Vignette owners Mark Wroczynski (far right) and his husband Brian (behind Mark's left shoulder) pose alongside CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess (far left), Board Chair Chris Richmond and Awards Committee Chair/Board Member Nona Graves. Vignette Dining Club was presented the Community Partnership at the Annual Awards and Scholarship Luncheon on May 20.
Vignette Dining Club is not a restaurant. It is not a bar and grill. It is not café. It is a culinary experience.
According to their website, Vignette Dining Club is: “…a gathering space for fans of adventurous Midwestern food. [It is an experience] to expand our guests’ perception and knowledge of food and provide them with a memorable experience. Our dinner party setting is perfect for an extraordinary night of great conversation and occasional belly laughs.”
In 2016, owner Mark Wroczynski began a partnership with the Council which both educates diners about what it is like to eat without using their vision and provides a delicious, flavorful and creative dining experience for all who attend. This connection occurred completely by happenstance.
A visitor to the Council saw a flyer advertising our Dining in the Dark event taking place at GingeRootz. He had recently attended a Vignette event and thought Mark might be interested in creating a similar experience in the Madison area. He connected Mark to Lori at the Council, and the partnership began.
Dining in the Dark is an event where a meal is served to blindfolded guests in order to create the experience of what it is like to eat without the use of vision. To date, Vignette has hosted three such events, raising more than $2,250 in proceeds for the Council.
“We’re so grateful to Vignette,” says Lori Werbeckes, the Council’s Fund Development Director. “All they do is keep the cost of the food and the rest of the proceeds come to us. They want people to enjoy dining; they don’t want it to be a fast-food experience. They want people to truly enjoy and savor their meals.”
Those interested in the art of cooking may also find the meal to be a culinary adventure that is both inspiring and appealing to the senses.
“I really liked the combination of flavors that I would not have thought about putting together,” says Council Program Assistant Judith Rasmussen, who attended the event for the first time in February. “For example, chocolate, orange and pepper in the first course and a maple mustard sauce over onion waffles in the main course. This makes me want to be more experimental in what I might make for myself or guests. The variety of textures and smells was also very interesting.”
“We look forward to future dinners,” says Nona Graves, Chairperson of the Awards Committee. “Besides serving delicious cuisine, Mark and his husband, Brian, make the event an educational opportunity for the diners. We appreciate his spirit, enthusiasm and genuine concern for people living with vision impairment. It is with sincere gratitude that we present the Community Partnership Award to Vignette Dining Club.”
The GuideStar Logo, which is a gold and white starburst surrounded by a dark teal box, is featured in the center of a round seal. Below the seal is a gold ribbon that stats in large bold lettering “Gold Participant.”
Have you ever wondered what your favorite charity is doing with your donations? It’s an important question to ask, and at the Council, we strive to make sure you know how your gifts are being used.
Testimonies from customers and clients that we highlight in our newsletters give you a feeling for how valuable your contributions are to people with vision loss. Heartfelt quotes from people who have reached out to the Council for services tell of the impact your gift has made.
“I received a white cane and want to thank you. It’s very nice and sturdy. I will feel safer using it as it will alert people to the fact that I don’t see well.”
“The Council did so much for my dad. This gift is a thank you for helping him adjust to losing his vision.”
A more global measure of how to evaluate your charity of choice is to research it at www.GuideStar.org. GuideStar is the world's largest source of information on nonprofit organizations. You can find out about the Council’s mission, impact, legitimacy, reputation, finances, programs, governance, transparency, and much more.
The Council is proud to be at the Gold Level for providing qualitative information as a way to report on our effectiveness in adhering to our mission.
Non-profits make the world a better place and touch almost everyone's life nearly every day. Thank you for placing your trust in the Council by becoming a donor! Gifts can be made at www.wcblind.org or by mailing a check to WCBVI, 754 Williamson Street, Madison, WI 53703.
By Ericka Short
Ericka Short (far right) stands on stage with two other actresses. The three are participating in a play at St. John's United Church of Christ in Monroe, WI. Ericka is dressed in a red tee shirt and Bermuda shorts. She is carrying a plastic bag in her left hand and another item in her right. The actress in the middle is wearing sunglasses and a hat while carrying a brightly colored beach ball in her left and a stuffed Mickey Mouse doll and pillow in her right. The third actress is wearing a wide-brimmed sunhat and a shin-length slight pink sundress and pearls. Behind the actresses on a curtain is a sign that reads "Pirates of the Caribbean." This photo was taking during the 1980s.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance in what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
“Why don’t you go to church?” Is a question a lot of people with disabilities are asked. For lots of people with disabilities, it is not the doctrine that keeps them out of worship. More often it’s the attitudes of the people in the building. The wrong attitude can be more of a turn off than someone constantly passing the offering plate. Beyond attitude, transportation to church isn’t always widely available and people are not always willing to provide written materials in accessible formats. I have been blessed in my life; but I understand that for many people with disabilities, this isn’t the case. Whether we were created by God or Allah, we are all created for enriching the life of the congregation. While I write from a Christian perspective, my goal is to show you that with persistence and a strong mentor, you can become a valuable member of a congregation with a disability who makes unique contributions.
I grew up in a church that is for the most part very liberal. I didn’t have large print materials until I was confirmed, but as a kid it mattered less because I could “sniff” the Hymnal, and choir materials could be run off larger on the copier. Why modify for all? Later a senior who needed large print made this happen. Now large print hymnals and bulletins are available every Sunday.
As a kid I was busy assisting in the kindergarten Sunday school room, singing in choir and reading occasionally in the service. I had the most fun in our “Loaves and Fishes“ group in which one kid wrote the scripturally based plays and we performed them for worship, Sunday school, and other church events. Everyone involved had known me for most of my life so I was accepted like any other kid, which was important for those crummy teen years. Who else can say they played Lois Lane in a church production? I also have funny pictures of me doing a mime act in college with the “Foolish Wisdom” clown troupe. We passed “peas” instead of peace!
Much of my acceptance in church can be attributed to the support of my mentor, Laverne Springer. She expected me to do the same things in congregation as everyone else. I volunteered. I sang in the choir. Some people are very scared to put people with disabilities on a stage, but she took me in. Without her support and encouragement, I probably would’ve been much more fearful about being a part of society in general. I call her my mentor because she’s one of those people that didn’t look at me as someone with a disability. She looked at me as a person and without knowing it she built that bridge from the sighted to the not-so-sighted world. As she got older she started to lose her vision, and she would call me sometimes or ask me at church, how do you do this? She could see herself in me. She understood wanting to remain active.
I’ve taught Sunday school, led bible study for adults, and served on committees as well as taken communion to the home-bound and even served communion in church and lectured. But this isn’t something that happened overnight as an adult. My Lutheran church has been good to me and the one I joined when I recently moved to Madison promises to be the same. I had some pastors tell me I couldn’t teach Sunday school because I am disabled. “Why can’t you just be happy singing in the choir?” It never occurred to me I couldn’t do something!
After taking a year off I got back into teaching. Kids still tell me I am their favorite teacher! I bypassed the need to read print by working with the preschoolers and we did lots of active things, and when I worked with the older kids we let them help by reading to the younger kids. I had great people who believed in my abilities and didn’t ask how I was going to do something even though I carry a cane. Kids didn’t care either. We talked about differences and it was ok. I told them God made us all different, otherwise the world would be dull with just purple crayons in the box. They were still rowdy and sneaky but they knew who was boss. I taught alone many times when we couldn’t get someone to fill in. Parents trusted me and wanted me to be on the church council to represent education, but I declined. I write this not to brag, but to show you that you shouldn’t give up. People are going to eventually let you do something. Be persistent. Be cheerful. Be proactive. Don’t be afraid of those that walk by and talk about you, thinking you can’t hear. They aren’t ready to learn what gifts God gave you yet. If the congregation doesn’t feel right, check out others. Your needs and gifts will bless the congregation that is ready for you.
I have also used my gifts of writing, reading in public, emotional support, caring, teaching and access to help others learn about the abilities of people with disabilities, deepen their faith, and pass from this life to the next joyfully. I have also learned things about myself that I have used in work situations. I knew I could be a part of God’s amazing world even if my sight disappears, but I never thought I would be doing Habitat for Humanity work, leading bible study, asked to be on a council or representing our congregation in the local faith based human rights organization, advocating for transit issues, immigration issues and fair wages. All I wanted to do was help somewhere. God really does work in mysterious ways. I am proud to be His child.
Sharper Vision Store Grand Re-Opening and Council 65th Anniversary Open House
When: Thursday, July 13
Where: WCBVI Office – 754 Williamson Street, Madison
Time: 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Join the Council staff and board in celebrating the Grand Re-Opening of our Sharper Vision Store following months of renovations! We will also be offering office tours and cake as we celebrate our 65th anniversary in 2017.
Veterans Low Vision Support Group
When: Thursday, July 27; Thursday, August 24
(4th Thursday of each month through November)
Where: First Unitarian Society of Madison - 900 University Bay Dr
Time: 10:00 a.m.
The purpose of the group is to offer a place for visually impaired veterans to meet with each other, find available resources and discuss issues related to vision loss. There is no cost to attend, and refreshments are provided. The topics of discussion are ultimately decided by the participants. Some ideas include coping strategies for dealing with the challenges of vision loss, local resources available, guest speakers and product demonstrations.
Dining in the Dark – Appleton
When: Tuesday, August 22
Where: GingeRootz Asian Grille - 2920 N Ballard Rd, Appleton
Time: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Dining in the Dark is a unique event where guests experience what it is like to dine on a multi-course meal without the use of their sight. Watch future editions of On Sight, our website (www.wcblind.org) and our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter for more details on how to register.