Meet John & Steven
The holiday season is a time to appreciate all of the gifts we have been given. For the past several months (and through March), Lighthouse clients have been the recipients of front row seats to the Grand Piano Series Concerts. Founders, Milana Strezeva and Raniero Tazzi graciously invited our clients to attend concerts by world-renowned artists after hearing about Lighthouse from Board Member, Sue Bookbinder. Because of their generosity, adults, children, and their families have enjoyed breath-taking performances.
John is a 13-year-old Lighthouse student who plays the saxophone, violin, and piano. He plans on attending every Grand Piano concert and has made a point of meeting each pianist after the performance to ask questions and take pictures. The concerts provide John with an opportunity to see what is possible to achieve musically and the steps needed to succeed. He asked one artist how long it took him to play so well, to which he responded, “all my life.”
Lighthouse of Collier started a music braille program and invited James to participate. James recently experienced the aha! moment of reading basic braille notes and playing them on a piano. He begins band camp next week and has already obtained copies of his print music to begin the process of translation to braille.
Marion is a cultured and intelligent retired art-dealer (“Colorist”) and self-described “foodie” who is functionally blind from a history of issues with her vitreous fluid. She has little remaining vision, which occasionally enables her to see high contrast icons on her phone. However, Marion is unable to read print and requires the white cane for mobility outside of the home.
Marion has been a client off/on for the past few years and has participated in the art/clay classes and ILS workshops. She also received assistance with using the CAT Bus and self-advocacy training to request shopping assistance at Publix (to purchase hard-to-find cooking ingredients for her artistic cuisine).
Maggie has been a Lighthouse client for almost three years. She suffers from glaucoma and damaged corneas, causing a great deal of pain and extreme light sensitivity. She administers eye drops multiple times a day and attends frequent eye appointments. Compounding these challenges, Maggie was recently let go from her job due to COVID-19.
Despite her circumstances, Maggie always sees the glass half full and never seems defeated. She shows up with a smile and a “can do” attitude. Maggie frequently networks with other Lighthouse clients to help them cope with their vision loss. She leads by example by lending a hand to those in need.
Mary is a still-young woman who suffered strokes at an even younger age. She developed vision, speech, and mobility issues as a result. Mary does not let this deter her. Her determination makes those around her want to be and live better. Prior to the pandemic, Mary attended the recreation and leisure classes regularly at the Lighthouse, and in recent months has been participating virtually.
Over time, Mary’s speech has improved significantly to where she can verbally participate in activities such as the video conference groups and classes. Mary works hard at improving her abilities and it shows.
Kathy is a young, working-age woman who went completely blind about eight years ago. She has been receiving services from the Lighthouse on and off for the past five years. The first four of those years, Kathy made minimal progress while she struggled with medical issues. However, over the past year her health has improved, making it possible for her to attend classes on a regular basis.
In that time, Kathy learned how to navigate a computer using only JAWS screen reading software and Windows keyboard commands. She is quick to grasp and retain new concepts with little assistance. In fact, she often troubleshoots a problem on her own. Kathy’s newly learned computer skills make it easy for her to attend remote classes the Lighthouse offers. She regularly attends the Tuesday coffee chat, independent living workshops, Wednesday support group, and history/book club, and meets for individual technology lessons.
Marilyn, or Lyn as she is familiarly called, has been a Collier County resident for over 30 years. She has been visually impaired for the past 16 years with macular degeneration. Lyn has been a Lighthouse client for several years and, at 92-years-old, she still tries to regularly communicate with the staff. Most Tuesdays, Lyn would visit the Lighthouse of Collier.
She has taken every class offered, participated in countless events, and has visited the office as a historian to maintain the scrapbooks. With the help of her dear friend Jasmine, a Lighthouse volunteer, she makes sure that all the activities, news, and stories of the Lighthouse are remembered. She is preserving memories by arranging photos, news, and stories, as well as journaling in an attractive layout. The books are created and organized by year.
Lyn has become the Lighthouse’s cheerleader. She is a true advocate, and enjoys telling others about the services provided by the organization. She says, “I discovered an abundant amount of resources to help me with everyday living at the Lighthouse of Collier. I am so grateful that there finally was a place for people like me to get the help I needed so badly to get my life back again. Thank you, Lighthouse of Collier. You were my beacon in the night.”
A 74-year-old woman named Ann with wet and dry macular degeneration has been coming to the Lighthouse since 2017. At first, she was wary and distant. She would come to workshops but interact minimally and, some thought, distantly. Ann came across as very unhappy.
Today Ann not only participates in the workshops but she is social and outgoing, commonly smiling and laughing with the group. She has even become active with her Lighthouse peers outside of their group sessions. The members regularly call and check up on each other. Ann is also moving forward with her learning, seeking to become more technologically skilled to stay connected with her new group of friends. She currently uses some of these new abilities to participate weekly in the virtual coffee chat.
A little over four years ago, Bob lost his wife of more than 30 years to diabetes. Naturally, he felt depressed and isolated. His situation was even more difficult as he is totally blind and profoundly hearing impaired due to a condition called Usher syndrome. Without a partner at home or family nearby to help him drive, shop, or read mail, Bob was vulnerable. A concerned neighbor urged Bob to go to the Lighthouse for help. Bob enrolled in classes to learn how to access his iPhone, attended support groups, and received orientation and mobility training.
Now, Bob has mastered the use of his iPhone. He can send texts, read emails, schedule calendar appointments, use Uber, and other important tools. He has also developed a close network of friends who are blind or visually impaired, and who help each other navigate difficult times.
Lucy is a Lighthouse of Collier vocational rehabilitation client. She has been a client for many years, having lost her vision at a young age. Lucy was resistant at first to learning the skills needed to help her adapt to her new eye condition. Looking back, Lucy observed that she felt defeated and had lost hope of ever again being independent due to her visual impairment. With the hard work and perseverance of Lighthouse of Collier staff, Lucy now understands why it was important for her to learn the skillsets being taught.
Now, Lucy is working closely with a Lighthouse of Collier case manager to move out on her own. Lucy attends the recreation and leisure class weekly. Lucy is very social in group classes and is now able to serve as an additional resource for other clients, as she is always willing to share information and help. Lucy’s commitment and effort are inspiring to her peers, as well as to Lighthouse staff in their daily work.
Purchase Seeing Beyond Blindness
If you would like to own one of these cocktail table books, please donate a suggested selling price of $35.00 to Lighthouse of Collier and we will send you one straight away.
Lighthouse of Collier dedicated the book to Art Bookbinder, a man who could see beyond blindness. He was a great friend and leader. May he rest in peace. August 1942 – April 2020.