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Decade of service at El Dorado Center for Visually Impaired ends

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From page A1 | October 04, 2013 | Leave Comment

The El Dorado Center for the Visually Impaired will close in October, ending a decade of serving El Dorado County. Services for the visually impaired in El Dorado County will continue, picked up by the Society For the Blind in Sacramento. The center’s instructor, Randy Cummings, will still be helping people learn to live with visual impairment, but the little house and the community garden on Farnsworth Lane will be closed.
Ten years ago, Tri-Visual Services for the Blind closed and members of the Mother Lode Lions Club wanted to make sure that services for the visually impaired continued in El Dorado County. Three of the clubs, Mother Lode, Placerville and the Pioneer Lions, got together with a service provider to make it happen.
Lions Club members Penny and Jim Hutchinson and Ellen Yevdakimov spearheaded the development of the new facility and found a place near Charles Brown School in Diamond Springs owned by the Federated Church and used for storage. “It was handicapped accessible and had the features that our first instructor wanted,” said Penny Hutchinson.
The little white house surrounded by oak trees started with 12 clients and now serves an average of 55 clients and a support group of about 20 people, teaching visually impaired seniors independent living skills, personal grooming, time management, orientation and mobility, Braille, how to use public transportation and how to use assistive technology.
The center functioned with federal grants and fundraisers like the annual Dog-a-Thon, and the well-appreciated help of the local Lions Clubs and businesses, and the taco feeds and pancake breakfasts they hosted to support the center.  Year by year they painstakingly acquired equipment to assist clients, but now it’s time to sell off some of that equipment and close the doors, said Rich Meagher, volunteer and board member for the center.
 ”We’ve come to the end of a federal grant cycle and the property is being put up for sale by the owners,” said center treasurer Penny Hutchinson. “Along with the financial challenges and a small, tired board, it made sense that we close.”
Yevdakimov didn’t want to leave clients in the lurch, so she contacted the Society for the Blind in Sacramento which agreed to pick up the clients and provide the services they need. Serving a 26-county area, including El Dorado County, since 1954, SFTB will make the transition seamless.
“With our Senior IMPACT program, a Low Vision Clinic, a retail and online store and a 24-hour telephone reader program, the clients will have access to even more services and programs,” said SFTB Executive Director Shari Roeseler. SFTB also offers a Senior Retreat to help seniors transition into living with visual impairment. “Our regional population is aging and glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration are the three leading causes of visual impairment in seniors.”
Meagher and Yevdakimov will continue on as members of the Consumer Advisory Board for SFTB; Yevdakimov will continue to lead the El Dorado County support group at Gold Country Retirement Center and EDCVI staff member, Randy Cummings, will continue to provide instruction.
Cummings has been an instructor at the center for the past seven years, first with his guide dog Vern, who is happily retired, and now with Toronto, a black lab. Closing the center and making Sacramento the home base will cause some transportation issues for Cummings, who lives in El Dorado County, but he says it will work out fine. “It’s a big change and I’m not sure of all the new duties, but it will be good in the long run.” He’s also not worried about Toronto learning to maneuver in the big city. “He was raised in Sacramento. He likes the city, ” said Cummings. “He’s also a fast learner.”
Hutchinson, who is an EDCVI board member, along with Robin Stanley, Terry Holbrook, Bob Bishop, Gerry and Pat Schure and Maryann Argyres, will stay on until the books can be closed out. ”It’s been a good time,” said Hutchinson. “I’m happy that the society is willing to do this.”
Any of the equipment and materials of the center and the Hope Community Garden not being taken by SFTB or needed by clients will be sold at a yard sale on Oct. 11, 12 and 13. The yard sale will be held at the Center, 4600 Farnsworth Lane in El Dorado, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or wschultz@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

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