Society for the Blind Telephone Reading Service Expands to Humboldt Area

Society for the Blind and Reading Service of the Redwoods staff work together in the Arcata recording booth.

Reading Service of the Redwoods will continue to operate for residents of Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties who have low vision when it joins Society for the Blind’s Access News telephone reading service in Sacramento. Beginning January 1, 2017, Society for the Blind will operate the service for residents of those counties who are blind, have low vision or are unable to read print materials due to illness or disabilities.

“We are delighted that Society for the Blind is able to incorporate our long-standing service to the Humboldt community into their Access News telephone reader service so we can still bring them local news,” said Joan Sikkens, executive director of Reading Service of the Redwoods, who will be retiring at the end of December. “This truly shows the power of collaboration.”

Sikkens, Doug Rose and a team of volunteers created Reading Service of the Redwoods in 1998, and the program reaches 200 people. Funded in part through a grant from the California State Braille and Talking Book Library, Society for the Blind’s Access News Program has been serving people with vision loss and other reading challenges for 20 years. Access News reaches 2,000 listeners each year.

“People who are blind or have low vision can feel very isolated,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind. “To be able to call Access News and hear a live voice giving local and regional news and information helps people stay connected.”

Volunteers in Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties will continue to record newspapers and local publications, but listeners also will be able to hear more regional and national publications as part of Access News.

For more than 60 years, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers that included the Lions Clubs of America to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 26-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for 6,000 youth, adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.SocietyfortheBlind.org.

Holiday Opportunities Abound at United Way’s Online Volunteer Center

Looking for holiday donation and volunteer opportunities? Visit United Way California Capital Region’s online Volunteer Center at www.yourlocalunitedway.org to find more than a dozen needs in one place. Holiday volunteers and donors are encouraged to post photos of their work on social media using #happy2help.

“The Sacramento region is filled with generous people wanting to give back during the holidays, so we’ve gathered numerous opportunities in our online Volunteer Center to make it easy to choose the project you’re most passionate about,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region.

Anyone can sign up to volunteer or donate, and most nonprofits across the region are eligible to add their volunteer opportunities, and can do so through the website. For questions, contact volunteer@uwccr.org.

United Way launched its online Volunteer Center in 2014 to provide an organized, community-wide portal that connects the Sacramento region’s volunteer and donor base with United Way’s 160 local nonprofit partners and other local organizations. The center is designed to connect individual donors and volunteers, as well as corporate or group volunteers, with opportunities of all sizes and commitments throughout the year. Community members can log onto the website and create a profile that lists their interests, become fans of participating nonprofits, join volunteer groups, donate unused materials and household items to nonprofits in need, learn about upcoming special events and fundraisers, and advocate for causes. The center was partly launched in response to United Way’s 450 corporate partners looking for a coordinated way to engage employees in corporate social responsibility through volunteer work, donation opportunities and events.

United Way’s Volunteer Center is part of United Way’s Square One Project, which recognizes the importance of volunteers in making sure nonprofits and schools are equipped to provide a full support system for kids. The Square One Project is a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, the local United Way now believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college. To donate or volunteer, visit www.yourlocalunitedway.org.

Volunteer for United Way’s Week of Caring Oct. 3-8

More than 1,500 local residents are needed to spend a day caring for the community Oct. 3-8 by signing up for one of dozens of volunteer projects happening at nonprofits, schools and community parks across the region during United Way’s Week of Caring. The week, sponsored by Nationwide, will begin with a kickoff breakfast and rally at the new Golden 1 Center Plaza on Oct. 3 at 9 a.m. To sign up for Week of Caring: www.yourlocalunitedway.org/weekofcaring.

“We’ve held Day of Caring for the last three years and it’s been so successful at bringing the community together that we decided to make this year’s event an entire Week of Caring,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “We’re offering 40 volunteer projects across five counties that week so everyone can spend one day caring for their community.”

Project sponsors include California North Chapter Community Associations Institute, Honey Agency, SAFE Credit Union, Safelite Auto Glass, Social Interest Solutions, TaxAudit.com and Zurich. The Sacramento Kings are sponsoring the kickoff rally, and SMUD is a booth sponsor.

Last year, 954 volunteers – including 116 companies and groups – came out on United Way’s Day of Caring in September and completed projects with 40 local nonprofits in one day. They volunteered 4,305 hours collectively, valued at $95,312.

Week of Caring is part of United Way’s Square One Project, which recognizes the importance of volunteers in making sure nonprofits and schools are equipped to provide a full support system for kids. The Square One Project is a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, the local United Way now believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college and beyond. To donate or volunteer, visit www.yourlocalunitedway.org.

United Way Launches 20-Year Project to End Poverty

Through a Facebook Live video this morning, United Way California Capital Region announced that all of its work for the next 20 years will focus on ending poverty by increasing the number of local kids who graduate from high school prepared for success in college and beyond. United Way’s Square One Project will bring together the organization’s work over the last decade as the project focuses on educational milestones for children and the resources they need to succeed in school, including early literacy support, access to nutritious food, stable homes, support systems and more.

“This is our most ambitious project in our 90-year-history,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “If we want to see real change happen in our community, we have to break the cycle of poverty that’s passed down from one generation to another. There is one place in the community where we can do that best – and that’s school.”

Sacramento-area kids who graduate from college are 62 percent less likely to live in poverty than those who drop out of high school, according to United Way and the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development. United Way’s Square One Project is bringing together community leaders, schools, government, nonprofits, volunteers and donors across five counties to make sure kids stay in school, stay on track, have high expectations for what they can achieve, and have strong support systems.

United Way is launching the Square One Project through a partnership with Robla School District in Sacramento. To make sure kids can come to school every day, United Way and Robla School District are providing case managers at schools through a grant to help the 500 homeless families in the district secure stable housing and other support. United Way’s Healthy Meals ensures kids have enough to eat in their after-school programs so they have fuel for their brains. United Way also is providing tutors to help kids meet reading and math milestones so they stay on track. United Way’s Young Leaders Society is helping families start saving for higher education by raising matching funds for college savings accounts so that kids have high expectations of continuing school.

“We’re excited to be one of the first school districts where the Square One Project has launched,” said Ruben Reyes, superintendent, Robla School District. “This is a district with a lot of need, but a lot of awesome kids who are going to do amazing things in our community, thanks to our work with United Way.”

Through the Square One Project, United Way also will work with school districts throughout Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties to fill gaps in resources so kids have the best chance at success.

“We know ending poverty starts in school, but it’s going to take whole communities to make this happen across our region,” Bray said. “I hope everyone will find their way to join us at Square One so kids can create a better life for themselves, their community and the next generation.”

To donate or volunteer for United Way’s Square One Project, visit www.squareoneproject.org.

“Screw ALS” With Fall Winery Tour Fundraiser

Screw ALS logo with black corkscrew and wine colored circle

Enjoy free wine tastings and other perks at 50 wineries across the region at your leisure this fall as part of The ALS Association Greater Sacramento Chapter’s “Screw ALS” local passport winery tour fundraiser that will take place September through November.

“Every drop adds up, and after the profoundly successful national Ice Bucket Challenge to cure ALS, you might say we’re turning water into wine,” said Amy Sugimoto, executive director, The ALS Association Greater Sacramento Chapter. “We wanted to create a Sacramento fundraiser that would be exciting and fun while also raising awareness about ALS and funds to support the thousands of people affected by the disease in this region.”

“Screw ALS” will offer a limited number of VIP Passports through November. Passports cost $45 and will include free wine tasting, a free appetizer if available and special wine club pricing on all purchases the day of the visit. Guests will have access to wineries across Amador, Auburn, El Dorado, Lincoln, Lodi and the Old Sugar Mill. Select wineries will host winemaker dinners and private barrel tasting events. First 100 passport holders will receive a souvenir wine glass. For a list of participating wineries or to purchase a VIP Passport, visit www.screwals.org.

The ALS Association is leading the fight to treat and cure ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, through global research and nationwide advocacy while also empowering people with the disease and their families to live fuller lives by providing them with compassionate care and support. The local chapter of the organization best known for its Ice Bucket Challenge fundraiser serves 24 Northern California counties. To make a donation, visit www.alssac.org.

Society for the Blind Named Rehab Organization of the Year

Society for the Blind staff hold an award for Rehab Organization of the Year.

Society for the Blind in Sacramento recently accepted the award for Rehabilitation Organization of the Year by the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. The award is given each year to an organization that has demonstrated exceptional commitment and service to the field, as well as leadership in working with students, families, colleagues and businesses.

“While there are so many strong organizations in this region, we find Society’s expansion of services through the development of partnerships over the past few years to be an exemplary model of the standard all such organizations should follow,” said Richard Rueda, president of the Northern California chapter of the association. “This organization is distinguished by its ability to dream big, allow partnerships to emerge, and sponsor and underwrite large portions of programming that ultimately benefit people with vision loss in Sacramento and throughout Northern California.”

Society for the Blind received the award for its expansion efforts, including its onsite Low Vision Clinic that now offers occupational therapy and services for young children, its peer and support group programming for parents of children with vision challenges, and its new partnerships with groups like UC Davis Eye Center and Junior Blind.

“This is an enormous honor, and we are grateful for this recognition as we continue to find new ways to empower people of all ages living with vision challenges,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind.

For 60 years, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers that included the Lions Clubs of America to a nationally recognized agency and the only rehabilitative teaching center for a 26-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for 6,000 youth, adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.societyfortheblind.org.

United Way Helps Sacramento Claim $5 Million This Tax Season

VITA volunteer helps a local resident file her taxes through United Way-led programs

Nearly 5,000 households in the Sacramento area took advantage of United Way-led free tax programs this year, resulting in more than $5 million in money claimed and saved through the Earned Income Tax Credit, other credits and refunds, and lack of tax preparation fees. The in-person Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, led by United Way California Capital Region in this area, helped 3,710 local households. The first 150 who placed part or all of their refund in their own savings accounts earned a $10 gift card sponsored by SAFE Credit Union. United Way’s MyFreeTaxes.com helped 983 users file taxes with an average refund of $1,433.

“One of the first steps to becoming financially stable is avoiding spending unnecessary money and taking advantage of benefits available,” said Stephanie Bray, United Way California Capital Region president and CEO. “These tax programs gave people the chance to avoid tax prep fees and apply for credits. This community did a fantastic job of coming together to ensure as much money stayed in our region as possible.”

Local households that earned $54,000 or less in 2015 were eligible to receive free tax help in person through the the local VITA coalition led by United Way. IRS-certified volunteers provided free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing. Volunteers informed taxpayers about special tax credits for which they might qualify, such as the federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA is a national IRS program and offers free help to people who make a limited income and need help preparing their tax returns.

The 150 filers who qualified for the SAFE gift card promotion collectively saved $186,307 – an average of $1,242 per saver – from their refunds in their own savings accounts or by purchasing savings bonds through VITA.

Local households that made $62,000 or less in 2015 qualified to file their state and federal taxes online for free at MyFreeTaxes.com, thanks to a a national partnership between United Way, Goodwill Industries and the National Disability Institute. The website guided users through federal and state filing using software powered by H&R Block.

Both the in-person and online filing opportunities were designed to help households receive the maximum Earned Income Tax Credits of $6,000, available federally and through the state. This is the first year that California offered a state Earned Income Tax Credit to benefit California’s working families, increase use of the federal credit and increase availability of free tax preparation services.

United Way California Capital Region is leading the local efforts for VITA and MyFreeTaxes.com as part of its work to ensure more households in the capital region are financially healthy. Partners include California State Board of Equalization, City of Sacramento, Community Housing Opportunities Corporation, County of Placer Health and Human Services, Folsom Cordova Community Partnership, Goodwill Industries of Sacramento Valley & Northern Nevada, Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance, SEIU Local 1000, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Grant Union High School, Hiram Johnson High School and the State of California Franchise Tax Board. Sponsors include Citi Community Development, First Northern Bank, Internal Revenue Service, SAFE Credit Union, SMUD, United Way California Capital Region and Wells Fargo.

For more than 90 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought people together to meet pressing needs in the Sacramento region and has changed the lives of hundreds of children, families and adults. Now United Way is mobilizing nonprofits, companies, schools, government and individuals across the region, state and country to make a collective impact in the areas of education, financial stability and health in Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. To donate or volunteer, visit www.yourlocalunitedway.org.

Tickets on Sale for Women’s Empowerment Gala

Women's Empowerment graduates meet KCRA's Eileen Javora who emceed last year's Gala.

Community members are invited to the 15th Anniversary Celebration of Independence Gala that benefits Women’s Empowerment, a local nonprofit job training and empowerment program for women who are homeless and their children. The event, which raises funds for the organization and honors the group’s 1,322 graduates, will take place 5:30-8:30 p.m. on May 19 at the Red Lion Woodlake Hotel, 500 Leisure Lane, Sacramento. Guests will mingle with graduates from the program and enjoy a formal dinner, live and silent auctions, live music and presentations from the graduates.

Tickets are $100. Those who cannot attend, or wish to contribute more, can sponsor a graduate to attend the event. For tickets or sponsorship opportunities, call (916) 669-2307 or visit www.womens-empowerment.org.

“This event is like no other in Sacramento,” said Lisa Culp, executive director of Women’s Empowerment. “Rarely will you attend a fundraiser where donors and community members have the chance to meet and talk with women who have overcome homelessness. It’s our largest fundraiser of the year, but it’s also a night filled with laughter, tears and joy as we celebrate the incredible women who have shared their journeys with us.”

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Women’s Empowerment was recently featured on NBC’s TODAY Show and CNN’s Impact Your World for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The 2014 Organization of the Year has graduated 1,322 homeless women and their 2,750 children. Last year, 93 percent of graduates found homes and 83 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded solely through private donations from the community. To donate online: www.womens-empowerment.org.

United Way Unveils Hydration Stations at Sacramento Schools

Students at Taylor Street Elementary School in Sacramento celebrate their new water bottles and installation of a hydration station

United Way’s Young Leaders Society raised $25,000 to fund the purchase and recent installation of five hydration stations at all five schools in Robla School District in Sacramento. The stations, which provide drinking water and encourage kids to choose water over sugary drinks, were unveiled at each school on Feb. 5. United Way’s Young Leaders Society members descended upon the schools to pass out United Way reusable water bottles to all 2,500 students in the district. In preparation for the unveiling, students received in-classroom education on the health benefits of drinking water instead of sugary drinks through a partnership with the Health Education Council.

“Our kids are fascinated by technology, so we know these hydration stations will be a far bigger draw for the kids than traditional drinking fountains,” said Ruben Reyes, superintendent, Robla School District. “And because the kids are excited about the hydration stations and have been receiving important education about the dangers of sugary drinks, we know we will see more kids drinking water and making healthy choices.”

The stainless steel hydration stations are mounted on walls and include a cooler and bottle filling station in an ADA-compliant design. Each station holds up to 3,000 gallons of filtered water, and an LED light shows students when their bottle is full. United Way’s Young Leaders Society plans to install five more stations this summer.

“The hydration stations play an important part in educating children to make healthier choices every day,” said Lindsey Smith, chair, United Way’s Young Leaders Society. “Being able to be a part of this initiative from start to finish and to see how excited the students are about the Rethink your Drink program has been extremely gratifying. The fact that we are able to make a difference in these students’ lives and create a partnership with the Robla School District helps us realize the potential of our future Young Leaders Society projects.”

United Way’s Young Leaders Society unites young professionals to make a collective impact on health and education for kids through volunteer work and financial support. For more than 90 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought people together to meet pressing needs in the Sacramento region and has changed the lives of hundreds of children, families and adults. Now United Way is mobilizing nonprofits, companies, schools, government and individuals across the region, state and country to make a collective impact in the areas of education, financial stability and health in Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties. To donate or volunteer, visit www.yourlocalunitedway.org.

Society for the Blind Receives $40K from AT&T

Society for the Blind receives check from AT&T

Society for the Blind announced today it has received $40,000 from AT&T to fund teaching programs for adults and seniors living with vision loss.

“Society for the Blind is honored to receive this support from AT&T,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind. “Thanks to AT&T’s generosity, people who are living with low vision and blindness will be able to learn the skills and access the tools and technology that will help them live independently and achieve their work and personal goals.”

Society for the Blind’s classes focus on four core skills: orientation and mobility, Braille, adaptive technology and independent living skills. Students learn how to travel safely, efficiently and independently inside their home and in public. They learn how to use alternative techniques and tools to navigate day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, home maintenance, organization, personal finance, and using Braille to read, write and access technology. Students are trained in all aspects of computer use appropriate to their interests and skill levels, including email, Internet access, completing online forms, shopping and banking online, and creating documents.

“AT&T is committed to advancing education and strengthening the communities in which we live and work,” said Tim Ray, regional vice president of external affairs, AT&T. “AT&T is proud to support the educational programs of Society for the Blind as they are a key resource for blindness education and low vision services throughout the Sacramento region.”

For 60 years, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers that included the Lions Clubs of America to a nationally recognized agency and the only rehabilitative teaching center for a 26-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for 6,000 youth, adults and seniors experiencing vision loss. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.societyfortheblind.org.