2016-2017 Annual Report

Click here for a PDF of the 2016-2017 Annual Report. Full text follows.


Picture of blue Iris sign on Park Avenue amidst trees with full fall colors

Annual Impact Report

Page 1:

A Year in Review (October 1, 2016 - September 30, 2017)
The Iris Network served 965 consumers (24% increase from 2015-16)
Low Vision Clinic served 233 patients
Iris Park Apartments served 35 residents with access to meals, light case management, and recreation
The Rehabilitation Center served 23 students and graduated 18 from a 2 to 22 week intensive program
Vision Rehabilitation Services served 612
Access Technology Employment Services served 62
The Iris Network provided 28,640 hours of direct service to consumers
The Iris Network provided 43,705 hours of service 

Page 2:

Jim Phipps Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

After his retirement in June of 2017 and subsequent move to Mexico, VisionServe Alliance was pleased to honor Jim Phipps with a Lifetime Achievement Award. At the Wharton School of Business, Jim earned an MBA, and at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, he earned his JD and practiced law for 21 years. Jim also wore many charitable hats and served several years on the Board of The Iris Network and as its chairman. When The Iris Network was sorely in need of leadership, Jim was named Executive Director in 2008. Jim has a very strong work ethic and also a great compassion for others. In addition to improving The Iris Network’s state-wide service delivery system, he grew The Iris Network’s budget to $3 Million, improved legislative relationships, served on VisionServe’s board, and was instrumental in acquiring an establishment grant that allowed The Iris Network to remodel a three-story building, which he oversaw most details in planning and construction. This building is now home to the agency and a new residential rehabilitation center for eligible, working-age people who are blind or visually impaired, who come from across the country to gain the skills needed to return to or join a competitive workforce.

Picture of James Phipps receiving Lifetime Achievement Award

Board of Directors (List)
Officer on Board (List)

Picture of Dr. David Barnwell, DBA, President/Executive Director of The Iris Network (2018)

“After Jim’s retirement and an extensive national-wide search, we are pleased to welcome Dr. David Barnwell, DBA as the new President/Executive Director of The Iris Network.” – David Joyce, Board Chair

Page 3:

Community Events

The Low Vision Clinic coordinated several “Demo Days” to demonstrate equipment designed to support daily functioning for people who are visually impaired. Other special events included BonTon Community DaysLeonardo’s Pizza donated partial proceeds from their pizza sales in the month of May. The Falmouth Lions with support from the Portland Lions came roaring in and raised a record-breaking amount for parking cars for Sea DogsRed Claws, and other local events. UNUM donated baseball tickets handed out to clients and volunteers. We participated with United Way of Greater Portland in their annual campaign. The Adaptive Outdoor Education Center (AOEC) ramped up our recreational activities for residents of Iris Park Apartments and visiting students at the Rehabilitation Center with sailing, skiing, rock climbing, hiking on adventure trails and stays at their lodge designed for people with disabilities in Carrabassett Valley at Sugarloaf Mountain. Portland Wheelers provided adaptive biking at The Iris Network. Shared Vision Quest partnered with The Iris Network promoting a bike ride by a two-man team of a sighted and visually impaired biker across the country from Seattle, WA to Lubec, Maine. The Iris Network was selected to receive proceeds from the Westbrook Eagles. A student was interviewed at the Portland Media Group (formerly Community Television Network) and a reporter from the show 207 did a piece on the Rehabilitation Center on WSCH-Channel 6Lowes donated a grill for our annual silent auction at the White Cane Walk for Independence, along with local artists and Shipyard Brewing CompanyAngel Eyes Foundation held a golf tournament in Litchfield on September 23rd and presented a $3,000 check to The Iris Network at the Walk. A meaningful life celebration service was held at Iris Park Apartments for a former resident who had passed away. The Iris Network was invited to a benefit breakfast held at the NoNantum Resort in Kennebunkport. A summer solstice event was held with support from Casco Bay Eyecare.

Picture of Angel Eyes Foundation Nicky and Rob Angelides with family and friends
Picture of Community participants at White Cane Walk for Independence
Picture of Resident of Iris Park Apartments
Picture of Summer solstice event sponsored by Casco Bay EyeCare

Page 4:

Four Decades of Service

A big WOW and congratulations goes out to miracle workers Laura Vittorioso and Terri Tomchak for working at The Iris Network for 40 years! In February, 1978, Laura started at The Maine Center for the Blind as a newbie to the field. Over the years and decades, Laura has shown tremendous flexibility, knowledge and growth within the field as she has held many roles for the agency. Laura has provided immeasurable teamwork and education to our staff as well as to interns in the field and to the community at large. The impact she has had on the agency is invaluable and we are so grateful and pleased that she continues her journey in the blindness field with us. We are thankful for her forty years of continued service! Terri, employed since February 1977, has enjoyed the diversity of her job in the development department. She has worn many hats over the years: from managing the department, overseeing events, handling contributions, maintaining the database, and generating newsletters. Terri states, “I’ve seen many positive changes develop in my years of service as well as the growth and expansion of programs and services. Knowing that I’ve helped to raise funds in support of services for people who are blind or visually impaired and helping to promote The Iris Network’s mission and goals is so gratifying.” In 2014, Terri chose to retire, however after a short break returned and accepted a part-time position at The Iris Network. She now continues to work in the development department, assisting the Development Director as the Donor Relations Manager. We couldn't have been successful without Terri!

Gifts in Honor (List) 

Picture of Laura Vittorioso, Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (Left) and Terri Tomchak, Donor Relations Manager (Right)

The ongoing strong partnership between The Iris Network and Maine’s Division for the Blind & Visually Impaired allows us to best serve consumers in Maine.

Page 5:

Top Walk Sponsors (List)

Financials (List – showing a deficit for the year of -$173,068) 

You can leave a gift in memory of or as a tribute to a loved one or can call us to leave a legacy gift to help future generations.

Call us at (207) 774-6273. 

Page 6:

In Memory (List) 

Page 7:

Lions Club Donors (List)
Consumer Advisory Committee Members (List)
Thank you to our Grant-Makers! (List) 

We are especially grateful to our donors & volunteers who support our work!

Page 8:

Rehabilitation Center Success!

"I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it." — Maya Angelou When Julie Voisine learned about the Rehabilitation Center Program offered by The Iris Network, she had no idea it would change her life in so many ways. The program taught her new skills, but more importantly, it taught her a new way to see herself. “I have always believed that I am disabled,” she said. “Now, I know I am ENABLED. I am empowered. I can do anything. I have learned who I am, who I want to be. I will no longer allow myself, or the world, to label my vision loss as a negative factor." Julie has retinitis pigmentosa (RP). RP is inherited and causes a gradual degeneration of the retinas. It is often referred to as “tunnel vision” because it usually affects peripheral vision first. More recently, Julie also developed macular degeneration, which affects central vision. During her training at the Rehabilitation Center, a certified orientation and mobility specialist taught her to travel safely on the streets of Portland, using a white cane. She learned to plan routes, take various forms of public transportation, use audio GPS, and ask for directions when needed. “It has made it easier for me to be able to socialize,” Julie said. “I am more confident. I no longer have to worry about being inside my house at a certain time because it is getting too dark. I have learned that I can be safe traveling in the dark — I have the tools needed to do this. It is an amazing feeling!” The customized 2-22 week program is intensive, with more than 40 hours per week spent on learning new skills. Vocational rehabilitation counselors and employment specialists help prepare students for the world of work. Some are new to the workforce; others are re-entering, or learning skills so they can keep their current employment. Assistive technology specialists introduced Julie and her classmates to the latest in accessible technology: using voice commands, audio screen readers, magnifiers and recording devices. “I have learned how to use screen reading software programs for the computer, keyboard shortcuts, and how to access printed materials,” Julie said. “All of these skills I can transfer to my future employment.” “Growing up in rural Maine, I had not thought I’d be able to get a job and be a productive, fulfilled, employed individual because of my visual impairment,” Julie said. “Now, I am very excited to put into practice what I have learned here. I now know that I can do jobs that sighted people do. Once I leave here, I plan on getting certified as a nursing associate.” Julie’s enthusiasm is boundless. “To me this program is about freedom — the freedom to outgrow who I was and become the person I had no idea I could be — the freedom to explore, and decide who I want to be. In short, I HAVE FOUND HER!”

Picture of Julie Voisine


Picture of Iris sign with folks walking by with white canes

Iris logo

Call us at 207-774-6273 or visit www.theiris.org

189 Park Avenue – Portland, Maine 04102

The Iris Network is a community-benefit 501c3 organization with a mission of helping people who are visually impaired or blind attain independence and community integration.

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