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Earle Baum Center Newsletter

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May 2014 Volume 14 Issue 2


To provide opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired to improve and enrich their personal, social and economic lives.

Telephone: (707) 523-3222
Fax: (707) 636-2768


Mothers and daughters often share common traits—a laugh, perhaps, or hands shaped in the same way. One thing they would just as soon not share is retinitis pigmentosa, but that was the diagnosis for both Kelly Hogan and her mother Lois Renfro.

Lois, who lives in San Diego, went through training to help with her sight loss in the 80s. Back then, technology wasn’t what it is now and Lois’s training mostly consisted of mobility training, Braille, and indentifying raised letters. Says Kelly, “Electronics weren’t really available then. Everything was big and old fashioned. Now, you’ve got assistance with computers and magnifiers.”

The mother of three grown children, Joseph, Christina, and Matthew, these days, Kelly spends time at home with her two Chihuahuas, Trixie and Paws. Kelly started at Earle Baum in 2013 and currently takes classes every Wednesday in Introduction to Vision Loss and Living with Vision Loss. She’s also taking part in the Fitness Challenge and really enjoys it. It “keeps her on track,” she says.

Coming to the Center helps get Kelly out of her comfort zone. For a while there, it was easier to stay at home. Now, Kelly takes a cane everywhere and, using the techniques she learned at Earle Baum, gets around well, even on public transportation. Still, despite all the great techniques she’s learned, when you ask her what has been the most valuable thing she’s gained from the Earle Baum Center, she says right away “connecting with other people.”

In Marin before coming to Sonoma County, Kelly had a hard time finding a place where she’d feel comfortable, with people her own age. (Kelly is 49.) There, and where her mom is in San Diego, the places are geared toward seniors. “They do crafts. It’s like they’re children,” says Kelly. “It’s important to have something for the people in between. Earle Baum has a good mix, offering things like the Fitness Challenge, drums, and Tai Chi.” No “old folks’ home,” this Center is a life-changing place. People learn techniques for dealing with sight loss, sure, but they also forge new friendships and engage their minds and bodies in a way they may have thought impossible before coming here.

Let’s do all we can to keep Earle Baum going strong, for our own sakes and for the many people still to come!

Summer Picnics at EBC!

June 13 - July 11 - August 8 - September 12

Please RSVP by Friday the week before!!!
Lunch served promptly at noon.

ACCESS DAY at Museum
By Jean Lake

When you first arrive at the Earle Baum Center you feel afraid, sad, and maybe anxious because there are now so many things you have had to give up because of your vision loss. However, after spending some amount of time there, taking the classes, meeting other people and being taught by the highly skilled staff at the Center, suddenly, one day, you realize you can do nearly everything anyone else can do. Maybe you have to do it in a different way, maybe you will need a bit of support from a sighted person, but, again you can have the world and all that's in it to enjoy.

I believe that is why 12 people from the EBC traveled to San Francisco to the Museum to experience the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit on Monday, May 5th.

You may wonder what 12 seriously vision impaired or blind people are going to do in a museum. Here is how it went: We were met by a docent named Jan; she took us as a group from one painting to the next. At each painting, she described what the painting was about, the colors that were used, the size of the painting and a bit about Georgia O’Keeffe's life when she was doing this particular painting. The docent was cheerful, patient and answered questions. She seemed to have a wealth of knowledge about the paintings and spent two hours with us. She seemed able to make the paintings come to life with her language rather than with a paintbrush. It was a vivid and memorable experience for all of us.

We are all grateful to the Museum for having the access days where people with disabilities can come and enjoy the museum. We all agreed that our docent Jan was the BEST.


In our previous newsletter, it was announced that the Earle Baum Center joined the 10-month nationwide fitness challenge put on by the United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) to help visually impaired/blind people between ages of 15 and 40 get hooked on fitness. Since the start of our program, we have had lots of fun working on our goal of getting fit. At this point, we have participated in balance exercises with Jeannie Martin and beginning kick boxing moves with Tim Byrd followed by aqua aerobics and lap swim taught by Kathy Bell at the Junior College pool. In April we went on a short, 11-mile, tandem bike ride. Steven Cozza, former European bike racer, put together a pilots training to show bicycling enthusiasts how to captain the front of a tandem bike. On our first ride, Steve, used to riding fast, but using his sight, chose to be blindfolded and be the stoker, riding the back of the tandem. This was his experience:

“What a fun first team ride that was. We had 8 stokers and 10 captains. I was lucky to have the challenge of riding on the back as a stoker blindfolded for the entire 11 miles. I noticed after about 3 minutes into the ride and as I began to relax trusting Don (my captain), my other senses became so alive. My sense of smell and hearing were incredible. It was almost as if I could still see (hard to explain, but if you try it you will know what I mean). Don was an amazing captain. He talked about the scenery as we went along and communicated every stop, turn and danger ahead. I felt very safe and enjoyed him talking about the history of the path we were on among other things such as wine, his garden and food.”

Naomi Richards, a participant in the fitness challenge, was one of 3 visually impaired riders who had never experienced riding a tandem before. She too, had some comments regarding her experience saying, “I haven’t been on a bike in probably 10 years or so and was feeling a little uncertain about getting on one again, especially with another person in control. Never let it be said I’m not willing to give new things a try, however, and I was quite pleased that I did. The pilots were all very patient and friendly, the cycling itself was challenging but a pleasure once my pilot and I found a rhythm. I would definitely recommend people give this form of exercise a try and I’m thrilled to have participated in the experience.” We plan to continue with regular tandem rides.

On May 3rd some of the participants walked and ran in the Gran Fondo for Kids event in Petaluma, with most doing the 4-mile course. We have other exciting fitness events coming up including karate with Katie Salinas from Sebastopol, salsa dancing with Gene Russo, Irene Silva and Antonio Moran from Sonoma Latin Arts, a walk/run on the creek trail in Santa Rosa with guides from Fleet Feet Sports, pilates and yoga classes with Tone Fitness, and sea kayaking with Environmental Travel Companions. The team approach, the technology of the Nike+ FuelBands that track personal movements and the fun fitness opportunities have created the motivation that we all need to stay healthy. For more information, contact Denise Vancil, Fitness Challenge Leader at 707-523-7832.

Thank you Steve Cozza and Nor Cal Bikes for your participation in a successful event!

Request Fulfilled - Thanks to Barry Bailkoski and the Santa Rosa Host Lions!

We are very lucky to have such wonderful donors in our EBC family! We were able to acquire 6 new monitors to match up with used video magnifiers for our loaner program. Patricia Jefferson, program coordinator, was able to help more people by providing new monitors that are sharp and clear for ease of reading.

Eye Care Professional Outreach

EBC has been reaching out to the eye care professionals in the area in order to introduce them to the Low Vision Clinic and what that offers their patients. This outreach lets them know about all of our training services. Bringing awareness of our services to this vital group allows their patients the possibility of gaining and maintaining more independence in their lives. If you are an eye care professional and would like to learn more about the Earle Baum Center, please call us for the next date. We would love to show you our beautiful center and have you meet our instructors.

A Celebration of Americana Music
September 27, 2014
Save the Date!!

Planning is in full swing for the EarleFest 2014! Sponsors are lining up, Vendors are signing contracts, wine and beer is promised and the line–up is shaping up to be over the top this year! Please Save the Date and check the website for updates soon at It’s going to be a great one!!


Come learn & talk about technology as it relates to people with vision loss. The Tech Club meets the 1st Monday of each month from 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM at EBC Room 3. The summer dates are as follows: June 2nd; July 7th; August 4th & September 8th. Topics to be announced. If you would like to be added to the Tech Club Email list, and be notified about upcoming meetings and/or receive summaries of past meetings call EBC at (707) 523-3222.




Please make your appointment at the Earle Baum Center a highest priority. Cancellations are one of our largest sources of financial loss. A cancelled appointment that we can’t fill with a replacement can cost us three ways: the lost revenue of delivering the service, the need to pay salaried or hourly staff for that scheduled time, and the lost opportunity to serve another person with vision loss in that time slot. In some instances we may charge you for a missed appointment or discontinue service for those with repeated cancellations or no shows.

Let us know if you need help with tools to remember appointments.

Shop at and a portion will be donated to Earle Baum Center