come and go and we simply function.  What we see when individuals come together is the seed of the idea that you are not alone.  Those around you still see the road ahead as a journey like Robert Frost when he; “took the road less traveled and that made all the difference”.  That is also why we use so many quotes in our newsletters.  Others have taken the same path, and taken the chance that life is still an adventure.  Take a look around you, see the people that are there who support you and want to take you hand when you need one to hold.  Their stories become your inspiration, as your stories serve the same purpose in their lives.

Is it counseling in the traditional sense?  Yes, because counseling is what we have done all our lives.  We have shared our dreams and welcomed others to come on the path with us starting with the first time we had a friend and age was a single number.  Age perhaps has taken a toll on the smile behind the eye, and perhaps because we let it.  When you fell even then you laughed at each other, when you ran you ran together, and perhaps climbed the same tree.  And you gave and word of encouragement to the one that was just a little afraid but would not admit it.  And smiles could better be seen in the eye than the silly grin.  We didn’t want others to see we were the one that was just a little afraid and needed a hand to reach the next branch on the tree.  At the same time when we reached the next branch we took a deep breath and said, “I made it.”


"Never tell people how to do things.  Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

~ George S. Patton


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,

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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