Inspiration Foundation logo

The Inspiration Foundation (a philanthropic division of Cleanlogic, a company offering quality bath and body accessories) created these grants to help nonprofit organizations purchase assistive technology equipment for classrooms. The founder of Cleanlogic was inspired by his mom, who lost her sight when she was 7, but never let it stop her. Through her hard work, she became a passionate advocate, helping other blind and visually impaired individuals gain employment. The Inspiration Foundation’s Board believes that successful job placement and retention depend on strong technical skills and that independent living skills are augmented by technology. The Inspiration Foundation Assistive Technology Grants are awarded to smaller nonprofits to help them keep their technology classrooms up to date.

Cleanlogic logo

Congratulations to the 2020 winners:

OrganizationCEO NameFunding use
Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired – MichiganMarcus MandersFusion software (JAWS & Zoom text)
Balance for Blind AdultsDeborah Gold1 laptop and 1 tablet for teaching clients remotely
Community Center for the Blind & Visually ImpairedMichelle GalvaniPad w/Smart Keyboard and Surface Go 2 w/Surface Go Type Cover; JAWS & Zoom text
Community Services for SightLori Lesantepurchase tablets for office and in home training
Computers for the BlindChristy HouseholterDuxbury for Windows Braille Translation Program for Braille Embossers and Braille Buddy Embosser
Earle Baum CenterBob Sonnenberg1 handheld electronic magnifier & 1 iPhone
In-SightChristopher ButleriPad tripod, Galaxy tripod, Appli iPhone, Samsung Galaxy phone, microphone headset, air pods, ear pods and cases
Lighthouse of PinellasKimberly ChurchFOCUS 14 Blue 5th Generation, braille display for us across all programs
Nu-Visions CenterJonathan CunninghamBraille printer
San Diego Center for the BlindKimberly GibbensZoom licenses for remote training, 2 web cams, a tripod for camera for ongoing remote training.
Savannah Assoc. for the BlindLois ModellFUSION device
The Vision Institute of South CarolinaJeanie Farmerlaptop, docking station & external monitor
Valley Center for the BlindShellena Heber5 Plantronics Voyager Focus UC Bluetooth USB Headset with Active Noise Cancelling for clients who are now employed with VCB
  • Excellence in Leadership Award
  • Cathy Holden Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award
  • Roxann Mayros Organizational Champion Award

Excellence in Leadership Award

One of the ways VisionServe Alliance honors the work of its member CEOs is through the prestigious Excellence in Leadership Awards. The VisionServe Alliance Excellence in Leadership Award honors an Executive Director, President, or CEO of a member organization, current or former, who has shown exemplary industry and professional leadership over the course of at least five years.  It is expected that the nominee’s contributions have been significant at a local, regional, and/or national level.

VisionServe Alliance is proud to announce the winner of this year’s award: John Mitchell, Former CEO of Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and Elly Du Pré, Executive Director of the Florida Agencies Serving the Blind. Watch their nomination and acceptance videos below.

Cathy Holden Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award

The Cathy Holden Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award was founded in 2018 following the untimely passing of Cathy Holden who was a member of my leadership team at New View Oklahoma, our Vice President of Program Services. The Award honors a high-level employee of a member organization who has made an impact on, contribution to, or led staff in the pursuit of organizational excellence. Nominees must be employed by a current member of VisionServe Alliance and have demonstrated exemplary organizational and professional leadership over the course of at least five years in directing departments and/or programs, expanding impact, developing best practices, streamlining processes, research and/or publications specific to vision loss and/or blindness, developing innovations, etc.  It is hoped that the nominee’s contributions have also been significant at a local, regional, and/or national level.

It is our pleasure to announce that the recipients of this year’s award, Leslie Montgomery, Vice President of External Affairs, Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services – Pittsburgh, and Jacci Borchardt, Director of Operations, Vision Forward. View their nomination and acceptance videos below.

Roxann Mayros Organizational Champion Award

The Board of Directors decided to honor the exceptional service of its first paid staff person and Chief Executive Officer, Roxann Mayros, when she retired in 2019 after 14 years in this role. The Roxann Mayros Champion Award was created to highlight the legacy of her service to the field of blindness and low vision. Her accomplishments included the creation of a knowledge network and support system for leaders in vision rehabilitation, promotion of best practices nationwide, national efforts for third party vision rehabilitation services reimbursement, the inspiration of innovative and collaborative projects, and the galvanization of attention to issues of national relevance such as the Low Vision Rehabilitation Demonstration Project and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Her leadership hallmark was passion and unwavering commitment to the promise of a better way forward leading to living well with blindness and low vision.

Eligible nominees are members of senior leadership for a member organization and will have demonstrated extraordinary service to the field such as founding a new organization, a subsidiary corporation or significant new programs; or turning around an organization that experienced significant loss, change or struggle of some other type; collaborating with external organizations to significantly expand mission impact of the organization for which the nominee works or worked.

VisionServe Alliance is proud to announce this year’s winner of the Roxann Mayros Organizational Champion Award is Cindy Hollis, Membership Services Coordinator, American Council of the Blind. View her nomination and acceptance video below.

The US Senate and House may complete negotiations this week, or early next week, on a COVID-related relief measure, likely the last one this year. Nonprofit advocates are asking the community to act immediately to request support for issues important to our sector.

Background:

HEALS Act: Health, Economics Assistance, liability protection, schools

On July 27, Senate Republicans introduced a package of proposals dubbed the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability, and Schools Act (HEALS Act), which differs markedly from the House legislation, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act), which passed the House on May 15. Neither bill is expected to be enacted in its original form. The major cost difference, $1 trillion in HEALS and $3 trillion in HEROES, has been widely reported. But there are many other differences that are important. The National Council of Nonprofits has a comparison of the bills.

Issues:

ADA Compliance logo

One important concern to the disability community involves liability protections in the Senate legislation. According to one advocacy alert, “it specifically shields employers and people who own, lease, or operate public accommodations from violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” The liability language in Section 181 of the SAFE TO WORK Act, S. 4317 would eliminate critical protections established in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This language must be eliminated

More info is at https://advocacymonitor.com/

Please urge your members of Congress to ensure that people with disabilities do not lose civil rights in the final legislation.

The National Council of Nonprofits has circulated a revised letter with detailed recommendations to include in the final legislation. These include specific relief measures such as expanding and extending the Paycheck Protection Program, Increasing the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement for self-insured (reimbursing) nonprofits, and increasing charitable tax deductions.

The letter and recommendations is available at: https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/sites/default/files/documents/nonprofit-community-letter-7-13-2020.pdf. The letter has useful language to include in your advocacy messages to Congress.

Specific Senate Action:

If you have operations in one of the states represented by any of the thirty bipartisan Senators that signed a letter circulated by Senators Lankford and King please urge them immediately to support that request to Senate leaders. The letter calls upon Congress to include nonprofit provisions in the COVID relief bill to “ensure that charitable nonprofits are fully supported in their service on the front lines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis.”

ACTION ITEM:

Reach out to these Senators and urge them to stress to their leaders – McConnell and Schumer – that the nonprofit priorities must be included in the final bill.

States/Senators:

AK – Sullivan; AZ – McSally & Sinema; AR – Boozman; CA – Harris; CT – Blumenthal; CO – Gardner; DE – Coons; GA – Loeffler; HI – Schatz; KS – Moran; ME – King; MI – Peters; MN – Klobuchar & Smith; MS – Hyde-Smith; MT – Daines & Tester; NJ – Booker; NM – Heinrich & Udall; NC – Burr & Tillis; ND – Hoeven & Cramer; OK – Lankford; OR – Merkley; SC – Scott; SD – Rounds; and VA – Kaine.

Lou present with the Lifetime Achievement Award by lee Nasehi and John Mitchell during the Atlanta conferences
Lou present with the Lifetime Achievement Award by lee Nasehi and John Mitchell during the Atlanta conferences

Lou was present with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the VisionServe 2019 conference in Atlanta

Lou Moneymaker, former President of BOSMA Enterprises

Lou Moneymaker has dedicated his life to service. For 50 years, Lou has worked to create equal opportunities and independence for people who are blind or visually impaired. His passion is evidenced by his work and service to many organizations to empower people experiencing vision loss.

His career began at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) where he was a teacher and a coach. Over his tenure, he also served in several leadership positions. As a track and field and wrestling coach, he fostered students’ abilities and their confidence until they believed they could accomplish anything they put their minds to. After 33 years, Lou retired from education.

In 2001, a career change was presented to Lou. He left ISBVI but did not leave his service to people who are blind or visually impaired. He became the president and CEO of Bosma Enterprises. Under his leadership, Bosma has undergone explosive growth from a $2 million to a $70 million company. To date, Bosma is Indiana’s largest employer of people who are blind or visually impaired. Under Lou’s direction, the company positioned itself as a national leader in the field of employment of people with vision loss by becoming the first not-for-profit in the country to build a fully-integrated, end-to-end business system on the Salesforce platform that is accessible to a person with vision loss. The new system allows a person who is blind to work in any position throughout the company and opens opportunities that may not have been available before.

Improving the Workplace

Additionally, under Lou’s leadership, Bosma Enterprises moved into a brand-new state-of-the-art headquarters that was designed to be accessible. His leadership has also allowed for the growth of Bosma’s programs and the development of the Center of Visionary Solutions for the Blind, a new facility that increases space for programs and expands training of people who are blind. His entrepreneurial spirit has permeated the organization which has challenged every employee to look for new ways to grow the business and to further Bosma’s mission to create opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired.

His commitment to serving others does not stop at his work. In 1976, Lou, along with three other leaders saw an opportunity to create more opportunities for athletes who were blind. During the 1976 Olympics for the Disabled (renamed the Paralympics in 1988), the first to include athletes who were blind, this small group noticed nearly every other participating country had an organization for the development of athletes with vision loss. This group went on to found the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA). Lou was named the first vice president of the USABA and continues to serve and support the organization in many ways.

Lou Moneymaker’s devotion to students, athletes and employees have been critical to dispel the stereotypes surrounding people with disabilities. Lou has brought an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to creating opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired.

David Ekin

David Ekin shaking hands with John Mitchell as he receives the Lifetime Achievement Award
David Ekin shaking hands with John Mitchell as he receives the Lifetime Achievement Award

Dave was the President of the Board of the National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCPABVI) from 2001-2004 . 

Back then NCPABVI was a loosy-goosy volunteer led organization, so whoever was President of the Board also was a full-time Executive Director of a blindness organization.  At the first meeting he presided over, he told us that he believed NCPABVI’s members could be the leaders of the field because together we held the power and knowledge to influence policy, improve services, and communicate with the public.  Dave recommended that the members participate in a strategic planning process, which they agreed to.  It took place at the next 2 or 3 NCPABVI meetings.  Dave was absolutely phenomenal during the process as it was important to him that every single member was given a voice. 

Dave made sure that those who could afford to come to meetings weren’t the only voices heard and the only opinions considered.  He spent considerable time connecting and talking to everyone – small and large organizational leaders – those at meetings and those who had never attended a meeting.  The overwhelming outcome of the planning process was that members knew that NCPABVI needed to professionalize – to apply for 501(c)(3) status, hire an executive director, and set up an office.  Dues back then were $150 (give or take a few bucks) for every member no matter the size of the organization.  $150 from 50 members wasn’t going to pay for staff or an office, so Dave was very thoughtful and inclusive (once again) in trying to figure out how much dues should be.  After much discussion by a committee and with members, Dave proposed raising dues big time and that dues be paid upon budget size.  Every member was going to see a dues increase, but the middle and large sized agencies were going to see the biggest increase – from $150/annually to upwards of $2,000/annually. Not one member dropped their membership!   In addition, Dave asked every member to consider contributing to a start-up fund so the administrative person could be hired right away.  He started the fund with $1,000, and 35 (plus or minus) additional members contributed $1,000!  With money in hand to hire someone, Dave then offered to host NCPABVI’s office at his agency’s building in St. Louis, donating furniture, computer, telephone, and access to the copier, FAX machine and his staff.  Dave is the reason NCPAB

David Ekin delivering a speech after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award
David Ekin delivering a speech after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award

VI professionalized and grew, and became the VisionServe Alliance we know today!  And his in-kind donation of office space is why VisionServe Alliance is headquartered in St. Louis.  As they say .. And the rest is history.  

Dave’s national influence at AER, creating ACVREP, and professionalizing NCPABVI into VisionServe Alliance are all important reasons why David is so deserving of VisionServe’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  And also, how he took his agency the St. Louis Society for the Blind from a small little thing to a multi-million-dollar budget and one of the leading Low Vision Clinics in the country! 

AER- As the Treasurer Dave, negotiated with AFB to make JVIB an AER member benefit.

It was the AER Board that “invented” ACVREP – at the time, AER had a “certification” process that was so simple that it didn’t really verify expertise or knowledge. 

Dave was a big part of knowing that to make the World aware of our vision professionals and the services we provide, that there had to be a way to assure that World that vision rehabilitation therapists, O&Mers, and low vision therapists were deserving of respect and that was to test their knowledge.  ACREP was invented. 

Successes at the St. Louis Society for the Blind. 

. David has served on the Boards of MacMurray College, the National Vision Rehabilitation Network, the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals, the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired, the Association for Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and as President of the VisionServe Alliance.

For 25 years, David Ekin led for this Society and for the blind and visually impaired individuals it serves. From 1994, when he originally was recruited, to the present, the Society has increased its services to its clients from $400,000 per year to over $2,000,000 per year. The Society now serves more than 1500 individuals with low-vision assistance through the Drews Low Vision Clinic, rehabilitation, mobility, technology, and other training that clients can access.

David’s commitment to the visually challenged began almost as soon as he left The Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in 1984. He immediately began his career at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired while serving as an instructor in Social Work at MacMurray College. After briefly moving to Los Angeles to work for the Foundation for the Junior Blind, he was recruited back to St Louis to become the CEO of the Delta Gamma Center where he was able to improve the fiscal health of the organization and to incorporate community members into the governance structure.

In 1994, our Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired lured him away from Delta Gamma to become the tenth CEO of our organization and has now become our longest-serving director. In the past quarter-century, he has implemented school-age services to area school districts, developed a relationship with the university of Missouri St Louis School of Optometry to expand Low Vision Clinic services, overseen development and implantation of the first and subsequent Strategic Plans, implemented outcome measures for programs and services, hired the first Development Director to address the need for more diverse funding sources, assisted in implementation of a more robust grant writing program that has garnered increased funding for Society services, worked with the Board of Directors to implement a term limits policy, improved Board recruitment, and reduced the dollar amount used from investments for annual operating costs by finding other funding sources.

But it will be his relationships with all levels of partners in this enterprise that will be hard to duplicate. He has established rapport with clients, staff, Board, and donors – a difficult, if not impossible feat. His responsiveness to multiple challenges, from leaking rooves to unexpected bequests, from downturns in the market and reduction in the endowment to loss of personnel has been upbeat, friendly, and optimistic with solutions found. All for the sake of helping those with visual impairments!

Rod Haneline receiving the Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award from John Mitchell, Sue Daniels , and Lee Nasehi at the 2019 Atlanta conference.d
Rod Haneline receiving the Excellence in Managerial Leadership Award from John Mitchell, Sue Daniels , and Lee Nasehi at the 2019 Atlanta conference.

Nominated by Sue Daniels, Leader Dogs for the Blind

“It is with great pleasure that we, the chief executive officers of Leader Dogs for the Blind and Guiding Eyes for the Blind, recommend Rod M. Haneline, vice president and chief programs and services officer, of Leader Dogs for the Blind for a 2019 VisionServe Alliance Excellence in Leadership Award. Mr. Haneline’s four decade career at Leader Dog is marked with accomplishment at every level – including service to the local, state, national, and international community of practitioners and organizations working on behalf of people who are blind or visually impaired. He has proven to be an excellent teacher, mentor, and thought leader for the community of service providers working on behalf of those with visual and/or hearing impairments.

Mr. Haneline came to Leader Dog after service in the United States Air Force (USAF) as a canine handler with
Military Working Dogs (MWD). He worked diligently to obtain both his Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS) credentials. It was his unique dual-training and understanding of the skills required to be a successful guide dog user that helped him design, develop, and implement an accelerated orientation and mobility (O&M) program at Leader Dog in 2002. Combining O&M with guide dog training in the cadre of programs and services available set Leader Dog apart on an international stage and earned industry recognition with the 2012 Access Award from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). His ability to connect the essential orientation and mobility skills with guide dog work has allowed him to simultaneously navigate both arenas for the past two decades, where he has also connected research and practice. A highly adept presenter and collaborator, even colleagues like Steve La Grow, Professor in the School of Health and Social Services at Massey University take notice, “One of the truly unique things about Rod is that he is one of the very few senior administrators from the blindness field who regularly attends O&M and guide dog conferences, and when doing so, directly challenges those working in professional preparation programs to ensure that their programs are up to date and relevant to those who are actively conducting research to answer the questions of practical importance to those who are delivering services.”

Through Mr. Haneline’s leadership, and because of his visionary contributions to our organization, Leader Dog addresses both diverse and traditionally underserved clients. We were the first provider of services to clients who are Deaf-Blind in the Western Hemisphere and remain one of only two U.S.-based guide dog organizations offering GPS-aided wayfinding because of his vision. Leader Dog has advanced the spectrum of services available to people who are blind or visually impaired by utilizing Haneline’s passion and continuous exploration of emerging technologies. As noted by Dr. William M. Penrod, Associate Professor of Special Education at Northern Illinois University, bridging the gap between service needs and service delivery has always been Mr. Haneline’s strength, “One very important accomplishment that has always struck me as perhaps his most important contribution to the field. Historically, the most prominent dog guide schools did not adequately address the needs of those persons who are blind and multiply disabled, those that were Deaf-Blind and those persons who were adult, interested in acquiring a dog guide, but had not been taught the necessary requisite skills in orientation and mobility to make them eligible for a dog guide.”

Mr. Haneline greatly expanded his leadership role by developing and increasing opportunities for aspiring professionals in orientation and mobility and veterinary care. His vision for a fully funded internship was realized in 2011 when the Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Orientation and Mobility Internship Academy was endowed. Since then, 22 students have completed a 14-week paid internship, inclusive of room and board. Seventeen of the former interns are now professionals accredited and working at VisionServe Alliance members or partners, including Miguel Reyes, an orientation and mobility specialist, with the Blind & Vision
Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, who participated in the Dryer Internship and learned directly from Rod Haneline and his team during the delivery of accelerated orientation and mobility services. As a cosigner, he supports the innovative approaches led by Haneline and dedication to client-centered service delivery.

Mr. Haneline also led the redesign of the apprenticeship program at Leader Dog, now in its fourth update, which will collaborate with Guide Dogs for the Blind to fill a critical human resource need in the field. Utilizing E-learning modules, accessible anywhere in the world by apprentices, it will set a new industry standard. Mr. Haneline also observed that GDMIs leave the industry because upward mobility and leadership roles are not readily available, so he created Senior-level and Master-level instructor opportunities. Senior and Master distinctions, along with a financial incentive upon completion, have helped increase retention of these team members and ensure 100% of apprentice instructors, and 98% of GDMIs are satisfied with employment at Leader Dog. Through his guidance, Leader Dog continues to operate one of the most respected veterinary externships hosting 10-15 externs annually during a three-week rotation. Externs have gone on to work at service dog organizations, with military and police dogs, at the USDA, and are in private practice.

Our nomination of Rod Haneline rests on the legacy of contributions he’s made, which demonstrate local, national, and international impact. Mr. Haneline will retire from Leader Dogs for the Blind effective July 2020, and his contributions are nothing short of remarkable. Resting at the heart of our industry is the ability to meet the client where they are. No leader in our field perhaps better understands this than Rod Haneline. We are humbled by his ability to sync and view individually O&M and guide dog programming, so that all clients may travel, and live, more independently. His efforts to innovatively program for new, and developing client needs, like using GPS, envisioning a devoted Deaf-Blind guide dog training, and emerging groups – like older clients, urban travelers, and college-bound students, have provided a roadmap for the industry. However, when we look forward, it is his leadership across a variety of fields, among the next generation of professionals, that sets him apart from his peers. “

Sue Daniels

President and CEO

Leader Dogs for the Blind

Mike Gilliam accepting the Excellence in Leadership Award from Lee Nasehi, Erika Petach,and John Mitchell at the 2019 Atlanta conference.
Mike Gilliam accepting the Excellence in Leadership Award from Lee Nasehi, Erika Petach,and John Mitchell at the 2019 Atlanta conference.

Presented by Erika Petach, BVRS- Pittsburgh

“Not only has Mike achieved tremendous success for the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind (SALB) during his tenure as CEO. He has also been a significant contributor to the field and a mentor for new leadership.
In the 14 years that Mike has served as CEO of SALB he has created an environment where individuals with vision loss love to work. His organization has won the “best places to work” award seven times from several different local and state-wide journals and magazines. He creates an environment where all employees feel valued and equal. He regularly throws parties for his employees, holds contests, and brings in meals to show his appreciation.

Additionally, the Lighthouse has grown significantly during his tenure, winning the “Fastest growing Lighthouse in the Nation” award from National Industries for the Blind. When Mike first came to SALB they were serving just over 1 ,000 people per year and now they are serving over 9,500 individuals with vision loss per year. He has also hired over 500 individuals with vision impairments in his tenure at SALB.
Mike has also contributed significantly to the field through his involvement on the boards of National Industries for the Blind, the National Association for the Employment of People Who are Blind, and on SALB’s board prior to becoming its Chief Executive Officer. Mike has chaired numerous committees and is always willing to help on a sub-committee when a problem arises. He has led a committee to work on reciprocal purchasing between National Industries for the Blind and Source America. His focus is to increase internal purchasing that will create additional jobs for people who are blind and to show outsiders that organizations “practice what they preach” by purchasing from each other.
Additionally, he created a group of nonprofit organizations in San Antonio that work together to address issues in Texas using a “strength in numbers” approach.

Improve the lives of persons with vision loss and related disabilities by teaching independence and self-advocacy
Mike is friendly to everyone and is always willing to help someone who is new to learn the ropes. He is always sharing practices from his organization that can help other agencies to create new opportunities for those they serve. He is passionate about his work and this is evidenced in everything he does.
It is our pleasure to nominate Mike Gilliam for the Excellence in Leadership award.”

Sharon Giovinazzo accepting the Roxann Mayros Champions Award  from Lee Nasehi and Roxann Mayros at the 2019 Atlanta Conference
Sharon Giovinazzo accepting the Roxann Mayros Champions Award from Lee Nasehi and Roxann Mayros at the 2019 Atlanta Conference

Presented by Lauren Branch, NewView Oklahoma

“I respectfully nominate Sharon Giovinazzo for this year’s Roxanne Mayros Champion Award.  I believe Sharon embodies the spirit of this award.  I have known Sharon since her days as an employee of Central Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Utica, New York and have watched the significant impact she has made across our field over the years.  There is no greater evidence of this than what she has accomplished in her current position as CEO of World Services for the Blind.

Sharon was hired as the CEO at a time when the viability of the organization was in question due to both financial issues and lack of stable leadership.  Sharon was the 5th CEO in a period of 4 years and took the position knowing that she was going to need to dig in and turn the organization around quickly or the organization would not survive.  Sharon recognized that failure was not an option and has worked to build a solid team, rebuilding WSB’s name and reputation as a leader in blindness services. She has developed national relationships that have allowed WSB to develop and adapt programs to better meet the needs of their clients, customers, and community. 

Today, 3 years later, WSB is growing and thriving under Sharon’s leadership.  Not only have they revamped their programs, developed new revenue streams, and increased services for people who are blind, they are also embarking on a capital campaign to renovate their facilities and are well on their way to meeting their goal.

In addition, Sharon has proactively worked to bring their programs to other areas of the country via collaborative relationships with other agencies such as NewView.  She has been willing to share their expertise and programming so that we can build and enhance our programs here in Oklahoma.  She is creative and innovative and continues to focus her efforts on doing everything in her power to improve the lives of all people who are blind one person at a time.”

Lauren Branch, President/CEO

NewView Oklahoma

Present by Sassy Outwater-Wright, MAB Community Services

(Left) Lee Nasehi, Bryan Bashin, Sassy Outwater-Wright, and John Mitchell (right) posing with Bryans award at the Atlanta conference
(Left) Lee Nasehi, Bryan Bashin, Sassy Outwater-Wright, and John Mitchell (right) presenting Bryan Bashin with the Excellence in Leadership Award at the Atlanta conference 2019.

“The leaders who effect the most transformative change are those who, by their example, support the work of those around them, encourage exploration, and invite in diverse voices and topics of inclusion before, not after, decisions are made.

I am a woman. I am a blind woman who is neurodivergent. I am an LGBTQ person. I grew up in an Arab-American household as a Muslim-American. I am a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault. I wear all these labels concurrently and many others. I sit in a position of executive leadership at my organization. I am there because my board and my superiors believed in me and believed that lived experience and intersectionality are powerful leadership qualities for better serving our constituents. I got to my position because I watched and learned from another blind leader and drew strength and courage from watching his organization in action.

How often do we get to look up to the corner offices and see those like us, with all their identifiers, reflecting who we are and the barriers we face, living intersectionality alongside us every day? I spent a long time fearing that my lived experience as many intersecting things would keep me from leadership or wouldn’t make me into a good leader. I’d been through too much, I’d tell myself, intersectionality wasn’t a required skill on a cover letter or job application. Then I read about the programs and services at the lighthouse for the Blind of San Francisco, and I changed my mind, and saw myself as a leader, because someone far away who didn’t know me put in the work necessary to ensure people like me were included in their programs.

Bryan Bashin has led the Lighthouse for the blind of San Francisco California for the past nine years. Those VSA members who attended the New Orleans conference two years ago may remember pausing as a group to grieve with the absent Mr. Bashin as he led his organization through a tragic time: Enchanted Hills Camp, an iconic place in the blind community, burned in the California wildfires. The Lighthouse, under Bryan’s leadership,  has since begun to rebuild Enchanted Hills, ensuring that the new camp buildings are accessible to and inclusive of as many people as possible who need a beautiful, natural place to learn and retreat. In addition to this, Bryan has worked to ensure inclusion at every level of the lighthouse:

  • ind leadership  at lighthouse over  his  tenure has increased measurably.  Not only half the Board of Directors, but half of the c-suite are blind.  There are blind people working in nontraditional jobs, such as HR, janitor, and Development.
  • Largest-ever contingent of more than 100 in San Francisco’s Pride Parade
  • Camp counselors went from 17 sighted and 3 blind to 17 blind and 3 sighted.
  • No NIB employee earns less than $16.50 per hour to start.
  • Lighthouse serves  undocumented blind people with no questions asked.
  • The Holman Prize has been awarded to blind people on four continents of all backgrounds.

In the past 25 years, it is safe to say that if you are a blind person on this planet, you have been affected by Bryan’s work, commitment to this community, and leadership within it. Bryan’s is a quiet leadership committed to the civil and human rights of blind and visually impaired people all over the globe. He works most often behind the scenes in a style of leadership that supports those working alongside him; he brings people forward who do not otherwise have a voice in public policy, and brings organizations and people together to break down barriers and confront stigmas that have kept minority groups within the blindness community away from services they need.

I did not know Bryan personally when I interviewed to become the executive director of my organization. I only knew that Bryan’s org was one of the few–if not the only organization at that time in our community–creating programs and services to include sexual assault survivors, LGBTQ+ individuals,  and many others. I didn’t receive services from the Lighthouse, but knowing the work was being done was enough to give me hope. The Lighthouse’s programming gave me the courage to believe I had a place and a voice in the blindness community, that I had value and intrinsic worth to this community, and that I could do a lot to change things, and build the inclusive world I want to be a part of in my daily life as a director and as a person with disabilities. Knowing an organization had committed to serving people like me was enough to push me to step forward, say loudly to my company that I was qualified and could do this job, and they chose me to lead.

A good leader inspires by example and nothing else. Bryan’s commitment to letting his programs and the services of his organization speak for themselves sets a loud and clear directive to all of us leaders: we need to commit to this community as a whole, see more lived experience and intersectionality in leadership, and see more inclusive programming and services wherever we look. My hope is that Bryan’s work reminds all of us to ask who is not at our table and may that goad us each into building the programs and policies necessary to put them there and let them lead.”

Tanque Verde Ranch signThe setting for our 2018 CEO Summit was unique with the aroma of horses, no televisions, and astounding views at every turn. The Tanque Verde Ranch also offered attendees an opportunity to let go of the day-to-day stress of organizational leadership; and to network, relax, and learn.

The goals for VisionServe’s CEO Summit included providing focused high-level learning that keeps you thinking, sending each attending leader back to their organizations refreshed and ready to lead, and providing extensive opportunities for networking and information sharing.  The ranch location was successful in achieving these goals even more so than a city hotel location.

“VisionServe is the “go-to” conference for high-level learning for me,” remarked Elly du Pre, Executive Director of Florida Agencies Serving the Blind.  “In addition to the presentations, that learning comes from the networking and sharing.  This conference had the best networking opportunities of any other conference I have attended.  As far as “refreshed” goes, I had a great time…”

 

US Trust presenters
Board Chair, Mark Ackermann and President, Roxann Mayros, with Glen MacDonald, William Jarvis, and Joseph Danowsky from US Trust

The conference offered a pre-conference symposium: “The 2018 Tax Bill and Financial Management Challenges Facing Nonprofit Institutions,” hosted by three experts from corporate partner, US Trust, William Jarvis, Managing Director of US Trust and forger Executive Director of the Commonfund Institute, Joseph Danowsky, Managing Director, and Glen MacDonald, Senior Vice President & Institutional Client Advisor.  The presentation offered advice to nonprofit leaders on how the new tax law passed in late 2017 would be anticipated to affect nonprofit finances such as tax implications and future donations to nonprofits in the coming year.

Doug Stevenson, featured speaker
Doug Stevenson, master storyteller and featured speaker

The CEO Summit offered attendees two keynote speakers. Day 1 focused on storytelling for CEO’s with master storyteller, Doug Stevenson, CSP, Founder and President of Story Theater International. Doug’s session didn’t just show us how to tell stories, but instead taught us the techniques to make our own stories more effective and persuasive for fundraising, legislative visits, and more.

 

 

Small group exercises at the 3rd Annual CEO Summit 2018
Small group exercises at the 3rd Annual CEO Summit 2018

“The storytelling exercises were great ways to deepen the relationships between CEOs as well as valuable skills for so many aspects of CEO communication,” remarked Dan Needham.

 

 

Jane Wei-Skillern, speaker
Jane Wei-Skillern presents, “The New Network Leader”

Day 2 our featured speaker was Jane Wei-Skillern, Senior Fellow at the Center for Social Sector Leadership at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, who presented the essence on how to foster successful collaborations in the nonprofit sector.  Jane left us all thinking as she presented a new approach to collaborations that is timely and important to our field. Her Network Principles include: 1) Mission, not organization. 2) Trust, not control. 3) Humility, not brand. 4) Network, not hub.

attendees at CEO Summit 2018
Board members Mark Ackermann and Mike Bina

Miki Jordan, President of Wayfinder Family Services in Los Angeles, California, remarked that the summit was the “perfect setting and blend of networking and speakers.”

Other attendees expressed similar reactions.  “Thank you so much for the amazingly wonderful conference! I think it’s the best I can remember in 20+ years of attending them,” said Pam Brandin, President of the Vista Center in Palo Alto, California.

Horse riders Lou Tutt and Pete Benavidez
Horse riders Lou Tutt and Pete Benavidez

The opportunity to connect with peers in the field was ranked the most important aspect of attending the CEO Summit, and attendees had ample opportunities to network with other national leaders and discuss issues pertinent to the blindness and vision impairment nonprofit sector.  Along with sharing all our meals together, attendees signed up for activities every afternoon where new friendships were made.

 

Board member Thomas Panek with 1st-time attendee Joe Bogart
Board member Thomas Panek with 1st-time attendee Joe Bogart

 

Another unique VisionServe Alliance tradition: assigning a meeting mentor to all first-time attendees.  Mentors connected with their mentees before the conference and also made sure that new attendees felt included during all the conference activities.

 

Spiel and Steal session
Spiel and Steal

The final morning of our summit ended with a breakfast ride up to the Old Homestead, where we enjoyed the ranch’s famous blueberry pancakes and held our ever-popular Spiel and Steal session, an open forum where attendees shared news from their organizations, a replicable program idea, or asked a question of their leader peers.

 

Even if you couldn’t attend the summit, members can access all conference materials including speaker PowerPoints, handouts, and links to the videos of the speakers’ presentations by logging into our members only portal.

We hope you’ll make plans to attend our next conference, the fall Executive Leadership Conference in Portland, Oregon, October 28 – 31, 2018.