The Redwood Lions Memorial Foundation, helped establish the EBC on 4539 Occidental Road in the late 90's, and helps it operate today. The Santa Rosa Host Lions were very active in helping it get off the ground. Today, our Club, and several others stay actively involved in projects to maintain and improve the Center. Whether it's hacking weeds, repairing the plumbing or painting the buildings, our members stay involved in order to help the blind and near-blind live as normal a life as they can.

From that start, the EBC is now one of the premier centers for assisting the blind and visually impaired anywhere. It opened for business only in 1999, per Phil Swetin, Development Director, and now it provides teaching for people who need to learn how to adapt to deteriorating or lost vision about 450 times per month. This can allow such people to maintain their home and their independence, which is not only great for them, but keeps them off public assistance.

For example, imagine trying to cook without sight, with the spills and burns that could occur! But due to such training at EBC, unsighted people do this every day. There's a training kitchen (and other rooms as well) at the EBC where skilled trainers can help such people stay at home, which is no small feat.

But that's not all, there are BBQs for social fun, exercise classes, technology user groups (yes, blind people can use computers with special software that speaks what's on the screen as well as what you're typing in), tai chi instruction, a blind drummer's group, living with vision loss classes with a psychologist leader, tap dance classes, and more. By the end of each year, about 3,000 such teachings occur. Many are not at the EBC itself, as the people in need can't always travel well, so classes are now at such locations as Lakeport, the Lodge at Paulin Creek, Willits, Sebastapol, Petaluma, and Oakmont Gardens.

So how much does this cost, and how is this funded? I'm glad you asked. Costs are about $1 million per year. Only two-thirds of that is funded by the state and other government agencies, despite the savings that happen by allowing people to stay independent. So every year about $350,000 has to be raised. This is Phil Swetin's main purpose, to lead those efforts. He says that there are three basic sources of funds:

1)  Direct services contributions for current operating expenses, when the public contributes money, or when clients can pay for their training.

2) An endowment fund, where the funds are kept in trust for future needs, so only the earnings of these funds are used for current needs. This fund was started with a grant from the Jean Schulz Fund and and now holds about $80,000. The goal is to build a large enough endowment fund so that the earnings make up any revenue shortfalls. Endowments are a popular choice for people who want to leave a bequest of cash or property that will bring positive result for many future generations.

3) Then there is a separate Building Fund to build a new building featuring a Low Vision Clinic, computer/phone training facilities, and an industrial kitchen and meeting room. This Low Vision Clinic would be the heart, as now local people with degrading vision have to go all the way to Palo Alto for vision assessment. So one at EBC would be the only one from there to the Oregon border. Cost of the building will be about $3 million, of which about $800,000 has been raised to date. We will hear more news about this Building Fund soon.

So the bottom line on funding is that the EBC always needs money to operate, and they need more money to be able to help those with Low Vision. Fundraising is a big part of how this is done. Fundraisers, like the Americana Concert, the "EarleFest", which was held at the EBC in September 2008, require many volunteers to make them successful. To find out how you can help, connect to: http://www.earlebaum.org, or call 707 523-3222.

The Redwood Lions Memorial Foundation has member Lions Clubs of Santa Rosa Host, Montgomery Village, Cloverdale, Roseland and Fort Bragg. The Santa Rosa Host Club has supported the EBC since its founding.

Lion Mike Rogalski,
Santa Rosa Host Lions Club.