VISIONS Insights Newsletter

Summer 2021, Issue 16

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VISIONS Turns 95

Black and white photo of a group of participants bowling on the grounds of VISIONS Center on Blindness
Pictured Above: A group of bowlers play adaptive bowling on the Posner Bowling Alley at VISIONS Center on Blindness in the Summer of 1958

A Special Message from Executive Director/CEO Nancy D. Miller

VISIONS is 95 years old! As I look back on my time working for VISIONS since 1971, I am amazed at how grounded our founding women were in the issues that are so relevant today. VISIONS offered integrated programming welcoming blind people of all backgrounds in the 1920's when it was rare. VISIONS focused on employment, independent living and family services when it was difficult for blind people to land jobs...just as it is today, and when government contracts did not pay for services for family members of blind people...just as it is today. VISIONS prevailed and is #1 in job placements of legally blind New Yorkers for five years in row. VISIONS serves both the blind person of all ages and their families. This leads to better outcomes since everyone that cares about the blind individual is invested, and reinforces the learning to be independent. In my VISIONS journey from VCB summer counselor in 1971 to VCB Director in 1982 and then after a short break to become VISIONS CEO in 1987, I have been blessed to work with a dedicated and committed Board of Directors, hundreds of volunteers and donors and a truly gifted staff. The success of the blind participants we serve is because of the strengths of everyone involved. We thank you for believing in the basic values we were built on and continue today... support and training for each blind individual and their family and unpaid caregivers, so they can see what is possible and achieve their goals.

Upcoming Events

To learn more and register for these, or future events, please visit:
www.visionsvcb.org/events

Bronx-Westchester Advisory Board Awards Dinner

Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Frankie & Johnnie’s Pine Restaurant
1913 Bronxdale Ave
Bronx, NY 10462

VISIONS 35th Annual Charity Golf and Tennis Outing

Monday, September 27, 2021
Quaker Ridge Golf Club
146 Griffen Avenue
Scarsdale, NY 10583

Manhattan Advisory Board Awards Dinner

Thursday, September 30, 2021
VISIONS at Selis Manor
135 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

VISIONS 95th Anniversary Celebration

Thursday, December 9, 2021
Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital
210 E 64th St
New York, NY 10065

VISIONS Board and Staff Updates

VISIONS Welcomes New Board Member Sherilyn Casiano

Headshot of VISIONS Board Member Sherilyn Casiano, a woman standing in front of a light wall smiling to the camera

Sherilyn founded S.I. Williams Wealth Management 20 years ago after serving as a senior member of the KKR Family Office. She provides bespoke advisory services to Ultra High Net Worth families, foundations and their key advisors across tax, trust, and investment management. Her clients include Investment Bankers, Private Equity and Real Estate Executives and their charitable giving organizations. Sherilyn has been recognized by Forbes as one of the Top 100 Women in Business to Watch. She has an MBA from Columbia University, is active in education, and recently joined VISIONS Board of Directors, and its Development Committee.

VISIONS Board Vice President, Dr. Cynthia Stuen Honored by Columbia University

Headshot of VISIONS Board Member, Dr. Cynthia Stuen, a woman standing on a stage inside the United Nations.

VISIONS congratulates Vice President of our Board of Directors, Dr. Cynthia S. Stuen, for being honored as a Columbia [University] Alumni Medalist, and receiving her Medal for Distinguished Service. Columbia Alumni Medalists are recognized for building Columbia's community—whether regionally, online, in specific schools, or in cross-campus initiatives. Dr. Cynthia S. Stuen is the Main Representative to the United Nations on behalf of the International Federation on Ageing. She is currently the Chair of the NGO Committee on Ageing at the United Nations. Dr. Stuen’s entire professional career, has been devoted to improving the lives of older persons on local, national, and international levels. Recently, Dr. Stuen hosted an engaging presentation hosted by IFA Global Café: In Conversation with Dr. Cynthia Stuen on "The Role of Civil Society at the United Nations”.

New VISIONS Staff

Full-time
Jessica M. Lewis
Jeffrey Tillinghast
Sophia Huynh

Part-time
Michael Pierre
Rafael Paez-Castillo

New Advisory Board Members

Bronx-Westchester Advisory
Delores O'Garo
Community Volunteer

Manhattan Advisory
John Brandon
Licensed Real Estate Salesperson
Dr. Veeraf Sanjana
Community Volunteer

VISIONS Insights Newsletter: A Publication About VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired

VISIONS Board of Directors:
President: Robert Schonbrunn
Past President: Nancy T. Jones
Vice President: Dr. Cynthia Stuen
Treasurer: Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
Assistant Treasurer: Kenneth J. Gralak
Secretary: Jasmine M. Campirides

Newsletter Staff
Executive Director/CEO:
Nancy D. Miller
Editor, Chief Development Officer:
Russell C. Martello
Newsletter Design & Layout:
Ryan Melendez

VISIONS is Committed to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA)

VISIONS is Committed to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA)

VISIONS was founded by a group of women who believed in, promoted, and fought for the equal rights and opportunities for blind and visually impaired individuals inclusive of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, income levels, and ages. Proudly this remains the essence and passion of our mission today. Ahead of its time from its inception in 1926, VISIONS focus is on diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for all.

VISIONS provides the tools and training for people who are blind or multi-disabled to succeed in school, work, raise a family, lead independent lives and contribute to community life. All services include a diverse collective of participants, more than half of whom identify as persons of color and speak sixteen languages. This includes residential programs which have always been and remain racially and ethnically integrated.

Celebrating its 95th anniversary in 2021, VISIONS remains laser-focused on the traditions and basic tenets of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in all programming. The Board of Directors and the advisory boards, including blind members, embody broad representation and expertise. Half of VISIONS staff, from executive to direct service, are people of color with nearly one-third identifying as blind.

DEIA is in our DNA as an organization. We confront racism, discrimination, and violence experienced by all marginalized populations or individuals. We recognize the different lived experiences of Black, Brown, Asian, Pacific Islander, Latinx, Indigenous, LGBTQ people, members of religious minorities such as Jews and Muslims, older adults, and people with disabilities – and take a stand against all forms of discrimination. This list is illustrative, not exhaustive. Commitment to social justice is integral to our past, current, and future operations.

Adopted by VISIONS Board of Directors on May 11, 2021

In the Spotlight

Lavelle Fund for the Blind Scholarship Recipient, Vanessa Luna

Headshot of Vanessa Luna, a woman with long blonde hair wearing a black t shirt, smiling to the camera

Vanessa Luna began receiving services from the Workforce Development department at VISIONS in fall 2016 in her sophomore year, while attending Manhattanville College. Ms. Luna is a recipient of the Lavelle Fund for the Blind's Brother Kearney Scholarship, and has always been a focused individual, choosing psychology as her major, with the long-term career goal of becoming a social worker. Ms. Luna was eager to take the right steps to gain relevant work experience, to be considered as a competitive candidate upon graduation. Unfortunately, before the start of her senior year, Ms. Luna took a year off to recover physically and emotionally due to an injury she sustained in an accident. As soon as she felt ready, Vanessa enrolled in her final year at Manhattanville College, and continued to work. She diligently applied to jobs as she approached graduation, and less than two months after graduation, Ms. Luna received a job offer from New York Foundling. She accepted a position as a bilingual Socio Therapist, where she offers counseling to children from the foster care system. Ms. Luna is excited to continue on this journey, and enroll in graduate school for social work in the near future. She is an example of motivation and determination for all students and recent graduates.

VISIONS Participant and Manhattan Advisory Board Member, Dr. Veeraf Sanjana

Headshot of Dr. Veeraf Sanjana, an older man standing in front of a wall and smiling to the camera.

Dr. Veeraf Sanjana was born in Bombay, India in 1950 and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in engineering. He moved to the USA at age 21 to attend Stanford University and pursue a PhD in chemical engineering, then continued to the University of Miami for medical school, graduating in 1977.

Dr. Sanjana came to New York for an internship, and continued his studies, to develop his medical practice, and ultimately specialize in infectious diseases. Dr. Sanjana  became legally blind in 1991, but continued to practice medicine for 22 years until his retirement in 2013. He has been registered with the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) since 2020, when he was referred to VISIONS, and currently receives Vision Rehabilitation Therapy (VRT) and Orientation & Mobility (O&M) instruction. He joined VISIONS Manhattan Advisory Board in April 2021.

Image of VISIONS rehabilitation instructor, Tara Olsen, a woman standing outside a house wearing a mask and speaking into a CBS News microphone.

In The News: Special Cane Developed For Young Children With Visual Impairments

VISIONS Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT) Tara Olsen worked with one of the recipients of a new innovative cane, developed for children ages 1-5 with visual impairments. Ms. Olsen felt that it gave 3-year-old Jorge Alcantara the opportunity to be independent and free.

Watch the full story by visiting: https://cbsloc.al/2S1XZIn

VISIONS in the Community

VISIONS Staff Present at the New York State Commission for the Blind's (NYSCB) Vision Rehabilitation Institute Virtual Conference

On February 17th, 2021, Mike Cush, Giuseppe Esposito and Heather Hanlon, made a presentation at the Vision Rehabilitation Institute's (VRI) virtual conference. The workshop, titled, “Facing the Camera, Finding Your Way in to the Workforce in a Virtual Space" covered how to prepare clients for finding work during a pandemic. They discussed best practices for navigating a virtual job fair, teaching clients how to use Zoom, and expanding their digital network by using tools such as LinkedIn. The Presentation was seen by more than 120 vision rehabilitation professionals throughout New York State, and the audience asked many questions.   

Staten Island Borough Coordinator, Holly Bonner, presented a workshop entitled “The Role of Spirituality & Coping with Vision Loss” during the NYSCB 2021 VRI. Holly was joined by her co-presenter, the Rev. Dr. Marcos Miranda, CEO of New York State Chaplain Task Force (NYSCTF). The presentation focused on helping clients use spirituality as a coping mechanism for sight loss, and as a method of motivation while navigating rehabilitation services.

VISIONS Chief Operating Officer Natalia S. Young Joins VisionServe Alliance's IDEAL Committee

Natalia S. Young, VISIONS Chief Operating Officer, joined the Inclusion Diversity Equity Accessibility Leadership (IDEAL) Committee in March 2021. The new committee was chartered by VisionServe Alliance (VSA), a national membership organization of CEO's and agency leaders in the field of blindness. The committee was established to increase awareness and promote best practices. Fourteen organizations in the field of blindness and low vision are represented.

VSA held a Spring Conference April 27th – 29th, 2021 where the committee was inaugurated, highlighting members of the committee through a video presentation, and offering breakout discussions where Ms. Young facilitated one of six groups. Ms. Young was recently selected as a Fellow to a leadership training program sponsored by The New York Community Trust. She is bringing her 20 years of work experience at VISIONS and the fellowship training to the work of the IDEAL committee.

Catch VISIONS Executive Director/CEO Nancy D. Miller on These Podcasts

Foreseeable Future Facetime with Nancy D. Miller, Executive Director/CEO, VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Foreseeable Future Facetime

In the Inaugural episode of the Foreseeable Future Podcast, hosted by Motivational Speaker and NYC Radio Personality, Mark Farrell, Nancy discusses the exciting projects that VISIONS is working on during the ongoing pandemic and how organizations like Foreseeable Future Foundation are supporting VISIONS work in helping the blind and visually impaired community.

To listen to this episode, visit: https://youtu.be/qEAqaY1GCzw

Kessler Foundation Podcast: COVID Emergency Grant Helps VISIONS/Services for the Blind Find Innovative Ways to Serve Job Seekers During a Pandemic.

Kessler Foundation Podcast

Nancy D. Miller spoke with Kessler Foundation and highlighted how a COVID-19 Emergency Grant received from the foundation helped VISIONS find innovative ways to serve job seekers during the pandemic.

To listen to this episode, visit:
https://bit.ly/3ag6WEj

Nancy D. Miller Presents At Two Virtual Conferences

National Council on Aging, Logo

JUNE 7-10: National Council on Aging: Age+Action

NCOA’s 2021 Age+Action Conference, features peer-to-peer learning, innovative ideas, policy solutions, and engaging dialogue—all from the convenience of your home or office. Nancy, along with 3 other panelists discussed accessibility within older adult centers for individuals with visual impairments.

To learn more, visit: https://bit.ly/3g7lUyt

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), logo

JULY 19-22: n4a: 46th Annual Conference and Tradeshow

The Annual Conference and Tradeshow of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) is the country’s largest gathering of local leaders in aging. Each year, the n4a Annual Conference and Tradeshow, brings these professionals together with government experts, policymakers, business leaders, and other Aging Network practitioners and partners, to share knowledge and new directions in the field of aging. Nancy will join two other presenters in the field of vision rehabilitation, in a workshop titled Bringing Vision To Your Services.

To learn more and register to view this conference, visit: https://bit.ly/3x7Gw0m

VISIONS CEO, Nancy D. Miller, has been awarded Cornell University's Human Ecology Alumni Association 2021 Pandemic HEROES Award!

Headshot of Nancy D. Miller wearing a white shirt and beige sweater

On February 17th, 2021, Mike Cush, Giuseppe Esposito and Heather Hanlon, made a presentation at the Vision Rehabilitation Institute's (VRI) virtual conference. The workshop, titled, “Facing the Camera, Finding Your Way in to the Workforce in a Virtual Space" covered how to prepare clients for finding work during a pandemic. They discussed best practices for navigating a virtual job fair, teaching clients how to use Zoom, and expanding their digital network by using tools such as LinkedIn. The Presentation was seen by more than 120 vision rehabilitation professionals throughout New York State, and the audience asked many questions.   

Staten Island Borough Coordinator, Holly Bonner, presented a workshop entitled “The Role of Spirituality & Coping with Vision Loss” during the NYSCB 2021 VRI. Holly was joined by her co-presenter, the Rev. Dr. Marcos Miranda, CEO of New York State Chaplain Task Force (NYSCTF). The presentation focused on helping clients use spirituality as a coping mechanism for sight loss, and as a method of motivation while navigating rehabilitation services.

Portrait shot of David Zarett, an older man leaning on a black chair in front of a light yellow wall.

Dear VISIONS...

“VISIONS staff have made an indelible mark on my children’s lives, for which my wife and I will be forever grateful.”

– David A. Zarett, Esq.

Follow VISIONS on Social Media

Screenshot of a Facebook post, where the Share button has been enlarged to emphasize sharing posts,

Help Spread the Word!

In addition to following VISIONS on social media, you can help spread the word by sharing our posts. Sharing our posts allows your friends and followers to see what VISIONS is doing, and gives them the chance to like, comment, or follow VISIONS. The more people share our posts, the more people learn how we help participants see what is possible.

To share a post on Facebook, look for the share icon at the bottom right corner of a post or picture, and tap it. From there, you can share it to your feed, or send it to somebody else.

Bonus, you can create posts using our hashtags, #SeeWhatIsPossible, and #VISIONSVCB and people will be able to see those posts and learn even more about VISIONS!

Stories You Can't Miss

An older woman wearing a blue dress sits in her home while holding a small plush dog.

VISIONS Caregiver Program: DFTA Joins State Robotic Pet Trial to Combat Loneliness in Older Adults

The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), and New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA), have launched a new project which provides electronic pets to older adult caregivers as a way for them to connect and engage in an entertaining activity that helps minimize isolation and stress caused by the pandemic. DFTA will be tracking the participants’ mental wellbeing, feelings of loneliness and overall mood over the course of the year and see how these e-pets have helped them. So far, four VISIONS participants have been extremely satisfied having these e-pets.

Robotic cats and dogs are usually given to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as a form of calming pet therapy, but feedback shows that this new use of the pets is working, according to DFTA. 

VISIONS Rehabilitation Instructors Receive New Assistive Technology Training

The New York Community Trust, Logo

Thanks to a generous grant provided by the New York Community Trust, VISIONS Certified Assistive Technology Instructional Specialists (CATIS), have launched a new "Train the Trainer" program, which aims to provide rehabilitation staff with the skills and knowledge needed to train participants on basic assistive technology. With the changing climate as a result of COVID-19, more participants rely on technology every day for school, work, and staying independent in their home/community. With this program in place, more participants can receive basic assistive technology training, leaving VISIONS CATIS instructors to provide more advanced training to participants, when needed.

Nuala & Aoife Bonner Host Second Mother's Day Virtual Lemonade Stand

A collage of two images of Nuala and Aoife Bonner. On the left, the girls wear pink and yellow dresses and stand next to their two dogs. On the right, the girls wear pink and yellow dresses and stand on their front lawn, next to a bouquet of yellow lemon balloons.

Nuala & Aoife Bonner helped celebrate Mother’s Day with their second annual virtual lemonade stand. The Staten Island sisters, and daughters of Borough Coordinator, Holly Bonner, adorned their front porch with pink and yellow balloons as they entertained a virtual Facebook audience, live from the family kitchen. Stormy weather couldn’t stop the fun and smiles as these pint-sized philanthropists served up gallons of virtual lemonade raising over $3,000 to support VISIONS free services for the borough.

Icon of a red mailbox inside of a blue circle

VISIONS Mailbox

Mail Your Feedback, Praise, or Staff Shoutouts to
500 Greenwich Street, Suite 302, New York, NY 10013
to be featured in our next newsletter and website.

I just wanted to take the time to thank you again for all you do. My family, especially my dad is grateful for you and a place like VISIONS.

– Jackie, VISIONS Center on Aging Participant

Michexa was not only extremely knowledgeable about VISIONS services but was also most patient and thorough in explaining their benefits to a potential recipient. How fortunate you are to have such an outstanding employee!

– Nan C., Rehabilitation Participant

Hello my precious Bonner kids. Thank you for your community service. May God continue to bless you and your parents.

– Mother Dixon, Lemonade Stand Supporter

I was delighted to receive a hard copy of this amazing book from a friend. My husband of 40 years, who was profoundly myopic from birth and developed a form of macular degeneration specific to extreme myopia, loved to cook. What a great gift this is, not just for the blind or sight-challenged, but for anyone who loves to cook. 

– Lesley, Cooking Blind & Sighted Customer

I have worked with many people in social services, and I must say [Social Work Intern, Avian Perez] is a true gem. She is so caring, and I feel she has made such an impact on my life. She has helped me get items to use around my home to be safe and got me an aide to take me shopping. She is more than an intern; she has always taken the time to treat me like a human and make me feel so understood. 

– Sophie, Caregiver Participant

VISIONS Would Like to Thank the Following Donors: 10/1/20-5/31/21

$10,000 or more:
Allene Reuss Memorial Trust
Anonymous
Capital One Investing for Good
Estate of Harriet S. Muller
Lucius L. and Rhonda N. Fowler
Goldman Sachs Charitable
Nancy T. Jones
JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Lavelle Fund for the Blind, Inc.
Moses L. Parshelsky Foundation
Norman & Bettina Roberts Foundation, Inc.
OSIA NYS Grand Lodge Foundation, Inc.
Robert A. Schonbrunn
The David Kimmel Foundation
The New York Community Trust

$1,000 - $9,999:
1919 Investment Counsel
American Foundation for the Blind, Inc.
Nandanie Appana
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
Mr. & Mrs. Mal L. Barasch
Sandra Bass
Stephanie Belanich
Holly and Joseph Bonner
Franco Chiaramonte
Mr. & Mrs. Robert A. Davis
Demarest Lloyd Jr. Foundation
Elisabeth Depicciotto
Douglass Winthrop Advisors, LLC
Ed Lucas Foundation, Inc.
Estate of Claire Wagner
Estate of Eli & Diane Rudolph
Dr. Andrew S. and Lois Fisher
Judith Rock Goldman
Alice R. and Edwin B. Howard, Jr.
Steven E. and Catherine G. Kent

Ryongsoon Lee
Anthony and Linda Lemma
Lions Club of Bedford Village
Raymond List
Marble Collegiate Church
Martha W Straus-Harry H Straus Fdn.
James and Jane McGroarty
Nancy D. and Gerald Miller
New York Hunts Point Lions Club
New York University
Northfield Bank Foundation
Olmsted Center for Sight
Denise G. and Jonathan D. Rabinowitz
Joanne Raimondo
PDG Jagadish B. Rao
Richmond County Savings Foundation
S&P Global Ratings
Henry Saveth
Jean Sheng
The Doolittle Trust
The Hudson Gateway Realtor Foundation
The Staten Island Foundation
Frederick L. and Katherine B. White
John and Libby Winthrop
David A. and Rochelle B. Zarett

Special Thanks To:
NYC Department for the Aging
NYC State Employees Federated Appeal
NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired
NYS Commission for the Blind
NYS - State Comptroller
NYS Preferred Source Program
Small Business Administration
Connecticut State Department of Aging and Disability Services

We Also Want to Thank the Following for Their Donation of Goods and Services:

Gary Axelbank
Mark Bones
Brooklyn Botanic Garden/Kate Fermoile
Brooklyn Children's Museum
Catholic Guild for the Blind/Judith Katzen
Charles A. Collishaw
Maureen Crinigan
Robert A. Davis
Debrief Me/Matt E. Silver
James and Stephanie Desapio
Digital Graphic Imagery/Rich Lucidi
Gene DiNapoli
Lulzim and Sarah Gjimaraj
Life Church New York/Laura Prestipino
Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
Mind Over Matter/Joshua Margolis
Paskowski & Weitz Optometry/Dr. Jan Weitz
Anthony Pozun R.N.
Public Health Solutions/Joseph A. Tubiolo Jr.
The Brookdale Foundation Group/Melinda Perez-Porter
Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP/ Brett Martello
Westchester Disabled On the Move, Inc./Maria Samuels
Yvonne Whitehurst

Lions In-Kind Donations 10/01/20-05/31/21
PDG Edward "Skip" Meinhold   

How to Support VISIONS

Graphic Description: Green icon of a hand dropping a coin into a box

Make a Donation

Whether you give us an individual donation, or a lead to a Foundation Grant, or Corporate Sponsor that is aligned with our mission, every effort helps!

Ways to Donate

  • Online or by check:
    Visit visionsvcb.org/donate for more instructions

  • Donor-Advised Fund
  • Gifts of Appreciated Stock
  • Qualified Charitable Distributions
  • Include VISIONS in your will*

*If you would like to consider naming VISIONS in your will, or making a testamentary gift, simply share the following information with your lawyer:

  • Legal Name: VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Tax ID: 13-1624210
  • Address: 500 Greenwich Street, Suite 302
    New York, NY 10013

If you have any questions about ways to donate or know of individuals, foundations, or corporations interested in supporting VISIONS, please contact Russell C. Martello, Chief Development Officer at rmartello@visionsvcb.org.

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