Chautauqua Blind Celebrates 100 Years!

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CBA Vision Rehabilitation Services Executive Director Joni Blackman stands by the Centennial event banner on the agency's 510 W. Fifth St. location. All are invited to help the Board of Directors, staff and supporters celebrate the 100th Anniversary of CBA on July 28, 2021. For more information and to purchase tickets for the dinner and auction, visit www.chautauquablind.org.

Contributing Writer
Joni Blackman

CBA Vision Rehabilitation Services has been serving the visually impaired residents of the Southern Tier for 100 years. The communities of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties are invited to celebrate this milestone with the Board of Directors, staff and friends of CBA at the beautiful Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron on Wednesday, July 28 at 6 PM.

“The CBA Centennial Celebration and Auction is about helping those in our communities with visual impairments. We are celebrating the current and past staff members, volunteers, donors and clients who have made this agency successful for the past century,” said Joni Blackman, Executive Director, “I’m looking forward to an interesting, informative, and fun night.”

In July of 1921, the Southwestern Tier Association for the Blind (STAB) was established. Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties pooled their volunteers, governmental support, donations and time to educate and enhance the lives of those struggling with vision impairments and loss. “Providing preventative, educational and industrial work for the blind” was foremost in the New York State Commission for the Blind’s plans at that time. Over the past 100 years the three counties that made up the Association have changed a number of times. Currently the Association serves Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties. The name changed to the Chautauqua Blind Association, Inc. in the 1950s, and in 1982 to CBA Vision Rehabilitation Services to better reflect the agency’s work.

Local Lions Clubs and their Auxiliaries, along with many other volunteers throughout the tri-county area have been the backbone of the organization’s volunteer work force. The organization has always had an Executive Secretary to do the administrative work and a teacher to instruct the clients. The first Executive Director came on board in 1975 with the professional staff replacing volunteers in 1979.

The New York State Commission for the Blind has been a partner with CBA from the start. Currently, as a contract agency, the Commission supports most of the therapy and training provided by the agency staff.

This clipping from CBA’s 75th anniversary in 1996 shows the orientation of new board members, highlighting the tools and skills that are taught to vision impaired clients so they can better understand the services of the agency.

The Association has provided assistance and training to the visually impaired since it’s conception, youth and child vision screening was started in 1970 to answer the need to diagnose and treat eye conditions in young children. This program is not financially supported by the Commission, but by local donations and funders such as the Juliet Rosch Foundation and the United Ways of both north and south Chautauqua County. Currently, the organization’s signature fundraiser, Dining in the Dark, supports this program.

All proceeds from the event support the Youth Vision Screening program which provided free vision screening to over 3,000 children each year in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties. The program screens primarily children ages 3 to 6 and has screened many older children. In addition, the program can assist families with eye exams and glasses, if needed. The program can set a child on a successful education path. “The last 100 years have given us plenty of reasons to celebrate. From our very first vision screening in 1971 to the newly created Timothy Grace Sight for Success Program, we are proud of the programs we offer and the clients we have served” says Kelly Fiorella, co-president of CBA.

“We invite the public to join us as we celebrate our centennial milestone. We are honored and look forward to serving the visually impaired community for the next 100 years. Thank you to the many individual donors, supporters and local foundations who have continued to believe in our mission.”

Sponsors of the event are Chautauqua Chemicals Co, Inc., Andrew and Lisa Goodell, UPMC Chautauqua, Weber Knapp Company, Ahlstrom Schaeffer Electric Corporation, Fessenden, Laumer & DeAngelo Attorneys at Law, Spectrum Eyecare, The Post-Journal, Allied Alarm Services, Integrated Benefit Solutions, Cattaraugus County Bank and Rhoe B. Henderson Agency, Inc. Sponsorships at all levels are still available.

The silent and live auction include many hand-crafted items. Auction items donated to date are handcrafted live edge wood benches, decorative tables, paintings by local vision impaired clients, a hand-made quilt, jewelry, and many other hand-crafted items and themed baskets. Auction items are still being donated and are welcome. Please contact Executive Director Joni Blackman to sponsor or donate at 716-664-6660.

The event includes dinner, auction and an interesting program about the history and ongoing work of the agency. Tickets are $65 per person and include a commemorative beer or wine glass. To purchase a ticket, please visit www.chautauquablind.org. For further information please contact Executive Director Joni Blackman at 716-664-6660 or director@chautauquablind.org