Society for the Blind Receives $15K from Wells Fargo

Society for the Blind in Sacramento recently received a $15,000 grant from Wells Fargo to provide education, training and assistive devices to Sacramento-area seniors who are blind or have low vision. The funding will support Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project that empowers people age 55 and older with alternative, non-visual techniques and skills that enable them to perform daily tasks and activities so they can maintain or increase independence.

“As the senior population in Sacramento continues to expand, so does the need for services like our Senior IMPACT Project that help seniors not only cope with vision loss, but also regain their independence,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind. “We are so thankful that Wells Fargo has invested in active aging and vitality of older adults in our region.”

Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project includes an eight-day retreat offered monthly at Society for the Blind that gives seniors an immersion experience where they learn alternative techniques and skills to travel safely, efficiently and independently. They practice techniques and use adapted tools to perform tasks of daily living including cooking, cleaning, shopping, home maintenance, organization, personal finance and more. They learn how to use the latest in assistive technology to operate computers and mobile devices for home, school and work, and they learn Braille. Participants receive individualized attention from instructors and mentors who are blind or low vision, can join discussion groups with peers on issues around vision loss, participate in community activities, attend monthly peer support groups in English and Spanish, and attend workshops throughout the year. For those unable to attend retreats, Society for the Blind sends instructors to their homes to teach skills and offer resources.

“Wells Fargo understands the importance of empowering individuals who are in need of critical community resources,” said Kären Woodruff, community affairs senior consultant. “Our investment in this program builds confidence and independent living skills for these seniors and goes a long way to strengthen and reinforce the efforts of Society for the Blind’s overall programming.”

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 to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 27-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 SocietyfortheBlind.org.

Wells Fargo provides monetary support, expertise and volunteers to national and local nonprofit organizations and causes that align with their business priorities, values, business expertise and geographies. The company focuses its philanthropic activities on creating long-term strategic relationships with nonprofits and other organizations to create innovative, sustainable solutions to meet local needs. Wells Fargo supports thousands of national and community-based nonprofits annually to help revitalize and strengthen communities. The company is among the top corporate cash donors among U.S. companies, donating $286.5 million to 14,500 nonprofits in 2017 to support critical social, economic and environmental challenges. To learn more, visit WellsFargo.com.

Society for the Blind: Meet the Sekoras

Lynda Sekora knew she was losing some of her vision, but the night she realized she couldn’t read her insulin pump anymore, the Orland resident sank into a deep depression.

“I cried all through dinner,” Lynda said. “I flat had a nervous breakdown and quit living. I spent my days watching stupid TV shows and would have welcomed death.”

Due to a lifetime of Type 1 diabetes, Lynda was blind in one eye and had macular degeneration and glaucoma in the other.

As her husband, Palmer, watched her sink further and further into anxiety and depression throughout 2012, he knew something had to be done. Lynda’s ophthalmologist in Chico did not know any place that could provide resources, so Palmer began digging through the phone book and newspapers. He wanted to do anything to help Lynda feel better – she had always been such an independent person. But he kept hitting dead ends.

Meanwhile, Lynda began seeing a therapist and taking anxiety medication, but nothing was helping her realize that life could go on.

Then Palmer came across Society for the Blind, and one of the instructors came to their house to visit with them. They described her as a “big ray of sunshine.” She told them about Society for the Blind’s Senior IMPACT Project that starts with a weeklong retreat. Though the retreat is geared toward the person losing vision, Palmer decided to participate alongside his wife so he would understand her experience.

During the training, Lynda and Palmer learned to cook using real knives and a real stove. They learned how to navigate streets using a white cane, shop and know which bills they were using, thread a needle, read braille and use talking gadgets like a labeler.

“We spent a week in that program with those wonderful positive people and their can-do spirit,” Lynda said. “They showed me that there is life after blindness – that I could do anything I wanted to, I just would have to do it a different way. When we left, we were walking on cloud nine.”

After the retreat, Lynda’s depression lifted. Her counselor was so impressed that she decided Lynda didn’t need her anymore. She also began weaning off the anxiety medication. Three years later, Lynda is proud that she can cook, tend her house, go out to dinner, go on trips and have lunch with her friends. Palmer manages her insulin pump, but Lynda makes all of the decisions regarding her care. They credit this transformation to the retreat at Society for the Blind.

“Everyone hits the lows,” Palmer said, “But it’s how you deal with it that determines whether you’re going to be happy. Many of the Society for the Blind instructors have a family and travel, and one even rock climbs! They teach you that the only limitations are those that you place upon yourself.”

Since the retreat, Lynda and Palmer have attended a few of Society for the Blind’s workshops for seniors including yoga, exercise and self-defense.

Because of their own experience searching desperately to find help, the Sekoras now volunteer at expos around the Sacramento area, distributing information and talking about Society for the Blind so that others will never have to experience the same isolation.

“For us, this experience was like wandering in the wilderness and finding your way out and realizing you’re not alone anymore,” Palmer said. “At Society for the Blind, it’s a person-to-person effort, and that’s what makes it so worthwhile and effective. When you can meet someone who has experienced what you’ve been through and is living his or her life fully, you say to yourself, I think I can do that too.”