April is National Volunteer Appreciation month. It’s an opportunity to recognize and celebrate volunteerism and its positive community impacts. Americans have always stepped up when it comes to volunteering. According to Americorps, nearly a quarter of Americans age 16 and over donated time formally through an organization between September 2020 and 2021.
“Volunteers share their energy, time, and enthusiasm,” says Program Coordinator Kathleen Callen, who handles the Council’s volunteer program. “That not only helps get specific tasks and projects done but helps us fulfill our mission and gets us closer to a day when everyone can live in a society where they feel included and empowered.”
Volunteering can also be a gateway to different kinds of involvement. Sometimes it evolves beyond a specific task and blossoms into a full-blown partnership.
That’s what’s happening between the Council and Anderson & Shapiro Eye Care, a Madison-based clinic that has been in operation for 25 years. Over that time, the organization has connected many of their patients with the Council. “We have always referred people over to the Council for low vision needs,” says Anderson & Shapiro Administrator Colin Wyatt. “Our missions cross over.”
Colin says the connection also works because their specialty areas and the Council’s complement each other. “Our organizations work synergistically, in that the Council has services we don’t provide.”
Recently, Anderson & Shapiro staff members decided they wanted to do more to support the Council, so they reached out to explore volunteer opportunities. The inquiry led to a day-long volunteer clean-up of the Council’s property last spring, much needed last year after the snow melted.
While they were at Council headquarters, Anderson & Shapiro volunteers were given a tour of the Council’s building and the Sharper Vision store. The guided tour made an impression. People started talking about it back at the clinic.
“After volunteering we decided we wanted to make a bigger impact with the Council,” Colin says. “We decided to take the proceeds of some of our over-the-counter products and send it on to the Council.” Anderson & Shapiro’s new fundraising program takes them from the sale of selected products, including some reading glasses, glasses chains and glasses cleaners, and donates the profits to the Council.
Anderson & Shapiro saw other opportunities in their budding relationship with the Council as well, such as inviting Education and Vision Services Director Amy Wurf to come to the clinic to give a presentation to staff.
“I provided a general Council overview, including the variety of vision services training, how to make referrals, Sharper Vision store information, and some information about our advocacy work,” Amy says. “We appreciate the opportunity to let them know about rehabilitation options and discuss how we can best meet the needs of their patients and our clients.”
In addition to helping deepen the relationship, Amy says it was a good experience for her. “Their team was very engaged with the presentation, and I was very appreciative of the opportunity to speak with them.”
Colin looks forward to more collaboration between Anderson & Shapiro and the Council in the future. “We’re excited to continue our relationship,” he says. “And we’re hoping to make an even bigger donation for the year 2023.”
Are you interested in volunteering at the Council? You can find volunteer information on our website.
Even if you don’t see the perfect volunteer opportunity listed, feel free to contact us at Volunteer@WCBlind.org to discuss other volunteer ideas.