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With New Name, Leading NJ Vision Loss Nonprofit Prepares to Handle Growing Needs

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“I tell everybody, I may have lost my sight, but I have not lost my vision!’’ Credits: Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey
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DENVILLE,NJ-NJ Foundation for the Blind, one of the state’s longest-serving nonprofits for adults with profound vision loss, is broadening support for this growing population under its new name, Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey.

Since its founding as a residential camp for blind women in 1943, Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey has been at the forefront of empowering people who lose their sight so they can lead engaged, productive and independent lives. The nonprofit has helped well over 50,000 people.

“We at Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey are proud of our roots and our standing as a leader in the field, and we are poised to expand access to our programs to reach the growing number of people in northern New Jersey with profound vision loss,’’ Executive Director Kris Marino said. 

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Marino explained that the organization changed its name “to more accurately reflect our alliance with the individuals and communities we serve and with supporters, who recognize how crucial our services are.” The nonprofit provides the only non-residential, comprehensive life-skills training programs in the state for adults with profound vision loss.

More than 130,000 individuals over the age of 35 in New Jersey are either blind or have serious vision loss, according to state statistics, and cases of eye diseases that can lead to vision loss — especially macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy — are increasing as the population ages. The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, projects a three-fold increase in cases of blindness alone by 2050.

“Most people know someone who has lost their vision,” Marino said. 

Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey addresses the physical, emotional and social needs of people who lose their sight, Marino said. Certified instructors teach participants practical skills, such as how to get around and cook safely in their home, and coping skills to overcome the feelings of isolation and fear, she said. They develop confidence, and learn how to harness the power of technology to keep them informed and connected. And often, they discover through classes a passion for painting, pottery or dancing.

In addition to adopting a name, Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey has recently undergone another change, relocating within Denville from its longtime address on Diamond Spring Road to 155 Morris Ave. 

“We have more than 5,000 square feet of easily accessible program space,’’ Marino said. The nonprofit also runs classes in Montclair, Ridgewood, and Sparta, and “our strategic plans calls for expanding programs to more communities in the future,” she said.

Charlene Jaycox of Parsippany is among the thousands of people Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey has helped to build a new life roadmap. The voracious reader had been grief-stricken when she lost most of her sight.

“I had to come here at 71 and going blind to find out I like to paint. And people like what I paint,” Jaycox said. “I tell everybody, I may have lost my sight, but I have not lost my vision!’’

Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey is hosting an open house at its Denville location for community leaders and the public on Feb. 11, from 5 to 7 p.m.  Anyone interested should contact Nina McCormack, director of Development & Communications, at nmcormack@vlanj.org or 973-627-0055.

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