The Volunteers of Vacaville Blind Project, the very first program of its kind in California, began in 1960 as a cooperative effort between Mrs. Betty Brundo, the California Department of Corrections staff, and the inmates housed at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California. Mrs. Brundo, former coordinator of the Volunteer Transcribing Service of San Mateo, contacted Mr. Elis Savides, the California Medical Facility superintendent, seeking assistance in meeting the growing demands for transcription of printed materials onto audio tape. Mr. Savides enlisted the aid of Lt. Jim Boling, Lt. Ben Jarvis, and Sgt. Jim Todd to immediately develop an implementation plan and begin the processes necessary to procure the funding and equipment needed to produce aural transcriptions for the visually and physically impaired community.
Once the equipment and procedures were in place, a call for help was extended to the inmate population. Approximately 50 inmates responded to the initial call for volunteers, 18 of which possessed the skills necessary to produce aural transcriptions. Several others were chosen to meet the administrative needs of the organization, which completed the establishment of a successful organization that has serviced the community since 1960.
In 1962, under the direction of the Volunteers of Vacaville Program Director Hank Forshay, the project entered into a cooperative effort with Telephone Pioneers to assist in manufacturing the "Beep Ball." The "Beep Ball" was a softball that would be modified to emit a beeping sound so that the visually impaired community could participate in this wonderful past-time. This project was well received by the community and lasted for several years.
We expanded our operations in 1965 to include the service and repair of Perkins Braille Writers. Since its inception, this service has experienced continual growth and has become a valuable service to the community.
As the organization continued to grow, the need for professional advice and assistance became vitally important. So, in 1972 the Volunteers of Vacaville's Board of Directors was formed. Our current Board of Directors consists of 12 members with a valuable range of experience in the business community. These members assist in the management of the operation, solicitation of cooperative efforts and funding, and the marketing of our services to the visually impaired community.
In August 2002, Program Director Rob Wahl initiated a computerized Braille Transcription program. This program worked directly with the Folsom Project for the Visually Impaired, California Teachers and Educators of the Visually Impaired (CTEVH), and the Transcribing Mariners organizations to train the inmate staff on all of the skills needed to become a Braille Production Center. Since its inception, over a dozen of our employees have received their Library of Congress Literary Braille certification and are now producing Braille books for the visually impaired community.
In March 2003, the Volunteers of Vacaville entered into a cooperative effort with the Lions Clubs International Foundation to provide Eyeglass Refurbishing services for their organization. The Lions Clubs collect eyeglasses from organizations and individuals and then submit them to us for cleaning, gauging, and repair. Once refurbished, these eyeglasses are returned to the Lions Clubs International Foundation for distribution to indigent individuals around the world.
In 2006 and 2007 the VOV Board of Directors matched the funds of contributors to launch the Digital Media Project. The transition to digital format allows us to produce the highest quality recordings in the most efficient manner while also enabling the visually impaired community and our inmate staff to acquire technological skills that will help them lead successful lives in the 21st Century. Today we have seven fully equipped recording booths for the transcription of books into both cassette and digital formats. Additionally, in 2010 we upgraded all of our computer systems with state of the art Windows 7 based systems, further enabling us to provide high quality products.
Over the years we have forged key partnerships with many Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs, private organizations, and individuals that lend tremendous financial and personal support to the project. Their contributions allow us to provide our customers with high quality services free of charge or at a significantly reduced rate.
Along with providing services that are a tremendous benefit to our customers, 20 inmate workers receive valuable job skills and the opportunity to contribute to a worthy cause while serving their periods of incarceration. Each inmate worker takes personal pride in producing the highest quality product possible while maintaining the tradition that has been established over the past fifty years. By hosting this incredible program, the California Medical Facility and the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation is able to assist the inmates in their rehabilitation, while making a valuable contribution to society.