Agency for the blind stays open, pares staff |

Agency for the blind stays open, pares staff

Clients who use Sierra Services for the Blind won a reprieve Tuesday, as the organization’s board of directors voted to keep the nonprofit’s doors open.

The decision came after the board pared staff and vowed to find renewable sources to fund the oft-struggling organization, which provides visual aids, support groups and transportation to 406 sight-impaired clients in Nevada County and part of Placer County.

To help keep the group afloat, the board eliminated two positions, reducing by 20 percent the group’s $111,000 annual budget.

The group, which two weeks ago considered closing the doors Jan. 31, has secured over 100 donations, Executive Director Richard Crandall said. Supporters have donated approximately $1,000 a day since Sierra Services announced Jan. 14 that they might close.

“We can’t continue without public support,” said Carol McNally, the nonprofit’s transportation coordinator.

The group has been in danger of closing on an almost annual basis since losing a key $20,000 annual grant from the state Department of Rehabilitation in 1998 and a similar grant from the Area 4 Agency on Aging.

“It seems like every year a new door to us closes,” said board member Doug White.

While there will be cuts in staff, the services available to clients won’t change, Crandall and board members said.

The board has a responsibility to its clients and the community to find reliable sources of income, White said.

The group has an annual bike-a-thon scheduled at Pioneer Park in May and an abalone feed the next month. A spaghetti dinner earlier this month netted several thousand dollars.

“We’re paddling as fast as we can,” Crandall said.

Sally Wenzel, a client and board member, said the nonprofit provides an invaluable resource.

“As a client, it would be a great loss to me if Sierra Services closed,” said Wenzel, who attends peer support groups. “This organization has helped me deal with my loss of sight in a positive way.”

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