Basket weaving for the blind loses funding

- They work with their hands, building beautiful baskets from scratch. Many don’t realize the women behind some beautiful and functional works of art are blind.

Sitting not too far from her side, Sue Spiecer's guide dog takes a rest while she goes to work.

"When I first joined, I didn't think that I could do anything like this," she explained of the baskets she now makes with ease. 

Sue was born blind. Now she uses her hands, as a volunteer guides her. She crafts twine into colorful baskets.

"When you come in here and start visiting with all these other people who thought, at one time, they couldn't do anything either, you know you can because they are," she said.

Each week, Spiecer joins the Basket Weaving for the Visual Impaired class at Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota. The classes are part of the school's Adult and Community Enrichment classes.

Some are completely blind, others can see a little.

"They are all like a bunch of sisters in here. They help each other. They take care of each other," said their instructor, Tammy Butz.

Now, they are worried their bond may unravel. Class ends in a month and the future of the program is in jeopardy. Funding for the class was cut and now they need to raise $6,000 to keep it, and the women, going.

"It was huge. It was very shocking for them. To them, it was cutting them off life support. They have nothing else to do," said Galina Jordan, the ACE volunteer coordinator.

The class was once offered for free. After the state cut it's Adults with Disability funding last year, they had to charge a fee. Many could not afford the cost.

The school gave the women scholarships and did an art sale to help, but much more is needed so they can continue.

"This will give them years of life satisfaction and happiness. So please help," said Galina Jordan.

For many like Sue, it's given them their lives back.

"We have had people in here who came in and were really depressed and felt like they couldn't do anything. They came in here and within one day literally one day they learned that they could," she said.

To help, contact Galina Jordan of the Adult & Community Enrichment Classes at Suncoast Technical School at (941) 361-6590 or email at galina.jordan@sarasotacountyschools.net.

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