Volunteer

Image: Service Enterprise Certification BadgeYou can positively affect the lives of Iowans by volunteering with the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. By volunteering with us, you can use your skills and talents to help us reach more people.

Every year, hundreds of volunteers across the country share their time and talents with the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and the Iowa Department for the Blind.  Their efforts are an invaluable resource to our agency and those we serve.

We are always interested in more volunteers. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer opportunities please see our volunteer page on the Iowa Department for the Blind’s website.

IDB Announces 2023 Perowsky Volunteer Award Recipient

Our Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award is given in honor of Elizabeth Perowsky of Des Moines, Iowa, who was a volunteer Braille transcriber for more than 60 years. She taught herself to Braille and was certified in literary, Nemeth, and music Braille by the Library of Congress. Elizabeth was the group leader and main teacher for the Temple Sisterhood Braille Group. She also conducted Braille workshops throughout the country, teaching others how to Braille.  Near the end of her life, Elizabeth’s hands were so impacted by arthritis that she would tell her assistant which keys to press on the computer keyboard to form the Braille letters. This allowed her to continue Brailling when she could no longer type. Elizabeth was still Brailling within a few weeks of her death at the age of 97 in May 1996.

The text on the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer Award states: “For extraordinary spirit and inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind” is one of the best ways to describe this year’s recipient.

It is our honor to present the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award to Sandi Ryan.  Sandi has shown inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind in so many ways.  Her true dedication has shown through in her many volunteer roles.  These have included advocacy, mentoring, braille proofreading and public service as a four-term member and Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind.  “We are thankful for Sandi’s constant support of the library.  Her passion for braille and braille literacy especially for our youngest patrons is infectious.  Sandi exemplifies exactly what this award stands for,” said Library Director, Sarah Willeford.

Her work as Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind has helped the Iowa department for the Blind to continue to innovate and expand services to blind Iowans of all ages. Sandi’s amazing attitude, words of wisdom and sense of humor have impacted so many. IDB Director, Emily Wharton, stated: “Whenever I needed anything, someone to look over a draft policy, someone to talk through a challenging decision, someone to make me laugh instead of cry at one of the many absurdities that arise when trying to make change within the state bureaucracy, Sandi was there with ideas, honest feedback, understanding, and a swift kick when I needed it. She has been an invaluable mentor and so much of the success we have achieved is at least in part due to her work on behalf of blind Iowans.”

“Sandi completed all of the lessons in the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing from the National Library Service, which is quite an accomplishment!  Sandi proofread and made corrections on collection books done on a Perkins by one of our volunteer braillists. We could always count on Sandi to take on proofreading projects and help with scorekeeping for the Braille Challenge. Sandi’s work was always accurate & detailed,” shared Karen Cunningham, IMC Librarian, and Roxanne Book, Braille Coordinator.  

Youth Librarian, Denise Bean expressed, “Sandi’s warmth and love for others is simply undeniable. Sandi lives her life with a clear vision and intention to make this world a better place, if only more in the world could be like her, if so, our world would be a better place. She would share countless stories of her family that would bring laughter and even a tear to a room. Thank you, Sandi, for being a rock to so many around you. You have taught all of us to stay strong, stay determined, and most importantly, stay passionate in what you believe in.” 

Normally this award would be awarded during the library’s annual Elizabeth Perowsky Workshop and Luncheon in April.   However, after a year-long battle with liver cancer, Sandi has entered hospice care.  We determined it would be wise to present her with the award early. However, we also look forward to celebrating again in April at the Elizabeth Perowsky Workshop and Luncheon.  

Please help us in congratulating Sandi Ryan for her many years of impactful volunteer service to the Iowa Department for the Blind. She has made a difference in the life of countless blind Iowans. Her work will go on and her work will be picked up and carried forward by other passionate and hard-working volunteers and advocates.

2022 Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Program and Workshops

Each year the Library and the Iowa Department for the Blind honors their volunteers with the Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Program.  This year’s theme was Our Volunteer Take the Prize and was held virtually using Zoom rather than in-person on Friday, April 22nd.   Despite a difficult and complicated year, the library accomplished so much by continuing and expanding services and programs which could not have been done without the help of our volunteers.

During the program, the Friends of the Library presented the library with their annual contribution in the amount of $12,000.00.  Throughout the year the Friends raise funds through memberships and events which is then given to the library.  These funds are essential to the success of many library programs such as; the Iowa Regional Braille Challenge, year round youth programming, the new youth library space, the purchase of a 3D printer, additions to the library’s collection and so much more.  The library would like to thank the Friends of the Library for their constant support, advocacy and commitment.  For more information about the Friends of the Library http://www.iafriendslibraryfortheblind.org/

As part of the Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer program we honor volunteers who have gone above and beyond throughout the year to assist and support the library.

Transcriber Pins

This small bronze medallion is given by the Iowa Department for the Blind to volunteers. It recognizes the completion of the first book by a Braillist, Narrator, or forty hours of other service. The pin was originally designed to symbolize the skills of the Braillist and Narrator with the two rings of an open reel encircling the outline of the State of Iowa, and six dots of a full Braille cell on each side of the state outline.  The pin has become symbolic of all volunteer service to the Department for the Blind. It celebrates the generosity of the volunteer and an on-going relationship with the Department.

MVPs (Master Volunteer Partners)

The MVP or Master Volunteer Partner recognizes individuals or groups who have gone above and beyond during the year to assist the library with projects and programs.  Moving the library forward and helping us reach our goals we had for the year.

Florence Grannis Library Service Award

The Florence Grannis Library Service Award is given annually to honor individuals whose exemplary service recalls the selfless spirit of Ms. Grannis, the founder of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Grannis, who died in 2004, served as regional librarian from the Library’s inception in 1960 until her retirement in 1976.  Florence said, “A library for the blind should supply borrowers the books and information they want when they want them.”  This year we had two individuals who received the Florence Grannis Library Service Award.

Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award

For more than 60 years, Elizabeth Perowsky of Des Moines was a volunteer Braille transcriber. She taught herself to Braille and was certified in literary, Nemeth, and music Braille by the Library of Congress.  Elizabeth was the group leader and main teacher for the Temple Sisterhood Braille Group. She also conducted Braille workshops throughout the country, teaching others how to Braille.  Near the end of her life, Elizabeth’s hands were so disabled by arthritis that she would tell her assistant which keys to press on the computer keyboard to form the Braille letters. This allowed her to continue Brailling when she could no longer type.  Elizabeth was still Brailling within a few weeks of her death at the age of 97 in May, 1996.  In honor of Elizabeth, the text on the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer Award states: “For extraordinary spirit and inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind”.

This year’s Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award did not go to an individual, but to all of our volunteers who helped throughout this challenging year.  Each volunteer’s dedication allowed the library to continue to provide important services to Iowans.

We thank all of our volunteers for your continual support, contributions, enthusiasm, dedication, and passion that help us serve our patrons and Iowans.  Thank you for making a difference in the lives of others and for helping us tell our libraries story.