Director Kyle Parrish said a decreasing user base, volunteer core and grant funding led the center’s board of directors to vote to move on from the site at 328 E. Seventh St., in Port Angeles’ Armory Square Mall.
Parrish, who co-founded the facility in May 2008 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, said that last year about 120 people used the site multiple times a month for services such as Braille instruction.
“We have quite a number of satisfied people with products and techniques,” he said. “It’s meant a lot to them.”
This year, he counts about 12-16 people visiting each month. Part of the reason for the recent decrease, Parrish said, is that only a few volunteers are available for the center’s operations. Hours have gone from four or five days a week to two, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and Fridays.
“We haven’t been open when they want us,” Parrish said. “We were hoping to expand in the spring but everything fell apart.”
He estimates that a few years ago there were approximately 2,500 blind people on the North Olympic Peninsula, a number he says has grown to 3,500 or 4,000.
The center’s closure may be troubling for some with transportation issues because the closest facilities similar to the center are in the Bremerton and Seattle areas.
Parrish said they’ll continue to work through the end of the month with people of all levels of vision loss.
The center offers free services such as technology training, try-before-you-buy equipment, hands-on use of innovative technology, donated equipment and more.
“Since we don’t sell anything, we’re free to show people two or three things and let them make an informed decision,” Parrish said.
Move to Sequim?
A large portion of the usership is from Sequim, Parrish said, and that’s why leaders are considering a move to Sequim.
Deb Cox, a board member, said they’ve considered relocating to Sequim for a while.
She is hopeful the center can find a new facility but the board hasn’t put a timeline on it and they plan to store the center’s items in the meantime until reopening.
To catch up on funding, the center also recruited a new grant writer, Susan Carpenter, who begins in May.
Parrish said with her help, the Sequim Valley Lions and others, they hope to find a facility at little or no cost — less than the $500 monthly overhead the center was paying.
“If we can get room and a little bit of funding, we can reopen soon,” Parrish said.
For now the center plans to partner with the Visually Impaired Persons of Sequim, VIPS, to put on seminars in June on vision loss at different facilities in Sequim.
“We’re trying to regroup and find ways to expand information into the public,” Parrish said.
“We want to let them know about different products as much as possible in the summer until we get a location. Then we can get word out and help people.”
With a possible move to Sequim, Parrish is certain they can increase their volunteer base.
He remains hopeful the grants can come back, too.
“We’re serving a community that really needs help and giving them informed choice in aiding them,” he said.
The Vision Loss Center is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and Fridays through Tuesday, April 30.
For more information on services, donations and/or volunteering, call 457-1383 or 775-0958 or visit www.visionlossservices.org.