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Visually impaired have new program, site in Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s school for the blind may be closed because of budget cutbacks. But students have banded together, formed a non-profit organization and found a home. The Activity Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired met for the first time at its new location in a room at Downtown Auburn’s Livingston Block on High Street. The room has been provided free of charge and plans are to start bringing in supplies and start up in September where the Placer Visual Service Center left off when the Placer School for Adults shut it down Aug. 13 because of budget cuts. Cauzet Chalko, a board member of the newly formed non-profit, said the group isn’t completely settled yet and will continue to need donations of supplies. But the free room provided by Livingston Block owner Alfred Lee will give the group a good start. The Place School for Adults called for the shutdown in June after state and local spending cuts forced a 20 percent reduction in expenditures. The school had been a place for Auburn’s visually impaired to go to for 34 years to learn life skills and socialize. Crafts were — and will be — a big part of the school’s schedule. When the school shut down, there was the possibility that its supplies and equipment would be kept by the Placer Union High School District, which oversees the school for adults. But Superintendent Dave Horsey was able to donate all the supplies and equipment the class had been using to the newly formed group, said Deborah Albee, activity center development director. Craft work runs the gamut from ceramics and woodworking to crocheting. Participants don’t have to be totally blind to be involved. Thirteen showed up for the initial organizational meeting of the new organization this past week. Transportation is also going to be good, with Auburn Transit drivers willing to drop participants off at the Harrison Avenue entrance to the Livingston Block. Chalko said her macular degeneration came on slowly but eventually it got to the point where she became legally blind. Fearing embarrassment, she shunned family get-togethers, worried about what others would think as she tried to negotiate the things that had been easy before, like eating and drinking at the supper table. Chalko said she took living skills instruction with the school but really found a focus with the crafts and camaraderie. That will now continue. “It showed me I can be useful,” Chalko said. “I’m crocheting up a storm like I used to.” Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.