90 years of service for VISIONS Bronx Advisory Board

A local advisory board has been assisting blind and visually impaired individuals in the borough for nearly a century.

The VISIONS Bronx Advisory Board, part of VISIONS (Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired) and established as an organization in 1926, has been providing free services for the borough’s blind and visually impaired population for 90 years and serves 600 Bronx residents annually.

Throughout its history, the VISIONS Bronx Advisory Board has worked with different centers and organizations to assist that portion of the population, including the RAIN Tolentine Senior Center, where they used to hold annual fairs for the residents.

They have also held annual benefits and events to raise money for VISIONS, which include the Celebrity Mix It Up Bartender Event (every September) and the Dinner and Award Ceremony, which includes an auction and a recognition of local individuals who have supported the board.

Last year, the Celebrity Mix It Up Bartender Event, held Brewski’s Bar & Grill, featured appearances by Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, Throggs Neck Merchants Association president Stephen Kaufman and Senator Gustavo Rivera, who participated as a ‘celebrity bartender.’ All tips made by each ‘bartender’ were donated to VISIONS.

The idea of the Celebrity Bartender Event was suggested by Fordham Rod BID deputy director Daniel Bernstein.

It is because of these events, along with other donations, that allows the board to assist the blind community in the Bronx.

“For 90 years, the VISIONS Bronx Advisory Board has provided free services, including in home services for residents who suffer from vision impairment in the borough annually,” said Amy Gordon, senior director of fundraising for VISIONS. “Along with the residents we support in the other four boroughs, Nassau, Rockland and Westchester (counties), we have continued a proud tradition of helping communities, families and individuals in need.”

Another key fact about VISIONS is that they spend 88% of the money they take in on their benefits and programs, while spending only 12% on administration and fundraising costs.

They even provide home services for blind or visually impaired individuals, assisting them by providing them with audio books and other activities that they can participate in at home.

The advisory board holds all of its advisory meetings at the New York Institute for Special Education.

“This group has been and continues to be a very helpful service for residents in the Bronx,” said Donna Karlson, a member of the VISIONS Bronx Advisory Board for the past 43 years and a teacher at NYISE.

“This is the best organization I am involved with,” said John Bonizio, owner of Metro Optics Eyewear, who donated a Mickie Mantle signed baseball to the auction at the organization’s Celebrity Bartender Event last year, which sold for $2,000 – proceeds which were donated directly to VISIONS.

On Thursday, March 10, the VISIONS Bronx Advisory Board will host its 23rd annual Dinner and Award Ceremony at Tosca Marquee, where they will honor Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Economic Overall Development Corporation, Rosemary DeLuca, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Jennifer and Les Goodstein, the president and CEO of Community News Group, among other honorees. For more information, visit www.visionsvcb.org/visions/events/visionsbronxadvisoryboard2016

Reach Reporter Steven Goodstein at (718) 260-4599. E-mail him at sgoodstein@cnglocal.com.

More from Around NYC