Help for blind at risk here |

Help for blind at risk here

Eileen JoyceDorothy Hedman touches the tape recorder she uses to listen to books on tape. Sierra Services for the Blind assisted her in obtaining the tape recorder and tapes.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

When Sally Wenzel lost her husband nearly two years ago, she was devastated.

When she began losing her sight soon after, depression would have followed if not for the help of new friends at Sierra Services for the Blind.

Wenzel, who lives at the Quail Ridge senior apartments, began attending support groups with friends, obtaining books on tape from the nonprofit, even learning how to shop and travel to medical appointments with the help of a volunteer escort.

“Being a very independent person, it was a hard thing to do, but you know what, I had to do it,” said Wenzel, 81, a Southern California resident who moved to Nevada County a year ago to be closer to relatives.

“Losing your sight involves going through a grief process. I lost my husband, but this is different,” said Wenzel, a member of the board of directors at Sierra Services, which could close at the end of the month.

The nonprofit, which serves 401 clients in Nevada and Placer counties, needs $50,000 to stay afloat for the next six months.

That’s a tall order, Executive Director Richard Crandall admits, one the group probably won’t be able to accomplish. The group’s disbanding will mark the end of 22 years of service to those with varying degrees of sight who count on the organization for counseling, medical assistance and transportation.

“If somebody pops up and says, ‘Hey, we need to keep this going,’ we’d love to reverse ourselves,” Crandall said. “Nobody else does what we do. Just the transportation alone would cost a fortune to


This isn’t the first time Sierra Services has faced financial difficulties. At least twice in the last three years, Crandall said, the board had a shortfall that threatened the organization.

In 2000, the board needed to raise $20,000 in a little over a month to stay afloat. They succeeded after a benefactor’s gift. In 2001, Crandall took a 25 percent pay cut to keep the doors open.

Now, the board is again looking at disbanding the organization. Outside of a spaghetti feed the group is hosting tonight at the LOVE building in Condon Park, the fund-raising cupboard is bare, he said.

The organization employs two individuals and scores of volunteers, all of whom are legally blind.

The organization has a $127,000 budget funded in part by $10 yearly membership fees. In the past, Crandall tried telemarketing strategies to help secure donations, but that proved to be marginally successful.

Fund raising “is a constant battle. It’s just bad all the time,” Crandall said.

If the group disbands, hundreds will be without transportation to medical and other appointments and will lose a powerful advocate for those with limited or no vision.

Dorothy Hedman, 90, said it would be “tragic” if the group decided to disband.

Support groups help the most, she said.

“You learn from others and you share, and you don’t feel like you’re doing this alone,” said Hedman, who has glaucoma and other ocular ailments that forced her to quit driving almost a decade ago. She spends a lot of time walking and in her mobile home listening to books on tape from a recorder provided by Sierra Services for the Blind.

“I’d miss the support groups,” she said. “We’re like a close-knit family. Being in these groups, you don’t feel weird because you’re different.”

Sierra Services for the Blind will be holding a spaghetti feed to help raise funds for the organization. The feed is sponsored by the Nevada City, Grass Valley Host and Yuba River Lions clubs. The event is 6 p.m. tonight in the LOVE building at Condon Park in Grass Valley. There will be a drawing. Cost is $8. For information, call 265-2121.

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