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2019 Annual Report

A group of older people participating in a dance class inside of VISIONS Center on Aging

Our Mission

VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a nonprofit rehabilitation and social service organization. VISIONS purpose is to develop and implement individualized programs to assist people who are blind and visually impaired of all ages to lead independent and active lives, and to educate the public to understand the capabilities and needs of people who are blind and visually impaired.

VISIONS Facts

  • All of the services we offer are free of charge thanks to government & foundation grants, and private donations
  • We offer services in 16 languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese dialects, Russian, and American Sign Language (ASL)
  • Our programs are tailored to the specific needs of our participants, no matter how complex those needs are
  • 1/3 of VISIONS staff is blind or has a visual impairment

President and Executive Director/CEO Message

Dear Supporter,

2019 was a year filled with unprecedented success, expansion and innovation for VISIONS. With generous foundation support, we continued to expand our reach into Westchester County, the Lower Hudson Valley, and Northern New Jersey. With the dedication and generosity of VISIONS Board of Directors, we established a scholarship fund to advance the education and industry-leading credentialing of VISIONS dedicated staff. We are proud to have served more than 7,000 participants and continue to develop exciting new programs for our youth, adult, and older participants, as well as their family members and caregivers. As we look ahead, we are excited about the future of VISIONS services and hope that you enjoy learning more about this year’s accomplishments and the many ways you can get involved.

Nancy D. Miller
VISIONS Executive Director/CEO

Robert Schonbrunn
President, VISIONS Board of Directors

By The Numbers

  • 89¢ of every dollar is spent on programs, with only 11¢ spent on administration and fundraising
  • In 2019, VISIONS had a record-low 4% staff turnover rate, far lower than the NYC average for nonprofits!
  • VISIONS Workforce Program was ranked #1 in Job Placements for the 4th consecutive year, by the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB), whose quality assurance review gave VISIONS Workforce Program a 10 out of 10 for providing excellent job placement services
Image description: VISIONS Chief Executive Officer Nancy D. Miller wearing a white shirt and light brown shawl stands and smiles in front of a dark brown textured background.
Image description: VISIONS Board President Robert Schonbrunn wearing a light blue button down shirt stands and smiles in front of a white wall.

VISIONS Reach

VISIONS serves participants in all boroughs of NYC, as well as Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, and several counties in New Jersey. All legally blind and visually impaired persons sponsored by their state commission for the blind are eligible for residential short-term training at VCB.

Did You Know:

VISIONS is the sole provider of vision rehabilitation programs and services in Westchester County

Program Sites

VISIONS Headquarters
500 Greenwich Street, Suite 302
New York, NY 10013

VISIONS at Selis Manor
135 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011

VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB)
Vocational Rehabilitation Center (VRC)

111 Summit Park Road
Spring Valley, NY 10977

VISIONS Services

Vision Rehabilitation

In-home instruction for all ages, on key skills to living with vision loss, safely traveling in the community, and maintaining independence

Job Training/Placement

Instruction on resume writing, computer literacy, applying/interviewing for jobs, and techniques to thrive in the workplace

Assistive Technology

Instruction on using screen-reading or magnification software on computers, as well as accessibility features available on mobile devices

Youth Services

Internships and job training for young adults 14–21 years old, as well as pre-college programs to prepare high-school students for life’s next steps

VISIONS Center on Aging

Programs and services designed for adults ages 60 or older, including free meals on weekdays, benefits counseling, health-focused activities, support groups, classes and workshops, social activities, and mail reading

Unpaid Caregiver Support

Free resources and support for caregivers assisting visually impaired and blind older adults (60+), and visually impaired grandparents (55+) who serve as the primary caregiver to a child under 18 years old

Residential Short-Term Training

Residential, short-term training in vision rehabilitation, job training, and assistive technology for individuals and families, held at VCB and the VRC

Community Outreach

Presentations and staffing events to help raise awareness of the needs and abilities of people with visual impairments; as well as information and referrals through Blindline®.

7,425 Participants Served in 2019

5,482

Community Services, Vision Rehabilitation & Workforce Development

1,129

VISIONS at Selis Manor Programs and
VISIONS Center on Aging

814

VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB) and VISIONS Vocational Rehab Center (VRC)

Participant Spotlight

Efrain L.
VISIONS VRC Graduate, Now a Certified HVAC Technician

Efrain , 21, is a VRC graduate who lives in Westchester, and was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Uncertain of his future living with vision loss, Efrain reached out to the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB), and was referred to VISIONS, to learn how to live more independently.

In 2018, Efrain completed the Pre-College Program at Manhattanville College. However, he felt unsure of his future career goals, or if he was truly ready for college. Wanting to contribute to the household instead, Efrain, with the help of his NYSCB counselor and VISIONS, participated in the VRC's 15-week Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) Program.

During his time in the program, Efrain also entered the Southern Westchester BOCES 300-Hour Program, where he achieved a certification in HVAC-R (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration). He also completed the rigorous Pre-ETS curriculum, and received a Level 1 certificate in Customer Service and Sales, by the National Retail Federation.

When faced with the possibility of losing his sight all together, Efrain never gave up, and challenged himself to not only be prepared, but thrive in his new life. Efrain went above and beyond to fully learn ZoomText Fusion (screen reading and magnification software), and worked with an Orientation & Mobility (O&M) instructor to master using a cane so that he could safely navigate his community, no matter the travel condition.

Efrain passed his HVAC-R certification exam on the first try, successfully completing an internship with DTM Heating and Air Conditioning, and graduating from the Pre-ETS Program and BOCES Programs. He is now ready to take on the world without allowing vision loss to be a barrier to his success!

A woman wearing a pink shirt (left) holds a toolbag and stands next to a young man wearing a dark blue button down shirt holding a certificate.

Participant Highlights

Rehabilitation, Workforce Development, Youth Services, VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB), VISIONS Center on Aging, and VISIONS at Selis Manor

A woman wearing a black shirt and bright pink dress stands atop a staircase of a building in front of a blue door.

Guadalupe, 19, is a young woman who lives in the Bronx with her family. Guadalupe was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, resulting in having limited communication skills, and lost her vision to Optic Nerve Atrophy. Although Guadalupe had some initial fear of living life with no vision, she never let those fears stop her from making the most of her life.

Guadalupe received Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training from VISIONS, and learned how to safely navigate her home and neighborhood with the help of her cane, as well as build up her stamina so she can enjoy longer trips. Today, Guadalupe's mother and home care worker continue to serve as strong advocates for her independence, and are involved in every step of her training.

Alice, 58, immigrated to Queens from Guyana. Alice had diverse work experience before her vision loss, and worked as a teacher's assistant, warehouse associate, and at a hotel previously. After losing her vision, Alice deeply believed that she could not work.

Everything changed when Alice started working with VISIONS Department of Workforce Development. After completing the work-readiness training, and armed with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace, Alice began a job at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse. Workforce staff helped Alice with the onboarding process and ensured that she had the accommodations she needed. A year later, Alice still works at Amazon, with glowing staff reviews!

A woman wearing a white shirt and black vest stands in her home.
A young woman (left) speaks to two people (right) inside of a small lounge area.

Beeshernah (pictured far left), 17, is a high school senior who lives in Brooklyn, and was diagnosed with congenital nystagmus and color blindness. Beeshernah is no stranger to VISIONS, as she and her sister have been participating in VISIONS programs for years.

Throughout her time at VISIONS, Beeshernah received Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training; participated in the Pre-Vocational Program at VCB to learn work-readiness skills; completed a Work Experience Training (WET) as a snack bar associate and an administrative assistant at VISIONS at Selis Manor; and participated in the Summer Transition Program (STP) and Pre-College Program at Manhattanville College to learn college-readiness skills. Beeshernah is currently enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and hopes to pursue a career either as a lawyer or a nurse.

Eris, 32, was born in Albania and now lives in Staten Island. Losing his vision at two years old, immigrating to the US, and learning a new language were some of the challenges Eris had to overcome; and Eris did so with a positive attitude. With a strong sense of humor and his quick-witted demeanor, Eris often gives people in his presence a reason to laugh.

Eris spent his third summer at VISIONS Center on Blindness (VCB), refreshing his independent living skills, catching up with old friends, making new friends, and enjoying his summer. When asked what he enjoyed the most about VCB, Eris responded “I enjoy pretty much everything, meeting new people, sharing experiences and learning from each other." Eris intends to keep coming to VCB for as long as he can.

A young man wearing a blue life vest rows a red boat in a lake
A woman wearing a pink blouse sits at a table and plays Bingo.

Elizabeth, 69, is a single mother who lives on the Upper East Side of New York City. In 2015, Elizabeth began participating in services at VISIONS Center on Aging, after hearing about the program from one of her lifelong friends.

Since joining the center, Elizabeth has participated in classes and workshops including ceramics, exercise, book club, creative writing, walking club, and knitting, just to name a few. She went on trips to the Farmers Market and Governor’s Island, made new friends who share her interests, and even performed for her peers. Elizabeth was even able to receive new hearing aids thanks to a grant that the Center's director was able to assist in applying for!

Helen, 45, is a Hunter College graduate, former Pre-K teacher, and mother, who lives in New York. During her time as a Pre-K teacher, Helen met the love of her life, got married, and had a son. However, shortly after giving birth, Helen began to notice changes in her vision, prompting her to see an ophthalmologist. Helen was later diagnosed with an eye condition that would cause her to slowly lose her vision over time.

Helen came across VISIONS while searching for low-vision resources with her friend, and found that she benefited greatly from the training and assistance she received. While receiving Braille training at VISIONS at Selis Manor, Helen also participated in a Yoga workshop to help clear her mind and de-stress. It was in the Yoga class where Helen made her first friend, a woman who helped her see that life was not diminished just because she had a visual impairment.

A woman wearing a red and blue striped sweater sits at a computer desk and types on a yellow keyboard with large letters printed on the keys.

2019 Highlights

Four golfers, two of whom are holding their clubs stand together surrounded by trees and a bright blue sky.

Left to right: Leon Pollack, Ric Apter, Nelson Figueroa Jr., former MLB pitcher and studio analyst for New York Mets Broadcasts on SNY, and John Heffer

A woman wearing a bright pink shirt (left), a woman wearing a white blouse (center) and a man wearing a dark blue suit and red tie (right) stand together in the auditorium at VISIONS Center on Aging.

Senior Center Participants met with Assembly Member Richard Gottfried to discuss the future of health care

A group of young children wearing bunny ears and holding yellow bags stand together outside

Children participating in Staten Island's Second Annual Beeping Egg Hunt at Commons Café, organized by VISIONS Staten Island Borough Coordinator Holly Bonner

A barber (left) uses a trimmer to style the hair of a young man (right) sitting in a chair.

VISIONS partnered with Made Man Barbershop to provide free haircuts to program participants

A teenage participant wearing blue gloves and head covering stands in front of a large wooden box of string beans.

Students in VISIONS Pre-College Program at Manhattanville College volunteered at Feeding America where they packed fruit and vegetable bags to deliver to older people in the area

A man wearing a black shirt assists a young boy with playing Goalball.

Youth participants enjoyed a Goalball workshop during VCB Family Week 2019, made possible with support from the Foreseeable Future Foundation

Four participants stand in front of a white wall and smile to the cameras as they hold their certificates of completion.

VISIONS congratulated VRC graduates for completing their Employment Readiness and Pre-ETS Program, and taking the next steps toward their individual career goals

Four images arranegd in a two by two grid. Top left: Three adults sit at a table and perform an activity while blindfolded. Top right: A young boy wearing a red shirt and blue hat stands with a snake draped around his neck. Bottom left: An instructor (left) and two young boys (right) mold clay into different shapes. Bottom right: A father and son sit at a table together and play Bingo.

VCB Family Week 2019. L-R: Parents complete an activity under blindfold, a young boy holding a snake, two young boys making clay models, and a boy and his father playing Bingo

VISIONS Board of Directors, Executive Team, and Advisory Council

Officers

Robert Schonbrunn*∞
President

Nancy T. Jones*
Past President

Steven E. Kent
Vice President

Dr. Cynthia Stuen∞
Vice President

Burton M. Strauss, Jr.
Treasurer

Kenneth J. Gralak∞
Asst. Treasurer

Jasmine Campirides
Secretary

Directors

Mal L. Barasch
Sheldon I. Berg
Steven E. Bernstein∞
Donald F. Dunning∞
Dr. Andrew S. Fisher
Lucius L. Fowler*
Frances Freedman∞
Gloria Fu
Theodore P. Klingos*
Dr. James McGroarty∞
Denise G. Rabinowitz
Jagadish B. Rao∞
Peter A. Roffman
Henry Saveth∞
Nora Xie

Executive Team

Nancy D. Miller∞
Executive Director/CEO

Carlos Cabrera
Chief Financial Officer

Ruben Coellar∞
Chief Program Officer

Russell C. Martello
Chief Development Officer

Diane Weiss
Chief Program Officer

Natalia S. Young∞
Chief Operating Officer

Advisory Council

Lois Wagh Aronstein∞
Joseph L. Corace^
Ronald C. Delo∞
Susan Hale
Robert S. Loeb∞
Michael O’Halloran∞
David J. Orenstein
Angelo Purcigliotti∞
Dr. Albert D. Widman
John Winthrop
Stuart S. Wizwer∞

Advisory Boards

Bronx-Westchester
Brooklyn
Manhattan
Queens
Center on Aging
Staten Island
VCB

* Trustee, Fund for the Blind
∞ Lion
^ Kiwanian

A large group of people stand together, as a blond woman in the middle holding giant scissors cuts a red ribbon held by people at either end of the group.

VISIONS Board of Directors and staff members cutting a ribbon in celebration of the Grand Re-Opening of VISIONS at Selis Manor

A group of six men and women stand inside VISIONS boardroom, two of whom are holding certificates inside of dark blue folders.

2019 Harriette K. and Burton M. Strauss Jr. Scholarship Recipient Celebration.
L–R:
Travis Joseph, Nancy D. Miller, Steve Bernstein, Beth Strauss, Norma Eversley, and Michexa Belizaire

VISIONS Financials

Revenue Sources
FY19: 10/01/18 – 09/30/19

Donut chart representing VISIONS revenue sources, 52%, Red: Investment income. 36%, Orange: Government. 11%, Green: Contributions and Bequests. 1%, Blue: Special events.

Expenses
FY19: 10/01/18 – 09/30/19

Donut chart representing VISIONS expenses. 50.09%, Red: Community Services. 24.47%, Orange: VISIONS Center on Blindness. 14.53%, Green: VISIONS at Selis Manor. 8.17%, Blue: Management. 2.74%, Purple: Fundraising.

In Fiscal Year 2019, VISIONS maintained an industry-leading 11% overhead in actual spending.

The remaining 89% was spent providing, expanding, and enhancing needed programs and services for our participants.

For more detailed information, and to see a complete list of contributions for Fiscal Year 2019, click the buttons below.

Graphic of a table outlining VISIONS expenses. From top to bottom, Community Services: 50.09%, $5,198,229. VCB: 24.47%, $2,539,503. VISIONS at Selis Manor: 14.53%, $1,508,289. Total Program Services: 89.09%. $9,246,021. Management and General, 8.17%, $847,987. Fundraising, 2.74%, $284,277. Total Supporting Services, 10.91%, $1,132,264. Total: 100%. $10,378,285

Participant Feedback

VISIONS Center on Aging: Of 125 random participants surveyed,

82%

of participants met new people and feel good about their ability to relate to others

86%

of participants learned new skills and adapted technology to better fit their lifestyles

86%

of participants feel more satisfied about their lives after participating in senior programs

VISIONS Center on Blindness: Of 100 random participants surveyed,

75%

of participants met new people and feel good about their ability to relate to others

76%

of participants better understand the importance of exercise and physical fitness

74%

of participants feel more satisfied about their lives after participating in VCB/VRC programs

How You Can Support VISIONS

The best way you can support VISIONS: Make a Donation!

Whether it is making an individual donation, or giving us a lead for a Foundation Grant, or Corporate Sponsor that is aligned with our mission, every bit helps!

Other Ways to Donate

  • Donate online or download our donation form at: visionsvcb.org/donate
  • Donor-Advised Fund
  • Gifts of Appreciated Stock
  • Qualified Charitable Distributions
  • Consider Including VISIONS in Your Will

If you have any questions about ways to donate or know of individuals, foundations, or corporations interested in supporting VISIONS, please contact Russell C. Martello, Chief Development Officer at rmartello@visionsvcb.org.

Other Ways to Support VISIONS

Join a Borough Advisory Board

Grouped by borough, members of VISIONS Advisory Boards help promote the issues important to the agency, represent VISIONS at community events, assist in raising funds to support the amazing work we do, and help solicit new contributors for our annual fundraising events.

Volunteer at our Senior Center

VISIONS Center on Aging located in Manhattan is always looking for volunteers. Volunteers may assist participants with reading mail, and other types of written materials, escorting them in the community for shopping and appointments, and helping in a variety of programs (i.e. quilting, arts & crafts, knitting, photography, ceramics, and technology training).

Help Jobseekers Gain Work Skills

There are many ways to help make a difference in the lives of jobseekers with visual impairments:

  • Host an intern
  • Host a training

  • Be a presenter

  • Hire a jobseeker

For more information, contact Michael Cush, Senior Director of Workforce Development at mcush@visionsvcb.org