Volunteer Spotlights

Cleveland Sight Center is transformed through the energy and passion of volunteers. Here, we turn a spotlight on the many ways volunteers impact our mission and highlight how their work makes a difference for our community.

Know a volunteer who deserves to be spotlighted? Nominate them here!

Sally Miller

Eager, sweet, and lovely are just some of the adjectives clients and CSC staff have used to describe Sally Miller, a longtime Radio Reader for Cleveland Sight Center Radio Reading Network (CSCN)! Dedicated to making a difference in her community, Sally has spent her life devoted to helping and improving the lives of those around her by extensively volunteering her time and energy. A retired nurse, Sally first became involved with CSC back in 2008. Harnessing her passion for reading, she initially read magazines once a week for CSCN, Cleveland Sight Center’s private radio station. Fast forward a couple years, and Sally discovered her love of reading children’s books. Accordingly, she was moved to her present-day assignment of “Children’s Hour” Radio Reader--an hour-long weekly radio session, dedicated solely to the entertainment of children.

For Children’s Hour, Sally notably hand-picks her children’s books herself, visiting the Cleveland Public Library weekly. She describes trying to keep the genres of her choices diverse, usually selecting between biographies, poetry, and non-fiction. Unlike reading for adults, Sally explains the importance of more animation and entertainment in her reading for children. Oftentimes, she’ll stop in the middle of reading to describe the images on the page for the children to hear! She describes: “It’s important to help give them a visual in their head of what they’re hearing.” Sally has also begun reading Dr. Seuss to CSC preschoolers in the classroom, much to the delight of the children. We are so fortunate to have a volunteer with such a big heart like Sally’s - thank you to Sally for your amazing impact on CSC!

 

Sugapradha Saravanan and Anusha Mudigonda

What’s a bit of chaos when you’re having fun? Meet Sugapradha Saravanan, “Suga,” and Anusha Mudigonda, our fun-loving karaoke leaders from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). Together, Anusha and Suga lead the Sing It Out program for clients, a bi-weekly, virtual karaoke program on Wednesday evenings. Both undergraduate students, Suga is a junior majoring in neuroscience, while Anusha is a sophomore double majoring in biochemistry and medical anthropology. Both have dreams of attending medical school in the near future. Already avid volunteers of Cleveland Sight Center (CSC), Suga and Anusha decided to employ their mutual love of singing virtually during the long months of quarantine by leading interactive sing-along sessions beginning in August 2020, a program that clients have embraced with passion and joy. For the first half of sessions, Anusha and Suga put their heads together to come up with a list of songs according to themes such as decades (70’s, 80’s, 90’s), holidays (Christmas, Halloween) and more! The second half allows clients creative liberty as they choose the songs themselves. With the entire Zoom room unmuted, the leaders screenshare the karaoke lyrics, and every participant sings along at the top of their lungs. Suga and Anusha describe: “It can be chaotic at times, but that's part of the fun!”

“Suga and Anusha are wonderful!” Leisure and Lifestyles Manager, Bobbie Szabo, enthusiastically shared. “They are spirited, joyous, and empathetic. Our Sing It Out programs are beloved by our clients not only for how fun it is to sing without a care in the world, but also for the sense of comradery they gain from harmonizing and duetting with their peers. The Leisure & Lifestyle Services Department is so appreciative of Anusha and Suga for the joy they have brought to us.” Even though neither had experience leading virtual sessions before, Anusha stresses the importance of diving in with both feet: “it feels like a hangout with a bunch of friends.” Most of all, Anusha and Suga voiced their joy at having the opportunity to help CSC’s community stay connected. They view their sessions as a chance for clients to come and let loose, enjoy, and simply be themselves—an opportunity to forget their troubles and spend time together. On the power of music, Suga expressed, “Music is so universal; so many different types of people can come together and appreciate it.” We’re beyond delighted to have Suga and Anusha’s to enjoy music with here at CSC, and are so thankful to have them as members of our volunteer family!

 

Case for Sight

As a powerful advocacy group on Case Western Reserve University’s campus, Case For Sight has dedicated itself to raising awareness, volunteering, and fundraising for Cleveland Sight Center. A pre-ophthalmology and vision group based in service, fundraising, and education for Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and the greater Cleveland community, Case For Sight has focused on offering its members volunteer and fundraising opportunities, raising nearly $2000 in support of Cleveland Sight Center (CSC) in the last year, even during COVID-19! By educating the general public on what it means to have low vision or blindness, Case For Sight (CFS) encourages others to support Cleveland Sight Center while also offering remote volunteer opportunities to support CSC programs and services. In previous years, CFS also supported Cleveland Sight Center by hosting Dinner in the Dark, an event to raise funds for CSC and educate people about the obstacles those with blindness may face by offering blindfolds to guests while providing dinner. By eating blindfolded, guests were able to experience how communication is crucial for those with visual impairments. CFS co-presidents Anoushka Gidh and Charles Guo are passionate about ophthalmology and advocacy and are the organizers of the organization and its events along with the talented and dedicated executive board members. The co-presidents expressed, “The most meaningful experiences while volunteering is meeting and working alongside people at CSC – they are all so positive and enthusiastic and it makes all the difference.”

Building on past advocacy and event success, CFS added a new event to their circuit this year, hosting a Disability Dialogue for CWRU’s campus. With over 50 people attending, CWRU students, faculty, and staff were able to have an open conversation about the challenges that those with disabilities face on a daily basis around campus and work with other advocacy groups on campus to propose campus-wide changes that could improve these issues and make change in the community. As a volunteer partner of CSC, we are ever so grateful to Case for Sight and the dedication the group has to education, advocacy, fundraising and volunteering. Through the time and passion this group shares, this group is able to make a real difference on the mission of Cleveland Sight Center. We are so grateful for their impact!

 

Tim leading an Improv Class over Zoom

Tim Pringpuangkeo

Through leading activities filled with imagination, creativity and passion, Tim Pringpuangkeo creates a world where laughter generates connection, bonding people together even when they are miles apart.

First beginning as a Radio Reading volunteer in September 2020, Tim quickly added teaching Improv classes to his repertoire, bringing years of teaching drama in schools and acting experience with him to create fun and interactive programs for CSC clients.

Beginning to teach his classes at the height of Covid-19, Improv became a great outlet for clients to make and sustain friendships and learn new skills along the way.

“Tim has an incredible and infectious energy,” shared Recreation Specialist Bobbie Szabo. “The Improv sessions he leads not only bring joy and humor to our clients, but also help develop important interpersonal and leadership skills—including verbal and nonverbal communication, conflict resolution, problem solving, active listening and team work.”

As for clients, participants of Improv classes look forward to sessions weekly, naming the classes as a highlight of the recreation schedule. “I have never done anything like this before. It was so cool!” one client exclaimed.

As for Tim, his goal for the classes is simple: “I have always enjoyed making peoples' days lighter,” he expressed. For Tim, the joy in teaching Improv is when he feels people come alive, an experience that he explains, helps him discover new things about himself and about those who participate.

Tim has found that he himself is exercising creativity through being involved, developing new games that can be done in a virtual setting by manipulating and mixing games normally practiced in person. The changes Tim makes to adjust these games are seamless, creating nothing but fun and creativity in the lives of CSC clients, and offering them a chance to interact and try something new.

As for Tim, the classes bring joy as well. “I never feel more alive than when I’m teaching people my craft,” he reflected. Aside from radio reading and improv enthusiasm, Tim also brings his zest to CSC in other ways, partnering with the Leisure and Lifestyle Services team to create and record entertaining videos of skits for clients, a fun and unique venture that allows our clients to have fun with CSC even when programs are not scheduled.

Needless to say, CSC is lucky to have the energy and passion that Tim shares. Put in the words of Bobbie Szabo: “Tim is joyous and such an integral part of our Recreation Team. He consistently goes above and beyond for our clients and develops beyond-creative programming. We love having Tim and we would keep him forever if we could!”

Thank you, Tim, for the difference you make in the lives of Cleveland Sight Center clients! We are so lucky to have you as a member of the CSC team.

 

Ally Fedor

Ally Fedor

Just after a drive past CSC, Ally Fedor knew that she wanted to volunteer and make a change. One of CSC’s most creative volunteers, she has been part of the volunteer team since October 2018. Determined to contribute her efforts to several projects, Ally has spent her time at CSC in a number of volunteer roles. With most of her current efforts contributing towards the growth of CSC’s preschool, Ally adapts games to be more accessible to those with low vision by using contrasting colors and creating games to allow children to be more self-sufficient and not hindered by physical limitations. In the past, she has created bean bag and ring toss structures, hallway decorations, and more! Currently, she is working on a tactile train table. Preschool teacher Dorota Tomaszewska emphasized that Ally’s clever projects are not only made to cater to the children, but also to the teachers. If the weather outside calls for rain–no problem! Ally has that covered by making sure everything is weather-resistant. If there’s not enough space to store the bean bag toss structures–no worries. Ally thought ahead and made sure that it was a compact structure that could be easily folded and stowed away.

Ally is very creative and ensures her projects are aesthetically pleasing as well as beautifully intricate in her attention to detail and practicality. These activities allow for more sensory input and engagement for the children. She has a great listening ear and fantastic communication skills to make certain that everything is as best as it can be! Ally emphasized that her volunteer roles helped her grow tremendously: as a Radio Reader, Ally was able to work on public speaking skills, and while working at Highbrook Lodge, she was able to develop her leadership skills.

Ally is currently at Cleveland State University getting a Master’s in Occupational Therapy, and her interest in her studies was influenced while creating more accessible activities for CSC’s preschool. Ally’s passions and willingness to give her time have translated into a meaningful impact, and ensure children at CSC can achieve success through play. Ally says her favorite part about volunteering with CSC is the people; “Everyone is so nice and welcoming, it feels like a big family.” We are so thankful for Ally’s tremendous efforts, hard work, and continuous dedication to CSC!

 

FRED AND DIANNE DISCENZO

Fred and Dianne Discenzo

Time to leave your fears at the door and have fun with some music! Fred and Dianne Discenzo are two of CSC’s most devoted, talented, and fun volunteers. Together, they teach a bi-weekly series of ballroom dance lessons to CSC’s clients. No experience? Not to worry—both Dianne and Fred are skilled, silver level dancers with 15 years of dancing and 10 years of teaching under their belts. They have experience teaching a variety of populations, and are currently leading classes for those with visual impairments, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and at the Center for Aging. The object of each series, they say, is to keep people engaged, socializing, and—most importantly—having fun. Both Dianne and Fred express the sense of accomplishment and feeling of reward they feel when teaching, fondly expressing, “we get a paycheck in laughs and hugs!”

Clients dancing

But why ballroom dance specifically, you may ask? Both agree that there’s value in nice music and good exercise. As a retired engineer, the science-loving side of Fred also points out the health benefits that can result from dancing, and his interest has led him to further pursue research regarding how best to share these benefits with those hesitant or unable to give dance a try. Therefore, Fred has dedicated his time to researching and designing a system in which real-time synchronized motion can be achieved for movement training in dance, an approach Fred hopes can make dance more accessible. In pursuit of this project, Fred completes collaborative research in Avon with Case Western Reserve University and Kent State University. The project focuses on designing a system of wireless sensors and actuators, designed to be worn by the user to help record and guide coordinated and therapeutic movement, all at a low cost to produce. This system could potentially allow a visually-impaired individual to safely complete guided movements in order to perform directed exercises, dances, or other therapeutic motions through feedback provided by sensors. This technology could allow new possibilities for those interested in learning dance safely, collaboratively, or remotely.

Between Fred and Dianne, both express the joy they gather from helping others to have fun and achieve success through dance. On the impact of volunteering, Diannne and Fred describe: “It’s surprising how you affect people in ways you never imagined; it affects their self-value in ways that we never anticipated.” We’re proud and thankful to have both Dianne and Fred as part of our volunteer family here at CSC!

 

Mike Musgrave

Mike Musgrave

To Mike Musgrave, Cleveland Sight Center (CSC) represents community and a lifelong adventure of learning. A teacher in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for 35 years, Mike first brought his passion for education and community to CSC in 2011. Drawn in by a desire to build relationships with clients and staff, Mike has served in over thirteen volunteer roles during his time with the agency. From recording newspapers and articles for CSC’s private radio network to GED® tutoring, reading books aloud in preschool, or helping with administrative tasks and events, Mike’s positive energy has become a staple part of CSC’s community.

For Marjorie Pyles-Hearst, an Adult Education teacher, life without Mike seems unimaginable. “I couldn’t do it without him,” Marjorie expressed, noting how essential Mike has been in understanding strengths and challenges students have and in providing the support they need to earn their GEDs®. For Marjorie, she can see that Mike “has the students in his heart,” a trait he exudes by getting to know them for who they are. In reflecting on his time as a volunteer, Mike says it is relationships like these that make a difference for him. “I have taught clients,” Mike reminisced, “but I’ve also learned from each individual what I can do to improve to support them.” Through his passion, Mike has made and continues to make a lasting impact at CSC, not only through the relationships he forms, but also through his willingness to help with any task that needs completing. CSC is lucky to have his energy and intuition, and for all the time he has and continues to share to nurture our community. Thank you, Mike, for the impact you share!

 

Edith Conzett

Edith Conzett

Former CSC volunteer Edith Conzett joined the Peace Corps at age 66. After completing her service placement in Nepal where she worked in a residential school for those with blindness and low vision, she came to CSC where she spent over 20 years as a braille volunteer.

CSC’s Braille department promotes Braille literacy and availability, specializing in the conversion of print materials into Braille and large print for individuals, schools, restaurants, churches, and more. Always up for a new challenge in her work, Edith took on an array of projects during her time with CSC including creating material for Advanced Placement Calculus and Physics for a high school student and transcribing literature and poetry. She supported work within the Braille Department, completing numerous projects a year on behalf of the agency. Through her work, she has learned French, German, Latin, Ukrainian, and Nepali. Along with CSC’s team of Braille volunteers, Edith’s worked behind the scenes to provide essential materials for people who are blind or visually impaired has made a lasting impact. We are forever grateful for her passion and commitment.