- April 21, 2021
Like many social service agencies, North Central Sight Services has found this past year of the pandemic a difficult and challenging one. Still, through it all, they have soldiered on providing their services to those searching for them and have come through this trying time better than ever. “This past year has been challenging for
Like many social service agencies, North Central Sight Services has found this past year of the pandemic a difficult and challenging one. Still, through it all, they have soldiered on providing their services to those searching for them and have come through this trying time better than ever.
“This past year has been challenging for so many; NCSS was no exception. When the pandemic hit, closing the doors of the 68,000-foot facility was not an option,” Brian Patchett, President, and CEO of North Central Sight Services, told Webb Weekly. “The clients and customers NCSS serve needed us to remain open to provide critical services and resources as well as keep people working in a population where 70 percent are unemployed. We had to get orders out the door to fulfill the contracts we have with the federal government and military. They need the products we supply, but more importantly, we had to make sure our associates and clients were safe. I applaud my staff for going above and beyond to continue our mission.”
“When a lot of businesses and other organizations were shutting down, we jumped into overdrive to make sure our clients were safe and taken care of. Our social services team made thousands of phone calls to check up on clients and offer a familiar voice. We provided hundreds of trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank, and to medical appointments in order to keep our clients in their homes and safe,” said Tracy Haas-Ungard, Programs and Services Director.
Since gatherings and tours have been limited the past year, it might be good to take readers on a “descriptive” tour of the facility.
When you enter NCSS, you are greeted with friendly staff. The front of the building houses the support staff for the agency. Moving down the hall to the right, you will find our social services department. The services department is made up of Occupational Therapy, Early Intervention, Support Services, Prevention of Blindness and Education, Adjustment to Blindness services, Assistive Technology (AT), and Eye Care Assistance Programs with the goal of helping people live as independently as possible and not letting their visual impairment get in the way of doing what they enjoy. The social services department is the backbone of the agency. NCSS offers many different services, including vision screenings to detect vision issues, support groups to help adjust to vision loss and interact with peers, assessments that identify individualized needs, sighted guides for essential errands, and Assistive Technology.
Assistive Technology is ever-changing and evolving, and the use of technology can be imperative for a person with a visual impairment to access information. NCSS knows the importance of having Assistive Technology available and has developed a state-of-the-art Assistive Technology Lab that allows individuals to test out and learn more about the different devices that are out there and what will work best for their individual needs. Touring the AT lab can be an all-day affair! There are so many different products and devices that can assist someone to complete different tasks- talking watches, magnifiers, aids for cooking, large print items, screen readers, braille displays – just to name a few.
“We know the importance of having technology for someone with visual impairments. Accessing information is one of the most difficult obstacles for someone who cannot see. We live in a visual world, and assistive technology is here to help bridge the gap and enhance independence,” said Brandon DeArment, Technology Specialist.
Low vision aids and assistive technology devices are available for purchase. To set up an appointment to view these products, contact Brandon at 570-323-9401 ext. 125.
Continue walking through the facility, and you will reach the warehouse where you will find “the cage,” as it is nicknamed, where the document shredding and document storage is performed. This secure location is only accessible to authorized personnel of NCSS. Shredding services are available for businesses all over central Pennsylvania and through the walk-in shred entrance located at the facility. The public is welcome to bring their unwanted documents to the entrance to be shred for $.35 a pound, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m-4 p.m. People who are visually impaired securely destroy the documents with an industrial-size paper shredder. The paper is then recycled for additional revenue for the agency.
To the left in the warehouse, one will see racks upon racks of raw material and finished goods. NCSS packs and ships thousands of orders per year. NCSS is an Ability One Distributor, which means we receive hundreds of products from other blind agencies around the country and fulfill the orders. Because they are a distributor, they are authorized to ship individual products instead of by the case quantities. NCSS also has masks and USA-made hand sanitizer for sale in gel and liquid form. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for prices and quantities available.
The vending department is located at the back of the warehouse, where snacks and sodas are housed. A sighted and visually impaired employee fill and service the vending machines along rest stops on Interstate 80 as well as to local businesses throughout the community.
Circling back around to return to the front of the building, you will enter the industry, here you will find employees assembling, labeling, and packaging products that will be sent to base stores for the military around the world through the Ability One program, as well as to the State of Pennsylvania and other Federal agencies. The products NCSS offers include labels, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, flash drives, military targets, and other office products. These products are available for purchase at shop.ncsight.com. NCSS also offers subcontracting work for local businesses, including Natural Waterscapes (South Williamsport) and 3D doodler, in which employees assemble and fulfill orders. NCSS is always looking for different opportunities to create work for our employees.
As we make our way back to the front of the building, you will see the “wall of fame” that proudly displays the years of service and employees of NCSS, many of whom have been employed at the agency for five-plus years+ with a few celebrating 15 plus years of service. Out of the 52 individuals NCSS currently employs, 25 are visually impaired or blind.
This brings us back to the front of the facility and to the end of the “descriptive” tour. They hope you enjoyed a glimpse into all that NCSS does and learns a thing or two! They welcome you for an in-person tour when it is safe to do so!
“If 2020 taught us anything, it is to be ready to expect the unexpected. North Central Sight Services, Inc. prides itself on strategic agility – the ability to adapt quickly when obstacles get in the way,” Katie Coffey, Quality and Marketing Director for NCSS, said. “We are always looking for ways to improve whether it be in our services area helping individuals live more independently, or to our business service customers offering top-notch customer service. Our mission is critical, and a lot of people depend on us to keep moving forward.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing vision loss, contact North Central Sight Services, Inc. at 570-323-9401 or visit ncsight.org.