MORRIS COUNTY — Linda Groszew took a circuitous career path to becoming senior program manager and volunteer coordinator at Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey.
A certified dental assistant and part-time piano teacher after high school, Groszew decided in her early 20s to pursue a degree in music education. She married while attending William Paterson University, and just as she completed her degree, Groszew gave birth to a son. Four years later, in 1988, quadruplets arrived.
“They kept me busy!” said Groszew, who will be honored for 15 years of service at VLANJ’s Dining in the Dark on October 24 during Blindness Awareness Month.
While her children were young, Groszew owned and ran an independent grocery store with her husband. The couple sold the store 7½ years later, and Groszew began looking for a new opportunity. Through family friends, she learned about New Jersey Foundation for the Blind (VLANJ’s former name). In 2004, the nonprofit hired Groszew as a receptionist, and promoted her to assistant program director within a few months.
Groszew underwent intense training as part of VLANJ’s transformation to becoming the only comprehensive vision rehabilitation program for adults in New Jersey. “I was fascinated by spatial reasoning and mobility, and I found that I really loved this field,” she said. “We created some phenomenal programs.”
Groszew feels especially strong about VLANJ’s wellness programs, which enhance participants’ ability to adapt to their new circumstances. “Our wellness programs are so important for building overall well-being,” she said. “Well-being can open you up to everything you need to learn; it goes hand-in-hand with skill-building.”
For example, participants in djembe drumming have to listen intently to follow sound patterns. Not only is the experience relaxing and social, but it helps them develop listening skills that are key to spatial mapping, she said.
When asked about her favorite memories, the Denville resident said all of them are tied to the people she’s met at VLANJ. “They’ve inspired and taught me so much,” she said. Over the years, Groszew has used her musical talent at VLANJ, teaching one-on-one piano lessons and running a choir.
“Linda is the heart of this organization, and has empathy and respect for everyone who walks through the door,” VLANJ Executive Director Kris Marino said. “We’re proud to honor her for 15 years of devoted service.”
Groszew said she is honored to receive VLANJ’s Service Award at Dining in the Dark. Tony Groszew, her husband of 38 years, and some of her children will attend. The mother of five has four grandchildren and a fifth on the way.
Dining in the Dark guests will enjoy a three-course gourmet meal with all their senses — except sight. They’ll wear black eye shades to briefly experience what it’s like for people who are blind or have low vision. The event at The Meadow Wood in Randolph is VLANJ’s major fundraiser of the year.
Festivities begin at 6:00 p.m. and include a cocktail hour, art auction, silent auction and live music. A wine pull has been added this year: guests can pull a cork for $20 and will go home with the bottle that matches the number on their cork.Vision Loss Alliance participants will serve as ambassadors, guiding diners.
Dining in the Dark tickets are $125.00 per person, and tables can be reserved for ten guests for $1,000. Click here. Sponsorship opportunities are still available by contacting Director of Development Jennifer Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 627-0055 ext. 1323.
Another way to support VLANJ it to purchase bottles of wine for the wine pull. Cambridge Wines in Morristown is donating 15 percent of every purchase, click here for information. Select “store pickup” and VLANJ will collect the donated wines.