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"We want them to be confident": Sacramento nonprofit helps blind seniors sharpen cooking skills

Sacramento nonprofit helps blind seniors sharpen cooking skills
Sacramento nonprofit helps blind seniors sharpen cooking skills 02:18

SACRAMENTO — Local seniors with vision loss are sharpening their cooking skills thanks to the Society For The Blind.

"People often think that if they start losing their vision, they can't work in the kitchen," said Dan O'Connor. "And people discover when we work with them, they can feel their independence and their confidence."

O'Connor is a mentor and volunteer at the Society For The Blind's teaching kitchen. Even though he lost his vision at birth, he never shied away from the kitchen — working 40 years as a baker.

"There was something missing, and I realized I wanted to work with my hands," O'Connor said.

Now, he's sharing the joy of cooking with others.

"How to make use of the tools in the kitchen, how to not be intimidated because they are losing their sight or lost their sight," O'Connor said.

The teaching kitchen is part of the Society For The Blind's senior impact project, which offers free services and classes for those 55 and older.

"We want them to be confident. We want them to have the tools and skills to remain independent," instructor Debra Pendleton said.

Pendleton teaches independent living skills, including cooking lessons.

"Each class has a skill set. The first class is the knife safety — how to safely use a knife, how you know where the sharp edge of a knife is," she said.

Measuring, pouring liquids, cleaning — there are many skills those with vision often take for granted.

"That's another thing we have to teach is labeling — how you would know what something was in the refrigerator or in your cabinet," Pendleton said. "I heard someone made some cayenne toast, [and] thought it was cinnamon."

It's there that these students slice and dice their way to confidence.

"So I can go in the kitchen and do what I want when I want without waiting for anyone else in the house to help me," student Trena King said.

Losing one's vision doesn't have to mean losing independence.

"I like to come here, and I'm never too old to learn anything, so, this is my other home," King said.

The senior impact program, which includes the teaching kitchen, is just one of many services at the Society For The Blind. The nonprofit offers classes and workshops for people of all ages who are blind or have low vision — and at no cost.

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