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IDB Announces the 2023 Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Award Recipient

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      Our Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award is given in honor of Elizabeth Perowsky of Des Moines, Iowa, who was a volunteer Braille transcriber for more than 60 years. She taught herself to Braille and was certified in literary, Nemeth, and music Braille by the Library of Congress. Elizabeth was the group leader and main teacher for the Temple Sisterhood Braille Group. She also conducted Braille workshops throughout the country, teaching others how to Braille. Near the end of her life, Elizabeth’s hands were so impacted by arthritis that she would tell her assistant which keys to press on the computer keyboard to form the Braille letters. This allowed her to continue Brailling when she could no longer type. Elizabeth was still Brailling within a few weeks of her death at the age of 97 in May 1996.

      The text on the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer Award states: "For extraordinary spirit and inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind" is one of the best ways to describe this year's recipient.

      It is our honor to present the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award to Sandi Ryan. Sandi has shown inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind in so many ways. Her true dedication has shown through in her many volunteer roles. These have included advocacy, mentoring, braille proofreading and public service as a four-term member and Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. “We are thankful for Sandi’s constant support of the library. Her passion for braille and braille literacy especially for our youngest patrons is infectious. Sandi exemplifies exactly what this award stands for,” said Library Director, Sarah Willeford.

      Her work as Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind has helped the Iowa department for the Blind to continue to innovate and expand services to blind Iowans of all ages. Sandi's amazing attitude, words of wisdom and sense of humor have impacted so many. IDB Director, Emily Wharton, stated: "Whenever I needed anything, someone to look over a draft policy, someone to talk through a challenging decision, someone to make me laugh instead of cry at one of the many absurdities that arise when trying to make change within the state bureaucracy, Sandi was there with ideas, honest feedback, understanding, and a swift kick when I needed it. She has been an invaluable mentor and so much of the success we have achieved is at least in part due to her work on behalf of blind Iowans."

      “Sandi completed all of the lessons in the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing from the National Library Service, which is quite an accomplishment! Sandi proofread and made corrections on collection books done on a Perkins by one of our volunteer braillists. We could always count on Sandi to take on proofreading projects and help with scorekeeping for the Braille Challenge. Sandi’s work was always accurate & detailed,” shared Karen Cunningham, IMC Librarian, and Roxanne Book, Braille Coordinator.

      Youth Librarian, Denise Bean expressed, "Sandi's warmth and love for others is simply undeniable. Sandi lives her life with a clear vision and intention to make this world a better place, if only more in the world could be like her, if so, our world would be a better place. She would share countless stories of her family that would bring laughter and even a tear to a room. Thank you, Sandi, for being a rock to so many around you. You have taught all of us to stay strong, stay determined, and most importantly, stay passionate in what you believe in."

      Normally this award would be awarded during the library's annual Elizabeth Perowsky Workshop and Luncheon in April. However, after a year-long battle with liver cancer, Sandi has entered hospice care. We determined it would be wise to present her with the award early. However, we also look forward to celebrating again in April at the Elizabeth Perowsky Workshop and Luncheon.

      Please help us in congratulating Sandi Ryan for her many years of impactful volunteer service to the Iowa Department for the Blind. She has made a difference in the life of countless blind Iowans. Her work will go on and her work will be picked up and carried forward by other passionate and hard-working volunteers and advocates.