PLATTSBURGH - The North Country Association for the Visually Impaired has helped thousands overcome their visual impairments and is now hoping to improve its own visibility.
Last week, the nonprofit organization - which provides rehabilitation services to the blind, legally-blind and visually-impaired - moved its central office from Main Street in the village of Lake Placid to the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base in the city of Plattsburgh. The move, said NCAVI executive director Donna M. Abair, was made to increase the organization's ability to collaborate with more medical professionals and community agencies. Now, having resources such as CVPH Medical Center, the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Clinton Community College and some of the area's bigger corporations in close proximity, will only help NCAVI flourish, she added.
"We're looking to grow the agency and get our name more well-known," said Abair. "We believed by relocating to a more populated area we could draw from more people for board members and volunteers."
Though NCAVI serves the people of Clinton, Essex, Franklin and St. Lawrence counties, many who represent and volunteer for the organization live closer to the Plattsburgh area, further justifying the move, said Abair.
"People were having trouble getting to board meetings," she said. "This move will help that but should have no change for the people who use our services."
That's because the organization's services mainly involve volunteers meeting with clients in their homes, said Abair. NCAVI receives referrals from physicians and other agencies, she explained. The referrals help the organization connect the visually-impaired with adaptive visual aids, job training, low-vision exams or other necessary programs and materials to help them remain independent.
"That won't change," Abair emphasized.
Though the organization has been in business since May 1989, its presence is still widely unknown, said Abair.
"We provide a really important service to the community and we feel like not enough people know about it," she said. "I think the agency has been a well-kept secret."
However, it's a secret Abair wants kept no more.
"The whole purpose of these services is so people can remain independent and live in their homes," said Abair. "We want them to know what's available to them."
In another effort to increase awareness of its services, NCAVI will soon begin mailing brief surveys to various agencies and individuals in its four-county service region. The goal of the surveys will be to learn what services are most sought for the visually-impaired and help NCAVI determine the level of quality in the services it currently provides and where it can improve.
The survey will also be made available through the organization's Web site, www.ncavi.org.
Though NCAVI has made the move, Abair said she wants to emphasize how grateful the organization is to Lake Placid as the original home to NCAVI and to its founders, which include Dr. Richard L. Erenstone, an optometrist with Eye Care for the Adirondacks.
"They've spent a lot of years making the agency what it is," said Abair.
NCAVI's new Plattsburgh office, located at 22 U.S. Oval, Suite B-15, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The office may be reached at 562-2330.
An open house is planned for this spring in honor of the organization's 20th anniversary.