Janice Snow knows what it’s like to be visually impaired. She’s lived with the challenge all her life. So when she greets clients of from behind the reception desk, Snow offers a warm welcome.
“I feel like I’m helping somebody here ... just talking to them ... it’s dear to my heart,” Snow said. “I think they’re struggling for independence, and it brings back the memory when I was a little girl, how I struggled through independence.”
From a young age, Snow went to Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. “I believe if I didn’t go there, I wouldn’t be where I am today because it was a really strict boarding school. One thing a house mother said to me was, ‘This is a complicated world we live in, and you’ll have to make room to live in it.’ ”
Snow lives her life now with no excuses, preferring to volunteer her time for the past nine years rather than stay at home. Snow lived for more than 30 years in Largo and now lives in Clearwater.
Her last paid position was as a switchboard operator at Pinch A Penny headquarters. Snow said she lost her job when the company converted to voicemail.
Since 1956, Lighthouse of Pinellas has offered services to the blind and vision-impaired. Clients are all ages. There is a summer camp program for ages 6-14, a job placement program for adults and even a program for infants.
During the workday, Snow makes sure staff members get their calls, with a little help. The switchboard at Lighthouse of Pinellas has Braille markings to tell Snow which extension is which.
In addition to answering calls, Snow also makes sure clients who come in for computer classes, counseling or cooking classes have transportation to and from home. She can identify with many of them. “Some of them might be blind from macular degeneration, and that’s losing your sight suddenly, and that’s hard to deal with.”
Another thing that can be hard to deal with is phone call after phone call. “Sometimes when it gets busy, I think, ‘Oh Lord,' " she joked.
“It’s great. Anybody can do volunteer work, period. You feel like you’re giving something back to the people.”
Supervisor Anna Ryley agreed. “Janice is our most dedicated volunteer. She really helps make the front desk work. It’s kind of a tough position in any company because you need to be there, and if the receptionist is not there, you have to pull someone away from their job,” Ryley said.
Snow admitted it’s not always easy to take on a new position. “When I first came here, I wasn’t too sure. But the more I have been here, I feel like I’m an impact to the place and the different people here, and I feel like I’m doing something to help people. I love people; I really do.”
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