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30% and Growing

Welcoming Employment Get-Togethers Going strong – Virtually

Welcoming Employment Get-Togethers Going strong – Virtually

Like all LightHouse Programs, 30% & Growing, our monthly casual meetup to chat all things blind employment, went virtual when LightHouse stopped face-to-face services to keep the community safe at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, it’s been thriving online with an array of special guests and spirited conversation from blind people with all levels of work experience.

In January of this year, Community Outreach Coordinator Sheri Albers took over the virtual gathering and here are Sheri’s thoughts about running 30% & Growing in a virtual format:

“When I offered to take 30% over, I was told I could make it my own. It was important to me to keep the “happy hour” theme of the event. If people were having a stressful day at work, I wanted them to have some place to come have fun.

“Of course, planning it is not the same as attending it. Not to mention we’re talking about doing it on a Zoom platform. You can’t have multiple discussions at once, like you would if people were in a bar or restaurant. As the facilitator I have to make sure everybody has a chance to participate. Also, there’s a fine line between staying on topic but also allowing conversation to go off on a tangent sometimes. I want 30% to be a relaxed atmosphere.”

How does running 30% & Growing differ from your other work as Community Outreach Coordinator?

“It was important to me not to make 30% another ‘Meet You at the House’ where I talk about the different services LightHouse has. 30% is about working and finding work. Everyone who comes is a LightHouse student, but this is a time for them to get to know each other and share tips.”

How do you draw on your own work experiences when planning and running 30%?

“Well I talk to other people about what they’re experiencing and a lot of us are going through the same things. I’ve experienced Zoom fatigue and I know others have, too. People have talked to me about work from home fatigue as well. I also listen to the news talking about how people have lost their jobs and are having trouble finding  resources. I use some of my own personal experience when I plan topics for 30% but the experiences of other people, too.”

How do you research and find guests?

“I have a large network of blind people I know from my years of doing community work and working with blindness organizations. I’m able to use that to help me find guests. I always say in 30% that networking is hugely important to helping a blind person find work.”

The next 30% & Growing is this Thursday, November 18 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. To get the Zoom info, contact Sheri at SAlbers@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7331.

This Month’s 30% & Growing Welcomes Back Former LightHouse Employee and Host, Serena Olsen

This Month’s 30% & Growing Welcomes Back Former LightHouse Employee and Host, Serena Olsen

Since April of 2016, LightHouse has been hosting a monthly meet up and casual networking social hour for blind and low vision jobseekers and working professionals called 30% & Growing. The name references the percentage of blind adults who were employed in the United States when the program first started.

Back then, the program was hosted by former LightHouse employee Serena Olsen. When the pandemic hit, we took 30% & Growing from busy Bay Area restaurants and pubs to Zoom. The virtual platform opened up the invitation to blind adults all over. In December of last year, our beloved 30% & Growing hostess Serena left the LightHouse and passed the baton onto our witty, friendly, and charismatic Community Outreach Coordinator, Sheri Albers.

Sheri has been a delightful virtual hostess for the past several months and has put her own flare and fun into the 30% & Growing meetups, introducing a blind or low vision guest of honor at each monthly event. This month we welcome back our dear friend and new Bay Area blogger, Serena Olsen.

“I enjoy hosting the program very much. I recognized its value from the very first time I started attending as a guest over a year ago, and I wanted to make sure that it continued, as well as the spirit that it was founded on,” says Sheri.

Every third Thursday of the month. about ten adults who are blind or have low vision come together from all over to spend quality time sharing stories, laughter and resources.

“Each meetup seems to be unique on its own,” Sheri says. “I enjoyed and received a very positive response from the April event when I introduced yoga and meditation as a coping mechanism for the stress of working at home during the pandemic.”

Vidya, a regular attendee, reflects on her favorite 30% & Growing moments.

“I find 30% to be like a mystery box, as you never know where conversations can lead. In one session we had a young lady who was launching her own drink product and was in the process of pitching her ideas to get funding. During the next session, she shared that she had received the first round of funding to launch the product. It was so inspiring to see blind entrepreneurs with the drive, motivation, passion and energy to find opportunities in the marketplace. It was heartening to hear such stories that provide motivation for the rest of us.

“For me, 30% is an opportunity to connect with working blind community members and to get exposure to how other people manage and meet challenges with working and blindness in their everyday lives. I use the meetups for building self-motivation, positive thinking and independent living.”

As we begin reopening public spaces, LightHouse is excitedly awaiting the “ok” to resume 30% & Growing in person.

Sheri is enthusiastic for that day.

“Once we get the green light, I want to get the 30%ers back out into the world where we can have our Happy Hours done right! That is what this event was created for!”

For more information about 30% & Growing, you can visit our  online calendar. To RSVP to this month’s event on Thursday, May 20 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, email Sheri at SAlbers@lighthouse-sf.org or give her a call at 415-694-7331. Check out Serena’s blog at ItStartsWithQuiche.com.

Learn more about LightHouse’s Adult and Community Services Programs on our website.

Hang Out with Friends and Potential Mentors at 30% and Growing

Hang Out with Friends and Potential Mentors at 30% and Growing

Photo:  Members of the 30% and Growing Club hang out at the Albatross Pub in Berkeley: (Left to right) Aly Slaughter, Laura Millar, Josh Miele, Christina Daniels and Event Coordinator Serena Olsen.

Depending on where you get your statistics, 57-70% of working-age blind people are unemployed. But what if we turned that statistic on its head? What if, instead of agonizing over the dauntingly high unemployment rate among blind people, we reframe and consider that at least 30% of blind people are fully employed? Well we’ve done just that. On the third Thursday of each month, the LightHouse celebrates working blind people at our 30% & Growing blind professionals networking meet-ups in San Francisco and the East Bay.

In a thriving metropolis like the Bay Area, every conceivable profession has a meet up group, but where do aspiring-to-be-fully-employed blind people have the same opportunity?

30% & Growing creates that space where being a fully employed blind person is perfectly normal. It’s a space where busy working blind people can take a quick time out to connect with their peers, enjoy some libations, and argue with their friends about current events—just like any other worker bees at the end of a work day.

With 30% & Growing, we intend to grow the ranks of our fully employed working-age blind people by leveraging this tremendous resource for those coming up in the ranks or even thinking about it. Blind job seekers now have this monthly resource available to them allowing them to learn from those that came before them and cull advice about their professions of interest and the unique experience of navigating a career as a blind person.

But we don’t just network – we laugh a lot. We’re serious and social, taking in the buzz of a variety of local watering holes and restaurants across San Francisco and the East Bay, sampling craft beers, wines or cocktails and sating our palate with light snacks and appetizers. More importantly, 30% and Growing offers connection, dialogue, relationships, and community, and a time and place to go out with friends and colleagues for happy hour, just like any other hard-working tax payer.

For information on upcoming gatherings please contact Serena Olsen, Adult Program Coordinator, at solsen@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7316.