Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Why I Volunteer at CVI

As we embark on the holiday season and experience traveling to visit friends and family, eating delicious traditional holiday foods, sharing special moments and shopping for gifts; let’s take a minute to acknowledge our volunteers. As a non-profit organization, one of CVI’s most valuable assets are our volunteers. They assist those with vision loss by reading their mail, recording print materials into audio versions, helping with our children’s programs, assisting with grocery shopping and running other errands. We are grateful for our volunteers and all the time, energy and efforts they contribute to us. Below is a story from one of our volunteers as she shares her experience.

Brittany Polatis - CVI Volunteer PhotoIn March 2009, my tennis-playing, kindergarten-teacher mother was in a car accident that left her barely able to walk. My family and all our friends pitched in to help her through those rough months after the accident, and although we knew that her life would never be the same, we took comfort in being together and in my mother’s positive, thankful-to-be-alive attitude. As she slowly returned to as normal a life as possible, I realized that I wanted to continue helping people in some meaningful way. I had volunteered in different organizations before, but I had often felt that I wasn’t contributing anything really important, so I looked for a place where I could have close, meaningful contact with people in need.

When I found CVI online and went in for an orientation, it felt right. Even though I had never worked with a visually-impaired person and was a bit nervous about getting it right, I signed up to help someone read their mail.I volunteered to visit an older man—mainly because he lived relatively nearby—and in the months since I started going to see him, I think we’ve established a close relationship.

I visit Mr. Frank every other week, and not only do I read his mail, I also check up on his life. He tells me about his colorful life history, worries about me staying safe while traveling, and regularly sends greetings to my family. I read out the winning numbers for his lottery tickets, give him updates about what’s happening outside, and of course help organize his mail and bills. Although he’s never seen me, he trusts me more than some of his own family members, and I feel that I am truly making a difference in his life. Of course, when you begin a close relationship, you never know where it will take you.

Last year, I had a scare when Mr. Frank didn’t return my phone calls for weeks, and I later found out through CVI that he had been hospitalized with another stroke. Fortunately he recovered and all seems well, but the experience reminded me of how important it is to do what I can while I can still do it. I’m so glad I took a chance and reached out to a stranger—just as I had hoped, it has been one of the most meaningful ways I’ve ever helped anyone.

Why not make volunteering at CVI one of your New Year’s resolutions? For more information on volunteering at CVI, contact Lara Tillery, Volunteer Coordinator, at 404-875-9011.