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Volunteer Spotlight: Abby Cochran

When Abby Cochran first found the LightHouse three years ago, she came asking for help – but she wasn’t blind.

Abby, who is fully sighted, had just moved to Berkeley for her Masters degree and was working at a startup in the city called TransitScreen. The company was using bluetooth beacons to send transit data to users phones – particularly useful for blind users at inaccessible signs. She needed user testers though, and someone told her LightHouse was the obvious choice.

“I met a lot of really friendly people who expressed interest in my work and welcomed me,” she says. “They said, ‘Wait, that’s actually a really interesting thing. Can we talk about doing this? It was really welcoming and nice.”

As Abby transitioned into her PhD in Urban Planning at UC Berkeley, LightHouse stuck in the back of her mind. Her social circumstances were changing, her time circumstances were changing, and she was looking for new people and activities to fill her time.

A couple months and a few LightHouse newsletters later, Abby discovered our Fitness Partner’s program.

“At the time it was in the middle of a beautiful week and I was like man, if I’m going out running anyway, I might as well have a buddy,” she says. “That would be the best.”

Abby signed up for a Volunteer Training and Volunteer Coordinator Justine Harris-Richburgh connected her to her new fitness partner who, like Abby, lived in Berkeley and was excited to spend time every weekend getting out and about. The two quickly fell into a rhythm with hikes all around the Bay Area. Abby says they still hike about once a week, usually for half a day.

“Within the first few weeks we were exercising together, he invited me to an event,” she says. “We were doing introductions and meeting people, and he said this is Abby. And they were like ‘Oh, how do you two know each other?’ And we hesitated for a second and looked in each other’s direction and said, ‘Well, we’re… friends.’”

Despite morphing into a supportive friendship, Abby says the fitness outings are both regular and casual. “We might go to see a particular section of the Bay trail,” she says, “or one of us — I won’t say which — might want to go shoe shopping. We’re flexible.”

Abby continues to volunteer at numerous LightHouse events, assisted in our Sexual Health workshop series, connected with other fitness partners, and will work as an Orienteering instructor for STEAM Camp at Enchanted Hills this summer.

So what keeps Abby coming back to LightHouse, time and time again?

“I love the people first,” she says. “I like hanging out with my friends and my friends are now here. I have a really wonderful confluence in the LightHouse. There is a mission that I also think that I’d like to forward, and that is to increase opportunities for those who are blind and low vision, but also everyone with different capabilities to reach the potential and quality of life that they desire. I want to help people do whatever they want. I’m in a privileged position to do so, and I think it would be remiss not to take advantage of that.”

“So that’s the do-gooder response. But I’m also very selfish and everyone is super nice to me and they invite me to fun things and sometimes we go get beers. They’re very supportive.”

Abby found a home at LightHouse, but she also found a valuable network and wealth of information for her research and work. She’ll be writing her dissertation on disability responsive planning, and critically examining accessibility in cities and to show how we define, perceive and measure access determines qualities of the built environment that hinder or enable people in particular ways.

“It evolved as a direct result of my work here,” she says. “This place runs deep. It’s been hugely influential and meeting the network of people here that also have a network in fields that i’m interested in, in city planning, transportation. You cannot remove people from place.”

Browse the various volunteer opportunities we offer and fill out our volunteer sign-up form or our group sign-up form. If you have any questions, contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, Volunteer Engagement Specialist at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or by calling 415-694-7320. All new volunteers are given background checks and are often given a group volunteering opportunity to start. We hope, like Abby, you’ll consider giving your time to the LightHouse (and becoming part of our diverse and growing community in the process)!

There’s Still Time to Give Back – See the Year Out by Volunteering with the LightHouse

Photo: Volunteer Gerry Cannon receives award from LightHouse MADLab Director Greg Kehret at our Volunteer Appreciation Event.

It’s not too late to show your support for our community by volunteering. Would you like to make a significant contribution to the life of a blind person or person with low vision? The following volunteer opportunities are available in November and December.

Start Your Journey as LightHouse Volunteer – Join Us for Our Volunteer Orientation
Saturday, November 5, 2016, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Where: the LightHouse Building, 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103
Refreshments will be served.

RSVP or get more information about our program by contacting our Volunteer Engagement Specialist Justine Harris-Richburgh at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7320 and complete our Volunteer Registration form.

Become More Involved with the LightHouse with the Following Opportunities:

YES (Youth Employment Series) Program
Saturday and Sunday, November 12 and 13, 2016 and Saturday and Sunday, December 10 and 11, 2016
Where: the LightHouse Building, 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103
We’re looking for Volunteer Support Coordinators to help with student supervision, meal prep, clean up or take photos and/or video for social media. There are three shifts to choose from and up to five slots available per shift. Contact Volunteer Engagement Specialist Justine Harris-Richburgh at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7320 for more details.

Our First-Ever Blind Soldering Weekend Workshop
When: Friday, November 4 through Sunday, November 6, 2016
Where: the LightHouse Building, 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103
There are a variety of shifts available, each with several slots available per shift, making this a perfect opportunity to volunteer with a buddy and learn more about blind soldering – this is not to be missed! You’ll be assisting instructors, supporting students and running errands as needed. Soldering knowledge and experience are not required; however knowledge and interest in electronics and soldering may be useful.
Lunch will be provided.
Contact Volunteer Engagement Specialist Justine Harris-Richburgh at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7320 for more details.

Can You Dig It? We Had a Far Out, Solid Gold, To the Max Time at Our Volunteer Appreciation Party

This year’s Volunteer Appreciation Party went off in style, with a Solid Gold theme that brought us back to those solid-gold ’70s, complete with gold streamers, gold balloons, gold party favors and solid gold disco music in the background. Over 100 volunteers, board members, staff and guests attended our annual celebration. The room was festive, the food and drink flowed and we had a blast giving out raffle prizes and awards to our standout volunteers.

This year we honored the following volunteers:

  • Mike May was recognized by Bryan Bashin for his outstanding volunteer commitments and contributions to Enchanted Hills Camp.
  • Our Development Department recognized Jennisen Svendsen’s hours of photo organizing.
  • Volunteer Gerry Cannon was recognized by MADLab for the impressive amount of recording he has provided.
  • Enchanted Hills Camp’s gave an award to longtime volunteer Tino Benelli.
  • We honored Silvana Rainey’s contribution to our Employment Immersion Program.
  • We acknowledged Sabrina Treguboff’s dedicated work with Community Services’ Senior and Adult Programs.
  • And finally, we honored all of our wonderful Board members for their dedication.

Thank you to all who were able to attend. For those LightHouse Volunteers who missed it, our next appreciation celebration will be in April, 2017.

Off the Page: Twitter Volunteers will Help You With those Pesky Print Materials

When: Friday, November 11, 2016, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Where: the LightHouse Building, 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103

Sign up to have paper documents read, get assistance with the completion of printed applications and much more by our vetted and professional volunteers from Twitter. If you’re actively looking for a job, come and have your resume reviewed by one of our professional Twitter volunteers.

Don’t miss out on this prime opportunity to meet one-on-one with a volunteer.

RSVP or get more information about our program by contacting our Volunteer Engagement Specialist Justine Harris-Richburgh at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7320.

Off the Page Volunteer Event Presented by Oracle a Huge Success

Photo: Oracle volunteers working with braille in the MADLab printing room.

Last month we held our first Off the Page Volunteer Event, presented by Oracle, and it was a win-win experience for all parties. Twelve excited Oracle volunteers arrived at the new LightHouse Building to provide reading services, assistance with resumes and guided tours of Sound Commons, the new art installation presented by the Exploratorium that is across the street from the LightHouse. But that’s not all. Oracle volunteers also assisted with making up the beds in our Student Residences, helped our Rehabilitation Department prep for the next Changing Vision Changing Life Immersion session and collated braille material in our MADLab.

A huge Thank You to our wonderful volunteers from Oracle. Here’s what a few of our students had to say:

“It was nice to hear from someone who has experience in the field I want to work in. My volunteer helped me by going over my resume and giving me tips on how to improve it, and he added value to my resume by providing content. While he did not need to read anything for me, he gave me valuable tips and information on what to expect in an office setting. I really enjoyed working with Oracle volunteers and if they were to volunteer again I would definitely participate.”
LightHouse student Chris S.

“Thank you so much for arranging for volunteer reader Chanel to work with me. She was terrific! I hope she continues to connect with the LightHouse. I got everything accomplished I wanted to. She listened carefully to how I wanted things done and with great intelligence, we got through everything just fine. I took a few minutes to write out the alphabet in braille on a 3×5 card for her and she was fascinated. So, thanks for arranging the day.”
LightHouse student Gil J.

oracle volunteers selfie

Oracle volunteers pose for a group selfie.

Participate in Off the Page
Off The Page is a LightHouse volunteer event which connects corporate volunteer readers to those who need reading and resume overview services.

Our next Off the Page event is Saturday, October 29 and we’d love for you to join us. To sign up, please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, at 415-694-7320 or volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org.

We also can match you with a volunteer on another day.
If you’d like to meet with a volunteer reader here at the LightHouse on some other day, we can set this up. Please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, at 415-694-7320 or volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org.

Would you like to volunteer?
We are always looking for enthusiastic volunteers who want to give back for a single day or any amount of time. If you’re interested in becoming a Personal Service Volunteer or would like to learn more about how to get your professional or school group involved in volunteering for the LightHouse, please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org, 415-694-7320 or complete your group or individual volunteer application  – we would love to have you!


Our Volunteers Want to Read Your Mail During Our Off the Page Event on Saturday, August 13

Do you need an extra set of eyes to get you through a stack of mail, magazines or newsprint? On Saturday, August 13, the LightHouse is hosting an Off the Page Volunteer Event, the first of many. This month’s Off the Page event will be presented by volunteers from Oracle.

When: Saturday, August 13, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Where: LightHouse for the Blind, 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor, San Francisco, 94103

At the new LightHouse building we have cozy, closed-door reading rooms available so that you and a vetted volunteer can go through your mail or paperwork privately. Refreshments will be available. This is a great way to potentially schedule additional reading time with a volunteer ongoing.

There are four slots available on August 13, so be sure to RSVP soon before they’re all filled up. Email 1altruism@lighthouse-sf.org (please put the words, “Off The Page” in the subject line) or call our volunteer reservation line at 415-694-7646.

Thank You to Our Community Partners

Photo: Student and volunteer Dennis O’Hanlon tells the story of how the LightHouse assisted him in his journey back to work during the LightHouse Grand Opening Donor Event.

The LightHouse wishes to thank its devoted friends and community partners who have recently shown their support by providing significant funds to help our programs go further and reach higher:

Delong-Sweet Family Foundation – for Enchanted Hills Camp
Disability Communications Fund – for Technology Training
Robert Foster – for Enchanted Hills Camp
Patricia Heim and Sergius Lashutka – for Enchanted Hills Camp
Jerry Kuns and Theresa Postello – for Enchanted Hills Camp
Marco A. Vidal Fund – for general operating support – LightHouse of Marin
Jane and Robert Micks – for general operating support – LightHouse North Coast
Mutual of America – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
Susan O’Sullivan – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
The Palisades Educational Foundation – for general operating support
Fred Ruhland – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
Frederic and Kristine Silva – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
Todd Stevenot and Anne Sandbach – for the Campaign for a 21st Century LightHouse
Telecare Corporation – for Superfest International Disability Film Festival
Wells Fargo – for sponsorship for our Grand Opening Celebration and for Employment Immersion
Workday Foundation – for Enchanted Hills Camp

A Special Guided Exploration of the LightHouse’s New Neighborhood in June

Are you interested in learning about the local hot spots surrounding our new building?

On the afternoon of Wednesday, June 15, we’re going to offer a guided exploration of the fascinating restaurants, theaters, businesses and art within three or four blocks of our new LightHouse Building.

You’ll be matched up with a sighted guide and supplied with a tactile map of our bustling mid-market hood. Find out the best places to lunch or discover some special places you’ll want to revisit whenever you’re in the vicinity of the new LightHouse.

Introduce yourself to the new LightHouse neighborhood or learn something new about a neighborhood you’re already familiar with. Food and beverages will be provided. Contact Justine Harris-Richburgh at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org for more information on how you can join us for this event. Spaces are sure to be claimed quickly, so sign up now.

Volunteer to be a Guide
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering to be a guide on this trek through the new LightHouse neighborhood, please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org, or complete the volunteer registration form.

Volunteers are Saluting our Community with a Printed Matter Cleanout Day

With our new offices opening in May, we’re raring to update our programs and services. We’re getting a head-start with our first spring cleanout day for blind folks who need to go through mounds of printed matter.

LightHouse Printed Matter Spring Cleaning Day – Let Our Volunteers Give You a Hand
Do you have printed documents you’d like help going through? Perhaps your CCTV or handheld magnifier no longer work and you could use a second set of eyes to get through your mail? We’re making an early start on May 6 at our new offices, where we’ll pair you with a friendly volunteer who can read through some of that stack with you.

When: Friday, May 6, appointment to be determined
Where: LightHouse for the Blind – new office at 1155 Market Street, 10th Floor

Private Reading Rooms adjacent our New Volunteer Lounge
Our new office comes equipped with private, soundproofed reading rooms just next to our Volunteer Lounge. We’ll reserve an appointment with you in one of these comfortable rooms – just contact our Volunteer Engagement Specialist, Justine Harris-Richburgh at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7320 to schedule time with a volunteer reader. Sign up soon – there are a limited number of appointments available.

Volunteer for the LightHouse

hands holding red letters that spell volunteer“What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.”
— Aristotle

Are you an individual who believes the simplest pleasures in life sometimes have the most profound impact? Do you prefer to work with people in a one-to-one capacity, rather than in large groups, or on large projects? More importantly, would you like to make a significant contribution to the life of a blind person or person with low vision in as little as two hours per week? The LightHouse’s Personal Volunteer Reader or Personal Services Volunteer programs may be just the right fit for you.

Volunteering is fun, interactive and informative and you’ll also get the chance to connect with other volunteers.

Make a difference in somebody’s life – sign up now

Our next two volunteer orientations are scheduled for Saturday, March 12 and Saturday, April 9. Come on your own or bring a friend. Get started by completing our fast and easy volunteer registration form or contact Justine Harris-Richburgh for more information at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org.

Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet – Help Make it Bright by Becoming a Volunteer at the LightHouse

hands holding red letters that spell volunteerThe beginning of a new year is always a perfect time to volunteer. With only a few hours a week, you can put your loyal, altruistic aspirations to work by becoming a Personal Service Volunteer, which supports the independence of our students by assisting with reading mail, grocery shopping, filing and other tasks, or becoming a Fitness and Activity Partner, which supports the healthy and active lifestyles of our students.

We also have a need for administrative assistance as well as volunteer assistance with several fun programs like the Walking Club, BINGO night, Farmer’s Market and bowling trips plus many more scheduled events with our Youth and Community Services Groups.

Why wait? Register today to participate in the next and final volunteer orientation of the year, scheduled on Saturday, December 11th and be an active volunteer before the end of the year. Please contact Justine Harris-Richburgh, Volunteer Engagement Specialist, for more information by email at volunteer@lighthouse-sf.org or call at 415-694-7320. You can also register online.

Helen Keller once said, “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.” Register to volunteer today.