Visionaries program follows national trend

The past 12 months have been filled with change for the Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank. It moved into spacious new offices and Executive Director Ginger Miller and her staff saw the disbanding of the Eye Bank Auxiliary, which had been around for an impressive 37 years, and the creation of a new volunteer group.

“People change, things change, but not all change is bad,” Miller said. “It gives us a chance to go in a different direction.”

That direction is Visionaries, made up of former auxiliary members, friends of the Eye Bank and transplant recipients.

“This is the first time we’ve had recipients involved as volunteers,” Miller said.

The Eye Bank Auxiliary was one of only a handful still functioning, not just locally, but nationally . “It’s a symptom of the times,” Miller explained. “People don’t want to take the time. They don’t mind volunteering but they don’t want to be locked into holding office, attending a committee meeting. You have a different force of volunteers and they’re just as dedicated … they’re here when you need them, sometimes too many.”

An orientation for the Visionaries was held last week, conducted by Julia Wallace, the staff member over the program. The volunteers learned facts and figures so they can go out and speak on behalf of the Eye Bank about eye donation at workshops, health fairs and other community programs. Aside from public education, the Eye Bank’s mission is to provide the highest quality eye tissue to local ophthalmologists for transplant surgery.

The transition from auxiliary to Visionaries was a smooth one, made more so by the fact that a few of the auxiliary’s cherished events still will be in place. “We’ll still have the Phantom Breakfast and the Day at the Races,” said Miller, adding that members have already stepped up to chair those two events. “The Day at the Races is set for March 12 and, of course, we’ll still have our Thanksgiving Service for Life & Sight at the Rosary Chapel (at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center). It’s at 2 p.m. Nov. 12.”

Miller and staff also will show off their new offices located on the first floor of Medical Plaza II during an open house honoring Dr. Charles Afeman from noon to 2 p.m. on Oct. 24 .

“I’m excited about this,” Miller said of Visionaries. “I think we’re building a stronger program because people who didn’t know they wanted to participate are stepping up. It fills a huge need and it’s going to be very beneficial in the years to come.”