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Sierra Services for the Blind

Newsletter, May 2020

"When you are done Changing you are finished."

~ Ben Franklin

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Coronavirus changes what we are doing.

The coronavirus, and the State mandates have made us change how we are doing business like it has for most everyone else.  The backbone of our program is in the counseling we do in our support groups, and we are not allowed to have groups in that manner.  Those groups held in the office put people in too close a contact, and those groups in facilities are now closed to us.

But the need to keep contact with our clients, and to make sure they are well during this crisis does not change.  We have done several things to accommodate as best we can.

On the day a group would have met, the staff is calling those members to see if they are holding up under the strain of it all, and to find out if there is anything they need that we can in some way accommodate.  Niki comes in from 9:00 to 1:00 each day to make the calls and talk to the clients about how they are doing and has found we are in many cases the only ones who call.  They just need someone to talk to, and that is what we will do.  Joe is working from home and makes calls as needed.  Niki has also been asking if groups want to start a phone tree so they can talk amongst themselves and that too has been well received.  We must get permission to give out the phone numbers, and most are more than willing to participate.

Sarah is in from 1:00 to 5:00 Monday, Wednesday and Friday to cover the afternoon should clients need something.  Both she and Niki also work from home.  Since the BARD system was closed down clients are not receiving talking books.  We accommodate that by accessing the system directly at the Library of Congress where we can download books for them.  We have the cartridges that fit the players.  Clients can call in the books they want, and Sarah will download them either on their new cartridge which they can mail to us, or on a new one, and we will mail it to them.  These also go through the mail as FREE MATTER for the Blind.

Richard is still managing the office either from home or the office.  He is scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 to 5:00 and as needed for the business of the agency.

The other main program is our transportation to doctor’s appointments and other necessary trips beyond such activities as shopping.  The doctors for the most part have stopped seeing patients, and many are taking their appointments by phone.  There have been a few times in an emergency we have used out transportation system, especially early on in the lock down.  But, essentially the transportation program is closed.  We also do not want to contaminate our van, or the volunteers.  As a public health agency, we can’t open until the Governor says we can.

If you are a client and have a need, please do not hesitate to call us.  We will do the best we can to keep track of those who depend on us.  Like you we wait for the day when this is over and the community, and the nation are back in business as usual.  Until then, stay as healthy as you can.  Do not just sit.  Walk around the room if that is the only way you can, but they are now saying outside is safe unless you are in a large group, so got for a walk even if it is just to get the mail from the box.  Eat right, and keep hope alive.  Nevada County has been lucky so far, and the more they find out about the virus the more they can find the cure, and the vaccine needed for it.  Those of us who are of a certain age have seen it before, and, “this too shall pass.”  Until it is over, we don’t like it any better than our clients do.

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"Kites fly highest against the wind – not with it."

~ Winston Churchill

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Annual Membership Meeting Canceled due to Coronavirus

This year’s Annual Meeting of the Membership, and the associated dinner will have to be cancelled for the first time in 39 years due to the State mandated stay at home rules.  But that does not mean we are not still required to make an annual report to the Membership as provided in the Bylaws.  The information that would have been presented is presented here, and will go out to all of our corporate members.  The only thing we cannot do this way is take recommendations from the Membership related to the Bylaws, or any message they would want to give to the Board of Directors.

If a Member wishes to make a recommendation write to the Board President, or to the Executive Director at our regular address: 546 Searls Avenue, Nevada City California, 95959.  It will be addressed at the next board meeting and you will be invited to attend.  Here then is the report on the state of the agency.

As to Client services, we began this last Corporate year with 143 clients.  We now have 157 clients, and within that number there has been a change as we have lost some, especially among our 100 year old clients of which we still have four.  At one point the number of Clients was as high as 165.  83% are seniors over age 69.  We have had an influx of new clients that are somewhat younger than the last couple of years.  We performed 4,783 units of direct client service last year.  This year that number is 5,502 despite being required to close down both our peer groups and our doctor related transportation services.  Both are the most active programs in terms of service.  However, though we have not been able to have the groups in the office, we have been calling each individual at the time their group would have met to check on them, and have set up a phone tree system so they can talk to each other if they wish.  As confidentiality is one of our constant issues, we had to get permission from each individual to hand out their phone numbers to other members of their group.  As most of our clients fall into that age group are most in danger from the Coronavirus it will be some time before we can get the groups together again.  In the case of groups that meet in senior facilities, we have to wait for them to open up.  Thus, we will be slipping back into our normal routine slower than some.

The office is open every day with one employee.  Niki is in every morning nine to one.  Sarah is Monday, Wednesday and Friday from one to five.  Richard is Tuesday and Thursday one to five, and at other times as needed, which tends to be most days to accomplish a specified task.  Joe is taking to clients on an as needed basis, and we all are doing what we can from home.  So, we are all on the job.

One example is that when the talking book program closed down at the state library, we started downloading books from the BARD program in Washington D.C.  Any client who want a book can call the office and order it.  We have cartridges that fit your machine and we can do it Free Matter through the mail like the library in Sacramento does.  Sarah manages it for us and does the loading and mailing,

Financially we have done well despite the dramatic drop in the stock market where our endowment and investments are located.  We moved a quantity of it to cash and were able to anticipate the drop in the market somewhat.  We have benefited as it has started back up again.  We also have had a few more large donations of late, and an estate that had been held in legal limbo for two years was settled in April.  This has allowed us to draw less on the investments this year.  At the same time, we did however have to cancel our biggest fund raising event of the year, the Gold Country Golf Classic that was scheduled for May 1st.  Funding raised at the time of the Membership drive far exceeds years past, and we thank you all for that.  Needless to say, financially as well as in terms of serving our clients it has been an interesting year.  Last year’s budget $146,700, this fiscal year which ends June 30 is at $149,350.  The rise was due to the rise in cost that all businesses incur.  The two largest for us was the cost of groceries for the Dinners we put on twice a year and the client dinner during the holidays.  It had also been some time since staff salaries had been addressed and we accommodated them based on cost of living and changes related to state law to keep slightly ahead of future requirements.

One in three are legally blind at age 80 from all sources, and we continue to be the oldest county in the State of California.  We also find that the lack of transportation in Nevada County strands people who have lost their driver’s license due to vision loss.  The same isolation keeps the individual from staying active in the community.  This is why the times we take a combination of peer groups to some community event or for a meal that group is growing.  The requirement for trips to Sacramento for medical appointments is also rising.  Without our dedicated volunteers it would be impossible for us to meet the demand.

In time the separations of Coronavirus will come to an end and we can get back to providing the direct contact services we have been forced to adapt to.  We have learned a lot from the experience.  We are a human service non-profit dedicated to the health of our clients.  We also remain dedicated to the idea we will not charge for our services.  Next year we will celebrate 40 years of service to the community.  We are aware that we are dependent on the community for our funding, and take the responsibility that entails to make sure our reputation is earned by our actions, not our words.  Reputations are earned, and we are proud of the one we have in the community.

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"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."

~ Helen Keller

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A few things you may not have known

John Wayne did his own stunts throughout his career.  The studio didn’t like it one bit either.  In the movie Hatari he would ride on the front fender of the truck and rope the animals they were collecting for the Zoo trade.  In one shot the trunk hits a ditch and the truck roles over.  It was an accident they caught on camera.  The truck did actually roll over with Wayne sitting in a seat on the fender, breaking his back.  The filming was halted for two months before he could recover enough to return to for less active shots, and if you watch closely you can see there are times in the film shot later where he seems stiff.  He was stiff for the rest of his life.

Jimmy Steward not only served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he continued to serve until retirement from the Military as a Major General.  In one of his movie Strategic Air Command, SAC, he serves in a B-52 during the time when we had atomic weapons in the air at all times during the Cold War he did the actual flying.  His last mission flying a B52 on a bombing run was in Vietnam.

One of the reasons Thomas Edison was able to get so much done is he rarely took a night’s sleep.  He would “catnap” for fifteen or twenty minutes every couple of hours all day and night.  His twenty four hour schedule in his laboratory drove his employees crazy.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, but in his later life spent his time inventing devises for the deaf.  Why, because he himself was almost stone deaf in his later years.

The railroads got their designation as “the train” not from the wagon train idea of a string of cars, but from one of the great scam artists of all time.  George Francis Train gained fame for the corruption in the industry when he and others creating the Credit Mobilier and scammed the Union Pacific for Billions of dollars.   The payments to government officials created a political scandal that took down most of the Grant Administration.  Thomas Nast, the cartoonist did a “Nasty” cartoon of him as a railroad engine with Train’s face on it that said to look out, “Look out, here comes the Train.”  The present cartoon character Thomas takes the idea from that, as did the ever popular “Little Tootle” children’s book did in the last century who had to learn, “That a train must stay on the tracks”.  He is also famous for betting he could go around the world in eighty days.  It was a great publicity stunt and the press followed his every move.  He lost.  The movie of the same event started in England, but it was an American bragging in Britain that started it.  He also died a pauper.

A frustrated Dr. Alexander Flemming was trying to make pure cultures of a disease to find a cure for infection.  But the cultures kept getting ruined by a mold that had infected his lab that was killing his cultures.  One day it dawned on him he was trying to kill the mold that was killing the diseases in his cultures.  The mold was the cure he was looking for.  He studied the mold and created penicillin.

There were not three Marx Brothers, there were 5.  The early movies had Chico, Groucho and Harpo.  Chico, the oldest was replaced later by Zeppo.  The fifth, Gummo did very little in the movies.  They, especially Groucho, Harpo and Zeppo, to act the same in public as they did in the films.

One of the reasons Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo didn’t like each other, beyond the fact they were competitors in business, was that they were both boxing champions at one time.  They were also both left handed.  They never faced each other, DaVinci being older and not fighting when Leonardo was.  But the Spirit was there.

Leonardo’s Da Vinci’s, famous secret notes written in code were unreadable for over 300 years.  Then, someone held them up to a mirror.  They were written backwards.  He did that because he wrote very fast, and writing backwards with his left hand going away from what he had written he didn’t smear the ink as he went along.

George Armstrong Custer was not the only Custer to die at the Little Big Horn.  His brother Tom was also killed.  While George was famous as the flamboyant and reckless “Boy General”, he was also demoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and was subject to Court Martial for leaving his command to visit his wife during a campaign.  He survived the trail and joined his command where he violated orders when he attacked the tribes.  Tom Custer, on the other hand was revered among the ranks of the army, and had won two Congressional Medals of Honor during the Civil War.

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Non-Profits and the shutdown

Not for Profit agencies who serve a specific community need are hit just as most businesses are when they must close our doors.  In one way we have an advantage over something like a restaurant in that we do not have inventory problems or are we dependent on customers to pay.  As you recall, we do not charge our clients for our services.  We, as an industry, are dependent on donations or grants from other agencies.  Our major cost is in staff and facility.

Sierra Services for the Blind has been fortunate.  While we don’t have government grants like others, our community has continued to support us.  We are not grant sensitive for two reasons.  One, grants by nature pay after a service has been performed.  That means the agency needs the operating money to perform the service before they are compensated.  Second, and why we rarely apply for grants that are not up-front money, grants from all governmental and most corporate entities require an audit that costs around $4,500.  Most grants we are eligible being a small organization would be $5,000, rarely higher.  Thus it makes no sense to receive a $5,000 grant that requires a $4,500 audit.

For this reason we are dependent on donations.  We have received two or three donations from individuals that are larger than we generally see.  Though we did have to cancel our largest fund raising event, the Gold Tournament set for May 1, we are able to pay staff and the rent for now.  We have applied for, and been accepted by the Payroll Protection Program and the Small Business program the government has established, neither had paid as of this date.  Our endowment and the investments have taken a hit in the stock market, but still sustain us.

We are cutting costs in any way we can.  We are also retaining staff.

Needless to say, it is the donations of those who can afford to give a little or a lot that give us the funding we need the most.  Like we say in jest, for now we still have hold of the paddles, we just need to make sure we know where the boat is being kept.  Or, if we break the shoestring we can tie a knot and still tie the shoe with a shorter string like we all did as kids.

Until we hear we can have group meetings again the message is simple, the board of directors, the staff and client want to thank those that support us.  We are a small community agency dedicated to a specific need found in our community.  That need is not going away soon, and neither are we.

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

(530) 265-2121

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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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