Giving Back

Cindy WentzBy Brian Klotz

Like many people, Cindy Wentz entered college unsure of what her career path would be. A New Jersey native, she moved to Massachusetts to attend Brandeis University, initially as a Psychology major before switching to Sociology. After graduation, Cindy worked at a bank, but was still unclear on her ultimate career goal until she decided to go back to school, obtaining a Master’s in Rehabilitation Counseling from Boston University.

“I remember in high school I always thought I wanted to work with people,” she says, at first thinking she would become a teacher like much of her family, before deciding it wasn’t for her.

Both Cindy’s desire to help people with disabilities and her tireless work ethic can perhaps be traced back to the discrimination she faced trying to gain employment in her younger years.

“In high school, when everyone else was getting their summer jobs, I had such a hard time,” she explains. Having been blind since birth, Cindy recalls how many employers rejected her because of her disability – and would say so outright. Continue reading

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Guiding With Seoul: MABVI Travels to Korea

Kyle and Andrea running

Running in Seoul!

By Andrea Croak, Team Coordinator of MABVI’s Team With A Vision

Recently my coworker Kyle Robidoux invited me on a trip of a lifetime: to head to Seoul, Korea, for a few days and assist in presenting at the K-Sports Foundation’s inaugural 2016 International Guiderunner Conference. There, we would talk about how we at the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) manage our robust volunteer guide services, including MABVI’s 1:1 Volunteer Program; United in Stride, our online guide matching resource; and Team With A Vision, our running team made up of athletes who are blind and visually impaired, their sighted guides, and supporters.

With an opportunity like this, of course I said YES! Continue reading

Here to Help: MABVI’s Adjustment to Vision Loss Counseling

Loriby Lori Berkey, MSW, LICSW, Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) Adjustment Counselor

As a social worker who has worked with people with a range of challenges, I was delighted to join the MABVI team as an adjustment counselor last fall in their new Adjustment to Vision Loss Counseling Program.

My interest in working with people with sight loss is something that has grown over the years. Twelve years ago, I happened upon an ad in the local newspaper that said the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired was seeking volunteers to help people who are blind with clerical work, reading their mail and going grocery shopping.

I figured that was something I could do, so I contacted their Volunteer Coordinator, Mary Haroyan, and signed up for an orientation where I learned special tips on communicating and serving as a sighted guide. Continue reading

Meet Megan Briggs, MABVI Director of Vision Rehabilitation

Megan BriggsWhen Megan Briggs came to the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) in the summer of 2015 as Director of Vision Rehabilitation, she brought with her a wealth of experience in the field. Briggs earned a B.S. in Occupational Therapy from the University of New Hampshire and a Master’s in Healthcare Administration from Worcester State University. Her work has specialized on individuals with disabilities, including vision loss and/or brain injury.

Briggs has experience working in acute inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, acute care hospitals, outpatient facilities, and nursing homes. Prior to coming to MABVI, she worked for the University of Massachusetts providing services for MassHealth contracts, including Prior Authorization, Community Case Management, and ABI/MFP waivers. Her experience in both direct service and administration made her an ideal fit for MABVI’s Director of Vision Rehabilitation role, which allows her to do both. Briggs oversees MABVI’s Occupational Therapists (OTs) in addition to providing OT services herself.

“As the Director of the program,” she says, “I enjoy ensuring compliance and quality, and this job allows me to have the freedom to make change and improve systems. As a treating OT, I like to see people increase or maintain their independence. Continue reading

Wednesdays With Dean: A Volunteer’s Story

Dean posing for a photo, wearing a suit and sunglasses and holding a canePost by Stephanie Ross – Public Relations Assistant Account Executive for Eric Mower & Associates, VP Communications for the Boston Alumnae Chapter of Delta Gamma, freelance writer

[Stephanie is a one-on-one volunteer through the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s Volunteer Program, which matches volunteers with individuals in their community who are blind or visually impaired.]

“Hello!” the deep voice echoes as I climb up the four stories to his Brookline apartment.

“Helloooo,” I say, mocking the voice.

Suddenly, a friendly laughter warms the cold stairwell.

This is how it starts every week.

While it’s only been a few months, my bond with Dean is profound. Two years ago, I left everything familiar in Texas and moved to Boston. I came with zero regrets, however something was missing. As a member of Delta Gamma at the University of North Texas, I was immersed in endless volunteer opportunities for the Service for Sight program. But being away from all of that – my sorority sisters, my family, etc. – I felt empty. I was stuck in the loop of working 9-5 and going home just to do it all over again.

Until I met Dean. Continue reading

Serving with Liberty: A Day at the MFA

Liberty Mutual volunteers pose with MABVI staffers Kyle Robidoux and Jen Buchanan outside the MFA

Liberty Mutual volunteers pose with MABVI staffers Kyle Robidoux and Jen Buchanan outside the Museum of Fine Arts

Post by Grant Johnson, Senior Financial Analyst for Liberty Mutual in Boston

Being new to Liberty Mutual, this year was my inaugural experience with the “Serve with Liberty” employee community service program. When I took a look at the available options, I knew I didn’t want to cop out and simply pick an event that was as close to where I lived as possible. Sure, the convenience of picking such a place sounded appealing, but volunteering at its core shouldn’t be about what’s convenient to you; the reason you’re contributing your time is to benefit and convenience the lives of those who actually need it. Because of that mindset, I wanted to select something that I felt would have both an immediate and lasting impact on those I, along with the other volunteers, would be dedicating the day to. That’s when I came across an event called “Feeling for Form.” Continue reading

Listening & Responding: Creating an Effective Volunteer Program

Jen Buchanan, Kyle Robidoux, and Jen's Guiding Eyes dog Keating

Jen Buchanan, Kyle Robidoux, and Jen’s Guiding Eyes dog Keating

Post by Kyle Robidoux, MABVI Director of Volunteer and Support Group Services, and Jen Buchanan, MABVI Eastern Massachusetts Volunteer Coordinator

Like most things, social service programs and their consumers’ needs change and evolve over time. As such, organizations and programs must be nimble and open-minded to ensure that they are meeting the needs of consumers.

Since 1959, the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) has been running a One-to-One Volunteer Program that matches sighted volunteers with individuals who are blind or visually impaired (B/VI). The program currently works with over 180 volunteers and 115 consumers.

Historically, MABVI volunteers have helped with daily activities and tasks such as reading (mail or for pleasure), grocery shopping, and other clerical and administrative-type tasks. There continues to be a strong need for help with these types of tasks, but over the past few years our office has begun to field requests for more varied activities. Continue reading

Meet Jen Buchanan

Jen and Keating posing on the grass in front of the ocean at Fort Sewall in Marblehead

Jen and Keating pose by the ocean at Fort Sewall in Marblehead

Jen Buchanan, the new Volunteer Coordinator working out of the Brookline office of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI), knows how important finding the right services and support can be for those losing their vision, because she’s been through it herself.

“When I first was losing some sight,” she says, “I didn’t know where to go.” When she learned about a local MABVI low vision support group in her hometown of Peabody, she decided to go. “It was really the first place I had journeyed to independently with my cane. I was early and I sat outside of the room, where I met Joanne, a member of the group. She was so welcoming and had so much experience to share that I knew I was in the right place. I absolutely love each and every one of the group members. They all have something unique to share and are eager to do so.” Continue reading

Doing Good: A Volunteer’s Story

Post by Ilana Bergelson

Ilana and Kate posing together at the gym

Ilana (right) and Kate (left) at the gym.

Having participated in a volunteer program called Service of Sight through Delta Gamma at the University of Chicago, I wanted to carry on the same type of community service following graduation. One moment when I knew I wanted to volunteer with the visually impaired was seeing the blind runners and their guides during the Boston Marathon. Their perseverance was amazing, and even though I was happy to volunteer in whatever way necessary, I secretly hoped I could be a running guide too. I heard about the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI) through the Delta Gamma alumni group, and with an upcoming training session and a location nearby, I knew I had to join. Continue reading

New Year’s Resolution to Volunteer?

Six MABVI volunteers are gathered at the MABVI office in Brookline.

MABVI volunteers

Have a New Year’s resolution to give back? Ever considered volunteering for a blind or visually impaired person? Hear what our MABVI volunteers have to say about volunteering:

“At first, I just got the pleasure of giving back,” one volunteer said. “I hadn’t done much volunteer work before. I was busy building a life, and a career, and having a family. Then I started helping June, helping with her correspondence, sometimes with her checkbook, filling out forms. Neighbor helping neighbor. It’s simple things, but it gives me a feeling of community and connectedness that I really value. I look forward to the time we spend together. She’s my friend.”

Watch a video of a volunteer

People volunteer for many different reasons. “I had a family member with a disability (not blindness, though), and I understand some of the difficulties blind and other ‘differently abled’ people face,” said volunteer Erica. “I wanted to volunteer with an individual – rather than, say, serve in a policy role or on a committee in an organization – because of the direct impact I could have on someone’s life. When I started volunteering, I was going through a difficult time, so I wanted to ‘get out of myself’ and become involved in a different world, one in which I could help others.”

Volunteers often form long-lasting friendships with the individuals they work with. “It has given me and my wife an opportunity to form a very good family relation with the person I work with as a volunteer. I have also benefitted by being exposed to an individual with a superior mind,” says volunteer Stan.

“I have become friends with the blind woman with whom I volunteer,” Erica says. “We have many interests in common.”

As much as volunteers help the person with answering mail or grocery shopping – every day tasks of daily life – MABVI volunteers say they benefit from the experience as well. “I have learned to see things (albeit to a limited extent) from her perspective, which is often through the sense of touch,” Erica says. “I touch my clothing, my jewelry, my face, and perceive them in a new and fuller way.”

For more information on how you can become a volunteer, visit our website.