For at least two decades, Rhonda Staats has been talking to everyone she can about advocacy, education and empowerment pertaining to people who are blind and visually impaired. Earlier this year, the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired recognized those efforts by honoring Rhonda with its 2021 Lifetime Service Award. The award is given to individuals who engage in exemplary volunteer service in the blind and visually impaired community over many years.
The La Crosse grandmother and retired college instructor feels fortunate to have served with some of the Council’s founders, and carries that legacy forward today through her role as secretary of the Council Board of Directors and membership on the Executive committee, Advocacy and Gratitude work groups, among others.
“My first meeting was on March 5, 1999,” Rhonda says. “I don’t think about how long I’ve done this until I talk about it.”
“This special honor by my peers recognizes that I am doing my best to make people’s lives better and to change the world. I’m very flattered.”
Rhonda’s commitment goes far beyond her involvement with the Council. She serves as secretary of the Statutory Council on Blindness, and has been appointed to the executive team of the Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities transportation subcommittee. She advocates for voting rights with the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition. And she is a member and past president of the La Crosse Lions Club and a past member of the La Crosse Human Rights Commission. She is also involved with the La Crosse Disability Board and the ADRC advisory board in La Crosse County.
Among all of those achievements, Rhonda is particularly proud of the solutions she has helped guide the Council in providing to empower people facing vision loss.
As she continues her service, Rhonda recognizes the need to encourage others to become involved in the Council’s work and mission.
“I don’t view myself as essential, so I will step away or scale down these next few years,” she says. “We need to foster involvement by younger people. Being effective at this work means mentoring people going forward.”