Student Spotlight: Shannon Columb
Shannon accepting her award shown with Council board member Kelsey Tiradani.
Staying positive and enjoying the little things in life helps UW-Stevens Point senior, Shannon Columb, focus on her goals. From teaching about the environment at Lions Camp to traveling to Europe for a summer field study, Shannon has discovered that “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” She sat down for a chat with Katherine Corbett, Council Communications Coordinator.
Katherine Corbett: Why did you decide to attend UW-Stevens Point?
Shannon Columb: I decided to attend because they are known for their College of Natural Resources, and they have a very good environmental education program. Once I knew that was my major, UW-Stevens Point was the place for me!
Katherine: What lessons has your visual impairment taught you?
Shannon: My visual impairment has taught me how to be confident, how to be courageous, and how to take chances. I do not let my visual impairment stop me from pursuing my goals and dreams. I am a pretty positive person; I do not want to be weighed down by it.
Katherine: How do you plan to apply those lessons to the rest of your life?
Shannon: I plan to be an environmental educator. I want to bring my positive attitude to that job, especially when I work with children. Every day, the lessons that my visual impairment has taught me impact my life and the lives of those around me. I want people to know that anything is possible if you work hard.
Katherine: Tell me about a person who inspires you.
Shannon: I would have to go with Erik Weihenmayer, who was the first blind person to climb Mount Everest. When I learned about him and read his book, I was inspired to get more involved with outdoor activities. If he can conquer Mount Everest, I can do anything. He inspired me to pursue my dreams and expand my hobbies.
Katherine: How does the mission of the Council resonate with your own life goals?
Shannon: I would love to be an advocate. I am very willing to help people and want to be a voice in the blind and visually impaired community. I know that the services the Council has given me will continue to help me out, and I want other people who are blind or visually impaired to know about them.
Katherine: What is your favorite hobby and why?
Shannon: My favorite hobby would be kayaking. I have always been attracted to water, and with a kayak, you feel like you are part of the water. It is so freeing.
Fall Gallery Night: Accessible Art for All
Art currently on display at the Council office.
Come to Gallery Night on Friday, October 5, from 5:00-8:00 p.m. at the Council office – 754 Williamson Street in Madison. At our Gallery Night, the Council will proudly showcase work from artists who experience vision loss. This event is part of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) seasonal gallery nights and one of nearly 70 locations throughout the city featuring art and entertainment. Participating artists will display and discuss how they create art.
We aim for accessibility as the standard for displaying art. Braille and large print signage will be placed next to each piece of artwork. PenFriends which read the artist statement aloud to attendees, will also be available. Volunteers will serve as sighted guides and there is an elevator.
All are welcome to interact with the artwork, enjoy live music, refreshments and talk to the artists. Artwork will be for sale for those interested. Registration is not required. Event is free and open to the public.
Not able to make it to Gallery Night? The exhibit will be displayed from Friday, October 5 through Friday, November 16, so if visitors want to return and get an up-close view of the art, or desire a tour, it is possible. For tours, call the Council at 800-783-5213. Office hours are Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. We will be happy to take people through the exhibition and describe the artworks.
Watch the Council’s publications, Facebook and Twitter to learn more about the artists.
Meet the Council’s New and Transitioning Staff
The Council is pleased to introduce our newest staff members, Hannah Wente and Amy Dean. Long-time employee Brent Perzentka is transitioning from the Sharper Vision Store to Vision Services. Join us in welcoming new staff and congratulating Brent.
Hannah Wente, Communications Director
Hannah Wente joined the Council in July 2018 as Communications Director. She studied Health Communication at the University of Sydney in Australia and received her Master of Public Health from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over the past decade she has held marketing communications positions at a variety of organizations including the American Parkinson Disease Association, SSM Health, and REAP Food Group. Hannah enjoys gardening, playing ultimate frisbee, paddleboarding, and practicing yoga.
“I am pleased with her dedication to bettering the quality of life for people, and her strong interest in public health,” says Denise Jess, Council CEO/Executive Director. “She brings a practical, innovative, and inspired perspective to her role as Communications Director.”
Amy Dean, Sharper Vision Store Manager
In July 2018, Amy Dean became the Council’s Sharper Vision Store Manager. She brings extensive retail experience from her work as a bookstore manager and spent the previous 12 years as a shift supervisor at Kwik Trip. She says the highlight of her professional career is getting the opportunity to work with people every day. In her free time, Amy enjoys reading, hiking, working on old houses, and spending time with her grandchildren.
“Amy brings an attention to learning what customers truly need and helping them find solutions that will empower them to live their best life,” says Denise. “She brings a significant amount of retail experience through her previous work to benefit the Council.”
Brent Perzentka, Low Vision Therapist Intern
Brent has worked at the Council since 2003. For the past ten years, he has served as the Sharper Vision Store Manager. He is transitioning to the Vision Services team. Over the remainder of 2018, he will complete his education at Western Michigan University with an internship in vision rehabilitation therapy at the Council. Beginning in 2019, Brent will be a full-time Vision Rehabilitation Therapist. When not working, Brent can be found playing on basketball and baseball leagues around the Madison area.
“I am grateful for the foresight and willingness of the Council Board to support this internal training opportunity for Brent,” says Denise. “I believe that given his experience with the Council and his excellent rapport with store customers, he is well on his way to becoming an outstanding vision rehabilitation therapist.”
Watch for the Fall Courier newsletter for more in-depth interviews with these staff members.
Rhonda Staats to Receive Backyard Heroes Award from Community Shares of Wisconsin
Board member and secretary Rhonda Staats at the Council.
Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) has selected Rhonda Staats, Council board member and current secretary and volunteer, as one of 24 Backyard Heroes to be honored this month. Join the Council in celebrating her many years of dedicated service.
Rhonda learned about the Council while an elementary school student at the Wisconsin School for the Blind & Visually Impaired in Janesville.
“I cannot remember a time when I was not aware of the Council,” Rhonda says. “It was expected that one should contribute to advocacy efforts for our community, to give back, and to take on leadership and project responsibilities when the opportunity arrived. Council (board) members and staff served as role models and gave me a supportive community all my life, so when my time came, I jumped at the chance to give back and pay it forward.”
Around 1972, Rhonda began volunteering with Council-sponsored initiatives such as laying the foundations for a radio reading service in Wisconsin. She received Council scholarships while in college. She began volunteering for legislative advocacy in 1983, and subsequently served on committees before being appointed to a board seat in March 1999.
Rhonda has served on all Council committees except for Awards and Scholarships. She has been Chair of the Legislative Committee since 2001, and her service on the Executive Committee began in 2003. She has held every office except for Treasurer. Currently, Rhonda serves as Board Secretary.
“I am extremely flattered to be nominated to receive a Backyard Heroes award,” Rhonda says. “I believe that I have done nothing extraordinary; my passion lies in the synergy achieved by collaboration and the coming together of diverse talents and ideas, and I believe I perform best when working with others to achieve a shared purpose. I enjoy serving on the front lines of advocacy for systems change that will achieve greater impact through the exercise of civil rights, greater equity, or improved life circumstances for individuals or groups of people.”
In addition to her volunteer work, Rhonda enjoys music, reading, amateur theatre, international broadcasts, and biking.
“My current favorite hobby is caring for and planning time with my grandchildren,” says Rhonda.
Community Shares of Wisconsin recognizes and supports grassroots efforts throughout the state. The 24 Backyard Heroes Awards acknowledge ordinary citizens working behind the scenes to support CSW member organizations. CSW sees the awards as an opportunity to distinguish people who might not be recognized in the newspaper or on the radio. The 65 member non-profits of CSW nominate volunteers for the Backyard Heroes award. CSW appreciates this chance to give a shout-out to these volunteers and the member organizations they serve. Doing so demonstrates how important member groups are to CSW in spreading the work throughout the community and collaborating with one another.
“We are a federation of the members and our strength is the strength of our members,” says Cheri Dubiel, Executive Director of CSW. “When we can recognize members, it helps the community acknowledge all the people behind the work that is being done. It is more than the nine people working at CSW. It is hundreds and thousands of people throughout Wisconsin working together to accomplish change.”
The Council would like to thank Rhonda for her commitment and dedication to the organization, and CSW for providing us this opportunity to acknowledge all she has achieved while volunteering with our organization.
Come celebrate with Rhonda as she receives her Backyard Heroes Award at the 2018 Change-Maker Awards celebration on Thursday, September 20. The event will be held from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Union South – Varsity Hall, 1308 West Dayton Street, in Madison. Tickets are $45 and can be discounted for those who need it. Contact Susan Kilmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-256-1066 with any questions. Register online at bit.ly/2NY4pS2.
Get Social and Shop Online with Upcoming Assistive Technology Classes
An assistive technology class taking place at the Council.
If you have wondered what Twitter is, how well Facebook works with a screen-reader, or how to get your holiday shopping done without leaving your home, the upcoming free assistive technology classes offered by the Council are for you. Taught by Jim Denham, Council Assistive Technology Specialist, the courses are provided both in-person and online.
Social Media Basics, Tweeting, Facebooking and Browsing YouTube
Tweeting is no longer just for the birds. This presentation will demonstrate Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Common applications will be shown and the accessibility of each social media platform will be discussed.
In-person date & time: Wednesday, September 19 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Online date & time: Tuesday, September 25 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Gearing up for the holidays, online shopping with a screen reader
If you are making your list and checking it twice, this class will provide you all the tips and tricks you need to make sure your list is complete. The presentation will demonstrate several accessible online shopping sites and provide tips for navigating some of the major sites which may not be quite as user-friendly. Shopping with a screen reader and a smart speaker, such as the Google Home and Amazon Echo, will both be covered.
In-person date & time: Wednesday, October 17, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Online date & time: Tuesday, October 23, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
“I have taken three technology group classes at the Council,” says Melinda Dresen. “Jim is great about explaining and demonstrating the technology. I found it easy to learn and I was not intimidated at all. I always left class feeling empowered that I could easily use the technology Jim taught us about. I would recommend his classes to anyone who wants to learn something new and have fun at the same time.”
The in-person classes are held at the Council office – 754 Williamson Street, in Madison. Online classes take place via Zoom, a free online video platform.
Register by calling the Council at 800-783-5213. The registration deadline is two business days before the date of each class.
Workplace Giving: An Easy, Efficient and Impactful Way to Make a Gift to the Council
Community Shares of Wisconsin logo
Are you looking for an easy way to donate to vetted, local organizations? Do you want your gift to make a greater impact? Consider giving through your workplace to participate in non-profits throughout Wisconsin. The Workplace Giving program empowers employees and the companies for which they work to come together to support local causes. This is the principle behind the Workplace Giving program through Community Shares of Wisconsin. The Council is a member of the Community Shares of Wisconsin Workplace Giving program.
Workplace giving is a way to strengthen the Council’s relationship with our community of donors and to introduce new people to the work we do each year. Community Shares of Wisconsin (CSW) organizes workplace giving for their 65 member non-profit organizations.
Staff at 125 local businesses that partner with CSW for workplace giving have the opportunity to make individual gifts to CSW or any of their member organizations. A list of current workplace giving sites can be found by visiting communityshares.com/workplace-giving/partner-businesses. Anyone employed by one of these companies can choose which member non-profit will receive their donation.
Adam Jochem, an employee at the Morgridge Institute for Research, chose to support the Council because his son has an eye disease that affects his retinas. Adam learned about the Council and the services we offer because of the workplace giving program.
“Giving is something very personal,” Adam says. “Find something you are passionate about and share your time or resources. Sharing with others makes life richer. Giving through work reflects positively on your workplace. Donating in this way is easy—all you have to do is fill out a form.”
If your employer is participating in workplace giving through Community Shares, a fellow staff member who serves as the Workplace Giving Coordinator will reach out to all employees with information on how to make a gift. You will likely receive a pledge form to return to your Workplace Giving Coordinator by early November.
Wegner CPAs enjoys participating in workplace giving because it enables them to give back to their community and to encourage employees to play a part in that giving.
“Giving back is not only part of the core values of our firm, but we know the value non-profits bring to the community through our non-profit client work and the strong relationships we have with many non-profit organizations in Wisconsin,” says Kari Nichols, Human Resources Manager at Wegner CPAs. “Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired is one of the organizations Wegner employees support through our Annual Giving Campaign with Community Shares. The fact that the firm matches every employee donation shows our true commitment to giving and allows our employees to make an even larger impact.”
When your Workplace Giving Coordinator comes to you this Workplace Giving season, remember the education, advocacy, and vision services work the Council does for hundreds of people who are blind and visually impaired. Thank you for considering a gift to the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired through workplace giving.
Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired 2017 Annual Report Now Available
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Whether you are a board member assisting with guiding the Council forward, a client or family member spreading the word about our services, a generous donor contributing to one of our many programs, or a volunteer giving your time and talent to make our mission possible, we thank you for your contribution to another success-filled year at the Council.
This report encourages us to reflect on the actions we have taken to bring vision services, legislative advocacy, and education to the residents of Wisconsin. Read the 2017 Annual Report to learn more about the projects you actualized, including the Council’s Sharper Vision Store remodel, the White Cane Day Proclamation, and the change in the Council’s mission statement. The cover features photography by Alison Fortney, of Milwaukee, whose work was featured at last year’s Gallery Night.
Watch the mail for your copy of the 2017 Annual Report. Visit WCBlind.org to find a downloadable PDF version, or call 800-783-5213 to request copies of the 2017 Annual Report in braille, large print or audio CD.