Thanks to assistive vision equipment from the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind, Rose Shurmanek is again able to play her beloved bingo games and win prizes.

The 71-year-old West Pittston resident, who has low vision, is just one of nearly 300 local residents assisted in the past year by the Association thanks to a $10,000 grant from The Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The Foundation's grant helped the Association expand its home-based evaluations and case management services for newly blind individuals to address the challenges they experience with daily living skills, self-care, transportation and housing. And the funding couldn't have come at a better time for the Association and the older, financially challenged clients it often serves in Luzerne, Pike, Wayne and Wyoming counties.

The agency, which helped those in need obtain nearly 200 pairs of glasses last year, continues to see demand grow for its services as the region's residents age. In the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area alone, nearly half the population is age 45 or older, and the one in seven residents who live below the federal poverty level are still coping with the down economy.

"People need our services more than ever, and The Blue Ribbon Foundation's funding has helped us expand access," said Ron Petrilla, executive director of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind. "Grants from The Foundation make the health and wellness of local residents a priority."

For Shurmanek, the Association's services have been a path to a better life. Since being referred to the Association a year ago for her macular degeneration, an Association staff member has visited her once a month to help her pay bills and balance her checkbook. And Shurmanek has received transportation to bingo games at the Association's community center, where she can see her game cards and read other materials with her new Optalec electronic magnifier device.

"Walking through the doors of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind is the best thing that ever happened to me," Shurmanek said. "They provided me with a caring coordinator who helps me at home, a way to play a game I love and a magnifier device that's made me more independent."

"Whether the Association for the Blind is providing a talking clock or re-teaching life skills to a newly blind individual, their support is enormously important to that individual's quality of life," said Cynthia A. Yevich, The Blue Ribbon Foundation's executive director. "We're delighted our grant has been able to help so many people through the Association."

For more information about The Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, visit www.bcnepa.com [1] and click on The Blue Ribbon Foundation tab.