2014-2015 Annual Report

Click here for a PDF of the 2014-2015 Annual Report. Full text follows.

For 110 years The Iris Network has served citizens of Maine who are blind or visually impaired. Thanks to you, here’s what we were able to accomplish this year!

933 Mainers received services

8,024 direct service hours were provided

We served 16 counties

Our new Rehabilitation Center opened

Our new dormitory opened

Message from our Leadership

The Iris Network took a historic step this year, thanks to you! In September 2015, we cut the ribbon to our newly renovated William J. Ryan Building. It is a beautiful, state-of-the-art Rehabilitation Center offering primary vision rehabilitation and pre-vocational training programs. Thanks to generous public and private contributions, including the Gibney Family Foundation, we successfully completed a $1.7 million capital campaign to fund the renovation. Michael Charek Architects and AlliedCook Construction completed the work.

We are now prepared for working-age students who are blind or visually impaired from Maine and across the country to attend classes for up to 12-weeks. Twelve participants will be housed on campus in a stately 19th century residence located within a half a mile.

These training programs empower our students to succeed. The students learn the skills needed for independence and integration into community life. Our staff experts offer training in the use of the latest accessible technology. Students learn the skills needed to live without vision.

We’ve come a long way. Our founder, William J. Ryan would be proud. He was a visually impaired almanac salesman. He founded The Iris Network in 1905 so that people like him would be able to “stand up at the workbench and earn one’s daily bread.” We hope you are also proud of what your generosity made possible.

Thank you for all you do to support our success!

Katherine Ray, Board Chair

James Phipps, President and Executive Director

When someone loses their vision, it has an impact on every facet of their life. So do we. 

When someone loses their vision, it has an impact on every facet of their life. So do we.

Thanks to you, our vision professionals reach people from teens to centenarians, where they live and work. We offer training and support in daily tasks, employment, and recreation.

We begin by helping them adjust to living without vision. We listen to understand their goals, and guide them in creating a personalized plan so they will know what next steps to take. We work everywhere -- in hospital rooms, homes, and office settings.

Concerned friends or family members are often the ones who initially call us for information about our services. Medical doctors, home health care workers, and hospital staff also make referrals. And many of the people we serve call us directly. 

For someone who has lost their vision, it is the first step on the path to learning how they can lead a safe, independent, and fulfilling life. 

Mainers who called us.

When he was a child, Matt dreamed of being a firefighter or police officer. He wanted to help people. There was just one problem. His vision is impaired. As he grew, he began to realize he’d need to follow a different career path.

Matt decided to go to college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Southern Maine. And then, he reached out to The Iris Network for assistance in career exploration.

You can imagine his delight when we set up a work experience for Matt with the Portland Police Department. He had the opportunity to observe the many civilian support positions within a big city police department. He volunteered at the Parkside Community Policing Center.

As a result of this experience, Matt has an expanded understandingof civil service. He can base his future job searches on his personal experience. And he can rekindle his childhood dreams.

A few years ago, Virginia faced a terrific challenge. She had been diagnosed with macular degeneration. After several cataract surgeries, her doctor told her, “There is no way I can help you further.” But then, her doctor gave her one more piece of information that made all the difference. She gave Virginia the phone number for The Iris Network.

“Everyone I’ve met from The Iris Network has been so good to me,” Virginia said. “They really want to help.”

Virginia has been an avid reader her entire life. She didn’t want her vision loss to keep her from reading. Thanks to The Iris Network, she now uses a video magnifier to read large print books -- everything from history, to politics, and mysteries. Though she loves the feel of paper and the weight of a book, Virginia is also exploring digital books.

“The professionals from The Iris Network came to my home. They taught me how to continue to do what I want to do, but in a different way.” Virginia realized she wasn’t alone. She would face her vision loss together with The Iris Network. She said, “This isn’t going to be so bad after all!”

“Maine is proud of this investment in blindness rehabilitation.” Jeanne Paquette, Commissioner, Maine Department of Labor

When people work together great things happen! This year, we took on an ambitious plan to transform the way we offer services to people with vision loss. By renovating the William J. Ryan Building and purchasing a residential building, we are now able to offer better and more efficient services to more people.

Now, instead of short visits from staff, clients will have a full-immersion experience during their training at the Rehabilitation Center. They will live among classmates and share their own experiences, skills, friendship, and support. When they graduate from our programs, they will be equipped with the tools and techniques necessary for independent living. They will be prepared to address their goals -- further education, employment, and community involvement.

The success of our plan is due to an ambitious public-private collaboration involving The Iris Network, Maine’s Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration, The Gibney Family Foundation, and Community Development Block Grants through the City of Portland, along with individual, foundation, and corporate philanthropy. Working together, we have enhanced Maine’s blindness rehabilitation services. We’re very excited about our potential to attract people with vision loss from across the nation to Maine. 

Our first class of students graduated from training at the newly renovated historic William J. Ryan building in September. Many of them were newly blind, and were adjusting to their loss of vision. Please join us in congratulating them on their achievements. And thank you for helping to make our vision a reality.


Unanticipated capital campaign expenses were incurred and negotiations with the State of Maine resulted in contract revenue reductions which caused a deficit in our annual operating results. Our support and revenue for the year totaled $2,294,786. Our expenses totaled $2,422,374. This is a change in net assets of $(127,588).

Support and Revenue are broken out in the following line items: General Contributions, $248,913; Fees for Service, $1,723,364; Grants and Foundations, $96,742; Event Income, $82,322; Adaptive Equipment Sales, $40,270; Other Revenue, $103,175. In terms of percentages: 74% of Support and Revenue comes from Fees for Service; 11% comes from General Contributions; 4% comes from Grants and Foundations, Event Income, and Other Revenue each; and the final 2% comes from Adaptive Equipment Sales. 

Expenses are broken out in the following line items: Program Expenses, $1,927,704; Fundraising, $235,868; Management and General, $258,802. In terms of percentages: The Program Expenses are 80% of total; and Fundraising and Management and General are 10% each.

Annual Fund

Thank you to all our donors. Your generosity makes a difference in providing needed services for those who are blind or visually impaired.

We are deeply grateful for grant awards received from the following private and community foundations: Sam L. Cohen Foundation ($15,000), Agnes Lindsay Trust ($3,295), Fisher Charitable Trust ($4,000), Portland Provident Association ($1,500), PHRMA ($1,250), Libra Foundation ($5,000), Mary T. & Curtis D. Lovill Trust ($19,300), Davis Family Foundation ($25,000), United Way of Greater Portland ($20,000), and, as a sub-recipient of a National Institutes of Health grant.

Lions Clubs

Bristol Area Lions, Cape Elizabeth Lions, Cumberland-North Yarmouth Lions, Damariscotta-Newcastle Lions, Falmouth Lions, Freeport Lioness-Lions, Gray-New Gloucester Lions, Limerick Newfield Lions, Peaks Island Lions, Portland Lions, Raymond Lions, Sanford Lions, Sebago Lions, Skowhegan Lions, Waldoboro Lions, Yarmouth Lions, York Lions

In Memory

Of Mary Amerighi, Mary Ellen Porrata. Of Beverly Babic, Susan Anderson, Jim and Marilyn Dickman, Bruce and Marilyn Soper, Bob and Terri Tomchak Of Richard Benshimol, Helen Ackley, Brenda Bacon, James Beaudry, Ed.D, Luanne Benshimol, Dr. and Mrs. John Casey, Thimios Christodoulopoulos, Elizabeth Duffy, Linda Evens, William and Elaine Harmon, Robert Howitt, WKBJ Partnership Foundation, Harold Jamieson, Elaine Johnston, Robert and Karen Mann, Marie Marchitelli, Sally Maselunas and family, Wendy Matthews, Sharon de Groot and Susanne McCarthy, Harold and June Noreen, Eugene Piana, D.D.S., Mary Proulx, Kenneth Roberts, Mr. and Mrs. Levi Ross, Martin and Judy Ryan, Jane and David Shapiro, Joanne Tomao, Martha Woodbridge, Wells Visually Impaired Support Group. Of H. Clifford and Pauline Berry, Philip and Darlene Caverhill. Of Eleanor Clement, Susan Clement. Of Robert Crouse, Martha Cavin, Maxine Crouse. Of Rico Crovetti, Holm Fielding and family, Joanne Moulton. Of Richard Eaton, Wells Visually Impaired Support Group.  Of Jim Forestell, Mary and Bill Keith. Of Richard Foss, Peter Foss, The Foss Company. Of Lillian Funk, Steven and Carol Funk. Of Thomas Hey, Susan Wallace. Of Rose Estelle Lachance, Terri Norton. Of Lillian Leverone, Gloria and Les Pelc. Of Horace Mann, Constance Barker. Of Martha Hodgkins Rafter, Bruce and Elizabeth Chandler. Of Charles Meier, Bud and Helen Blumenstock, Jonathan and Nancy Connor, Poppy Connor-Crouch, Charles Dahlman, Herb and Brenda Dahlman, Nancy and Charles Dahlman, Lisa Erhardt, Jeffrey and Lisa Hale, Ron Johnson, Helen Meier, Steven Meier, Julie Moller, Rose Raymond, St. Stephens Lutheran Church, Russell and Maralie Van Arsdale, Deborah Vander Heiden, Julia Yaist. Of Suzanne Popplewell, Sara Cowan. Of Bert Silverman, Dan and Becky Afergan. Of Robert Stokinger, Kathryn Crowley, Chip Gavin, John Geaney, Edith Hucksman, Sister Mary Murray, Ralph and Barbara Richards, Gladys Stokinger, Janice Stokinger, John Stokinger, Phyliss White, James Williamson Susquehanna Bank. Of Aline Thibeault, Paula Bove, Stella Forcier, Karen Martel, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Prevost, Andrew Wolanski.

In Honor

Of Ellen Finley Flach, Michael & Rosemary Wood. Of Martha Hodgkins, Patricia Beckford. Of Bett Jarrett, Beth Vangorden. Of Bill Otis, Elliot and Elizabeth Green. Of Terri Tomchak, Margie and Barry Afergan.    

Employees of the Year: Samantha Green and Stephen Trabold

Throughout the changes and challenges this year, our employees took it all in stride. We’d like to celebrate the accomplishments of two of our employees.

Samantha Green took to the road with a smile on her face and new responsibilities under her belt. She became the northern vision rehabilitation services team leader. That meant adding management responsibilities to her already full plate. She continued to offer quality vision rehabilitation therapy to her clients. We are grateful to have someone with such a wonderful “can do” attitude on our staff.

Stephen Trabold is a finance professional who is deeply committed to social services work. His dedication to the agency’s mission is exemplary. This year, his expertise and commitment was especially invaluable.

The Rehabilitation Center remodel stretched his responsibilities. He handled the year-in and year-out challenges of budgeting, contract negotiation, and audit preparation. And, in addition, he managed the construction contract, and supervised operations while the renovations were in progress. Through all this, Steve maintained his sense of humor. He could be counted on to get things done. His extra efforts did not go unnoticed, and we appreciate it.

Board of Directors

Katharine Ray, Chair; David Joyce, Vice Chair; William Dunn, Treasurer; Frederick Miller, II, M.D., Secretary; Leonard Cole, Esquire; Karen Goldberg; Chandler Jones; Jim Phipps, President and Executive Director; Bruce Roullard; David Stuchiner, M.D.; Walter Woitasek; Stephen Trabold, Chief Financial Officer, Assistant Treasurer; Aparna Shah, Human Resources Manager and Executive Assistant, Assistant Secretary

Step  1  Call us.  1-800-715-0097 or 1-207-774-6273.  Step  2   Get connected to services tailored to your individual vision needs and your goals.

The Iris Network is a state-wide, community-benefit,    501(c)(3) organization with a mission of helping people who are visually impaired or blind attain independence and community integration.


Like us on Facebook!




Support Us