(SAVANNAH) There is something that’s working in our community, helping people cope with the loss of a sense that many take for granted — their sight. There are remarkable resources available through the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision. The center is settling into a new home in Savannah, moving from Drayton Street downtown into midtown. It’s now located at 1141 on Cornell Avenue, but continues to serve nearly 300 people a year people in 29 counties in Southeast Georgia. The mission is unchanged since it opened in 1963, teaching people to navigate life after losing their sight.
Corey Brooks is learning skills at the center for the blind and low vision to try to re-enter the workforce. His days on the job as a chemical operator came to an end two years ago as a result of glaucoma. “I started losing my sight. so i went to the doctor and he told me, wow that i have like 99% damage in both of my optic nerves and and i’m legally blind.” Brooks said. Like many who have gone blind, Brooks says the life-altering diagnosis left him feeling like life was over. “I actually just sat in the house for six or seven months and did nothing.” said Brooks. Brooks says a random encounter pointed him in the direction of the Savannah Center for the Blind and Low Vision. He’s been a student here for six weeks. Leslie Eatherly is the Development Director for the Center. “We teach them that nothings impossible. You know if you, you lost your site but you’re not the only one and we’re going to help them get to that next level of feeling that the security, regaining that independence.” Eatherly said.
The center offers a wide array of services,from vision rehabilitation to job readiness to technology services and much more, all to help find a new way to perform the activities of daily living. There are practical lessons here including things about working around the kitchen that helps those who are blind and have low vision. Like bump dots placed on appliances. They allows someone who’s losing their vision or has already lost their vision to operate a microwave or the oven. “They teach you how to adjust into the, cooking, um, in the kitchen area, you know they, you know it’s a blessing that it’s free.” said Brooks. He adds, even though there is no cost, the main lessons he’s learning are priceless. “Just because you have a vision loss doesn’t mean that life stops. You know, you still have to keep it moving like I like to say, keep it moving you know hold your head up high I mean don’t let a disability stop you from doing anything.” Brooks said.
The new facility for the center has been renovated, turning an old home into a functional space to teach life lessons to the young and young at heart when it comes to dealing with blindness or low vision. “It’s a basic set up of the house. So you have a training kitchen, a dining room, we have an area that set up to be, kind it to be like a bedroom so that we can teach them independent living skills there.” Eatherly said. She adds that there is a little government funding for their facility, but they survive mainly through grants and the generosity of the community, which makes up the lion’s share of their budget. Fundraisers are the life blood of their revenue stream, like one that’s planned on Whitemarsh Island on Monday, July 31, 2017. Papa’s Barbacue Restaurant has selected the center as the charity to benefit from their anniversary celebration. There is a need to complete the center’s training facilities, to help students learn to navigate sidewalks without leaving the new location. “We would like to have training sidewalks around the perimeter of the facility so that we can teach, we don’t have to take the clients off site just to be able to teach those skills? Those skills.” Eatherly said. All donations are tax deductible.