Lighthouse Guild is known for attracting and retaining committed volunteers, and Joseph Cohen is a prime example. For more than three decades, Joe has been providing reading and other services–and he remains as enthusiastic about volunteering as the day he began.
As a boy Joe was sensitive to the needs of his visually impaired grandmother, and this inspired him to get involved with Lighthouse Guild. While initially focused on reading services, as his relationships with clients evolved so did additional ways to support them. For example, Joe helped one longstanding client apply to law school, conduct medical research, find cooking recipes, and go holiday shopping. More recently, in addition to reading to a grad student, he helped draft pitch letters to potential employers–and he even took a sensory walk over the Brooklyn Bridge with this student.
Joe notes that it may be a bit uncomfortable when you’re going through bills and personal mail with people you initially do not know well. “I consider it an honor to be asked to help clients focus on their personal matters—and it is humbling to be trusted to do so.” Out of this trust several friendships have emerged, and this is an especially rewarding aspect of volunteering. “When you read to someone for a long time, it’s inevitable that you form a bond.”
It’s also inevitable that you learn from your clients, he notes. “Reading and discussing the news can provide new perspectives, and reading materials in clients’ fields of interest opens the door to new knowledge and experiences for me.” Joe admits that he particularly enjoys reading literary works aloud, as it allows him to channel his talents by indulging his inner actor. However much he himself may enjoy a specific assignment, Joe’s goal is always the same: to make sure clients feel they’ve made the most of their time together.
Joe is looking forward to his next assignment working with someone who is fine tuning his technical skills in a field outside Joe’s expertise. “In a situation involving technical material, I strive to read complex material in a coherent fashion.” He adds that, as always, he expects to learn along with his client.
“I’ve volunteered with a variety of organizations, and my work with Lighthouse Guild is by far the most personally meaningful,” Joe says. “The work is so rewarding because you have immediate feedback on the benefits of the services you’re providing. I find it to be a wonderful—almost selfish—experience.”
You Too Can Help People With Vision Loss
To explore the volunteer opportunities at Lighthouse Guild, visit: