From gardening to technology, visually impaired group spans generations and locations

Posted:  Sunday, November 11, 2018 - 8:30am
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For some area residents, VIP has an even more significant meaning. A local group called “Visually Impaired People” has been coming together for almost 18 years to support and encourage one another in dealing with the loss of their vision.

As founding member Joan Stark explained, the purpose was to create a welcoming social atmosphere, so members could share experiences and learn from one another. Stark felt the group had a mission to offer information to its members, “so that people don’t feel debilitated.”

“Once people come to a meeting, they usually come back. We offer emotional support because we all know what it’s like to be dealing with limited sight.”

VIP began with support from several local churches. The informal meetings have continued through almost two decades and now draw from well beyond the Boothbay region. Members come from Wiscasset, Damariscotta, Rockland and Thomaston and range in age from 41 to 98. For one area family, two generations have become members.

The plan is to have a speaker at every other meeting. The speaker Nov. 6 was Dr. David Barnwell, president and executive director of the Portland-based Iris Network. (https://www.theiris.org/)

The nonprofit serves those who have lost or are losing their vision. Services include technology updates, employment assistance, tools, training and rehabilitation services. Barnwell is speaking to a number of groups across the state to make sure that the Iris Network's services are those their clients need.

He explained the Iris Network has a contract with the state to provide services. “The challenge in Maine is that there are different programs for different areas in the state.”

The state’s Department of Labor has a Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DBVI) with significant resources at https://www.maine.gov/rehab/dbvi/

Southport residents Mollie and Wells Moore became members of the group soon after its founding. Mollie, who Stark called the group's spark plug, lost her vision during a trip to England. She and Wells started VIP’s free weekly reading service which provides a recorded reading of the Boothbay Register each week.

Each volunteer reader is assigned one day per month to read and record the newspaper, so their visually impaired neighbors can still get local news. Stark said, “We can hear the national and statewide news on television, but this is the only way to hear about local news. It keeps people involved in their community.”

Once the material is recorded, Wells Moore transfers the recording to 10-12 data units and ships them on to those requesting the material. After people listen to the recording, the data units are sent back to Wells and the process begins again for the following week’s Register.

Postage is free since the materials are for the visually impaired. For more information about the free reading service, contact Wells Moore at 350-6802.

VIP welcomes new members to their meetings, held from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at the Community Center. For more information, contact Stark at 633-2498 or Mollie Moore at 633-3810.