‘PROUD’ SERVICE FOR A CENTURY
Chautauqua Blind Association Vision Rehabilitation Services recently remembered and celebrated a century of service to the visually impaired residents of the Southern Tier.
About 100 supporters, current and former staff members and board members, volunteers and clients came together at the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron to observe the past and build for the future.
“It was a beautiful venue,” said Joni Blackman, executive director. “I was glad to meet many of the people who have been supporting this agency for many years.”
Sponsors of the event were Chautauqua Chemicals Co, Inc., Andrew and Lisa Goodell, Kathy Grace, UPMC Chautauqua, Weber Knapp Company, Ahlstrom Schaeffer Electric Corporation, Fessenden, Laumer & DeAngelo, Attorneys at Law, Spectrum Eyecare, The Post-Journal, Allied Alarm Services, Dr. Michael Lahood, Chautauqua Eye Care, Integrated Benefit Solutions, Cattaraugus County Bank, Basil Chevrolet Buick Cadillac and Rhoe B. Henderson Agency, Inc. Donations towards the event were received from Karen and Dana Belt, Judith Presutti, Robert Kenyon and Lorraine Steen.
After a review of the first century of service, past board members and executive directors were recognized. Jean Voltmann who was the executive director from 1980-1984, and Joanne Nelson who followed her, retiring in 2004, were recognized with bouquets. The most recent retiree, past executive director Lisa Goodell was recognized for her work by past board President Robert Dahlin. She was also given a bouquet. When Ms. Goodell retired last November, the agency could not gather to thank her for her 13 years of leadership. The current staff was also recognized for their ongoing work They are Debbie Liddell, orientation & mobility specialist, vision rehabilitation therapist, Julie Flaker, vision rehabilitation therapist, and Priscilla Shoup, administrative assistant, blindness prevention coordinator.
Two videos were shown. The first was from a past JCC student who interned as an occupational therapy assistant with therapist Debbie Liddell. Jennifer Trusso spoke about her time with the agency and how much she learned on the job from Liddell. The second video was from past client Nick Hlifka, a native of Sherman who has been very successful in his academic and work life. He told the group of his start with CBA after graduating from high school. Liddell worked with him to adjust to life at JCC and the State University at Fredonia as well as assisting him with obtaining his current job as a 2-1-1 operator.
Proclamations and recognitions were read by state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, Jacqueline Phelps, a representative of Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, and state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown.
Lisa Goodell unveiled the name change and logo of the Sight for Success Program to the Dr. Tim Grace Sight for Success Program. She presented a bouquet to Kathy Grace in recognition of the name change and for her long-time work for the organization. Created in 2019, the Sight for Success Program guarantees that children who do not pass a vision screening by CBA and who come from a low income household can access comprehensive vision services through an eye care professional. The primary goal of the program is to make sure all children, aged six months through six years, are screened to detect any possible vision issues and have equal access to needed medical services. Dr. Grace shared in the mission of CBA and believed that everyone deserved an opportunity to see the world through better vision.
A live auction of two handmade pieces of furniture made by Charles Haenel, past client and board member, and a painting of Chautauqua Lake at sunset by local artist Lenny Sales was held. Robert Dahlin, past president and current board member, was the auctioneer.
A mystery wine fundraiser and silent auction were also held. Each bottle of wine had a surprise gift certificate from a local restaurant or business. Johnson Estate Winery donated the wine for the fundraiser. The highest silent auction bid was for a Bills autographed jersey, football and picture. Guests were given commemorative wine and or beer glasses with the 100th Anniversary logo and UPMC Chautauqua’s logo, sponsor of the glassware.
All proceeds from the event support the Youth Vision Screening program which provides free vision screening to more than 3,000 children each year in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. The program screens primarily children ages 3 to 6 and has screened many older children. In addition, the program can assist families with eye exams and glasses, if needed. The program can set a child on a successful education path.
“The last 100 years have given us plenty of reasons to celebrate. From our very first vision screening in 1971 to the newly created Dr. Tim Grace Sight for Success Program, we are proud of the programs we offer and the clients we have served,” said Kelly Fiorella, association board co-president. “We are honored and look forward to serving the visually impaired community for the next 100 years. Thank you to the many individual donors, supporters and local foundations who have continued to believe in our mission.”
For information about CBA’s services, call 664-6660 or visit www.chautauquablind.org.