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Volunteers honored at VIP

By Staff | May 17, 2010

Volunteers are key to providing services at the North Fort Myers Visually Impaired Persons Center of Southwest Florida and more are welcome and needed, said officials there.
“We couldn’t do our jobs without them,” said Linda Gonzalez, office manager and volunteer coordinator. “Volunteers are an important part of our center. There are about 40 volunteers from North Fort Myers and Cape Coral. They have a wide range of duties, from helping in the ‘card room’ to the front office. These individuals also help our instructors, and basically are there wherever help is needed.”
“The volunteers at VIP are the life blood of the services to our clients,” said Executive Director Doug Fowler. “Many of our volunteers live with visual loss and they give hope to our clients. They give back to people who have lost their eyesight. We appreciate them and celebrate them.”
The third annual celebration luncheon honoring volunteers was held last week, and a call for more volunteers is now out.
Volunteers also help out at the VIP store, where a wide range of aids are available for the visually impaired in the area. Items are promoted by word-of-mouth and local doctors.
Director of Operations Margaret Lincoln enjoyed the celebratory luncheon with volunteers including art instructor Freda VanPelt and talked about the center itself.
“There is a mural called ‘The Blind View’ made by students at Florida Gulf Coast University,” she said of the center. “The intent behind it was that our clients could have a tactile artwork experience. It is made of all kinds of recycled materials.”
The double-panel piece shows a mountain top, and is festooned with materials that range from fabric to bottle caps.
Debbie Ruesch from Cape Coral is a long-time volunteer.
“I’ve volunteered since 2006,” she said. “I still enjoy the card room where we recycle cards and help with the reception desk and collate papers for staff. It is a great experience.”
Another long-time volunteer, Judy Bezdek, started as a client.
“I value first-hand the program and services here,” she said. “They make visually impaired and blind persons feel worthwhile, and regain confidence again.”
Volunteer Eileen Eubanks helps with Saturday Socials.
“We gather together for a meal and talk,” she said of the socials. “Sometimes we have informational items, sometimes entertainment.”
Both sighted and those with vision loss are encouraged to volunteer for a wide range of duties.
VIP has a variety of programs including Activities of Daily Living, Braille, Eccentric Viewing Training (Reading), Assistive Technology Training (computers, etc.) There is also an optometrist who specializes in Low Vision, and they specialize in one-on-one training in Orientation and Mobility classes.
The center also offers Social Services for clients and their families through counseling, information and resources. There are also rehabilitation services to help individuals and their families adjust and cope with vision loss.
VIP holds classes and provides training throughout Lee and Collier Counties. There is no charge for most of its services. Funding is received from the State of Florida Division of Blind Services, Lee County Human Services, United Way of Lee County, and from various contributions and donations from individuals and businesses.
Volunteering also helps develop or sharpen job skills, officials said. These skills have helped volunteers secure paying jobs with training provided by the center.
The VIP Center is located in North Fort Myers at 35 West Mariana Ave. and serves individuals from all local areas, including many from Cape Coral. The phone number for information is 997-7797, and assistance with transportation is available.