Service for Sight
Seeing is Believing!
Service for Sight has been at the heart of the Delta Gamma mission since 1936 when a member who was blind, Ruth Billow, Eta-Akron, petitioned to adopt “Aid to the Blind” as the organization’s official philanthropy. In 1942, sight conservation was added to the mission, and in 1955 the name was changed to Service for Sight. In partnership with Delta Gamma Foundation, the philanthropy has grown to raise millions of dollars in support of five schools founded by Delta Gammas for the visually impaired, as well as other North American organizations that share our mission of sight preservation and conservation. Members of our chapter and throughout the organization donate thousands of hours each year in service to those living with blindness or visual impairments.
At UF, our DG sisters are committed to supporting Service for Sight through our annual fundraiser Anchor Splash, and our Spring Carnival and Easter Egg Hunt. Our chapter is also active in Service for Sight: Joining Forces, an initiative that allows us to support and give back to service men and women who have experienced vision impairment, eye trauma or vision loss. Working with the Gainesville VA, our members write and hand-deliver letters to veterans at Christmas, Valentine’s Day and other holidays thanking and encouraging those who have served our country.
In 2004, the women of Gamma Theta were introduced to a special member of the UF community, Lenora McGowan, who has been blind since birth. For the last 15 years, Lenora has been booked to dine with the ladies of Delta Gamma every Monday night. She shares stories from her years as a student at UF and her job at The Independent Florida Alligator, where she still works today. She loves to cheer us on at intramural games and fundraisers and always has a smile. What started out as outreach in support of our philanthropy years ago has become a beloved part of our chapter. Lenora is an inspiration to us all and has opened our eyes to what serving others is all about. Learn more about Lenora’s Story.
Making a Splash for Sight Conservation and Aid to the Blind
Our annual fundraiser, Anchor Splash, is a long-time favorite at UF. Hosted at the University of Florida’s O’Connell Center, this synchronized swimming competition features student organizations that compete in fundraising and swimming performance, all vying for the coveted prize of being named Anchor Splash champion. Our members get busy during Anchor Splash working to raise money, coach teams that participate, and organize other events associated with the annual competition. Thanks to these groups, and the continued support of the University, the Gainesville community and local businesses through their sponsorships and donations, Anchor Splash is a huge success year after year. In 2018, proceeds donated to Service for Sight totaled over $20,000. Planning is already in the works for Anchor Splash 2019 when we hope to raise more money than ever in support of those living with visual impairments.
When Spring has Sprung, It’s Time for Fun!
As cooler weather turns to warm, the women of our chapter work in conjunction with the Division of Blind Services and the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind to host a Spring Carnival for visually impaired children in the greater Gainesville area. Our members have continued to amplify this event every April for the past decade offering something for children of all ages — from beeping Easter eggs, live bunnies and puppies, to face-painting, inflatable bounce houses and a cookie decorating station —DGs love being able to give back and brighten the day of over 100 families each year!
Lenora's Story: "Believing is Seeing"
It's Monday night, and Lenora McGowan, 67, is sitting in familiar surroundings. For the last 15 years, she’s had a standing dinner date at the same place every week. This however is no ordinary restaurant and she’s not on an ordinary date. The dining room is located in the Delta Gamma house on University of Florida’s sorority row. And Lenora’s “date” is a room full of young college women and she is surrounded by them.
Originally from Baltimore, Lenora moved to Gainesville with her grandmother just before she enrolled at the University of Florida. She studied sociology and upon graduation, decided to remain in Gainesville. While a student Lenora worked at The Independent Florida Alligator, where she continues to work today. To some, the scene in the Delta Gamma dining room may seem a rather odd arrangement. Details on how this weekly ritual started are a bit spotty as members come and go from year to year. But what you can’t mistake is the joy of it all. Lenora is regaling the women with exciting tales of her work at The Alligator, and her experiences while she was a student at UF. There is laughter and Lenora never stops smiling. What the casual observer can’t see is that Lenora is blind. In fact, she has been fully blind since birth.
This leads us to a little clarity on what brought the ladies of DG and Lenora McGowan together and why their bond has endured. In 1936, Delta Gamma Fraternity adopted “Aid to the Blind” (now Service for Sight) as their official philanthropy. In addition to raising funds to support sight conservation and preservation, members of Delta Gamma also serve local organizations that share their mission. Along the way about 15 years ago, the paths of Delta Gamma and Lenora McGowan crossed and the rest as they say is history. That no one can seem to recall exactly how it all started is a testament to both McGowan and the women she visits with every Monday. They simply enjoy being together and it’s hard to know who is supporting who. Lenora loves to hang out at the house with members and is often seen cheering them on at intramural games and fundraisers. When asked what the best thing about Delta Gamma is, McGowan brags “I always have a room full of girls that I get to love on."
According to Shayne Sipowski, Vice President of the local chapter’s Foundation efforts, it’s the women of Delta Gamma are the true beneficiaries of this weekly dinner date. “In the most amazing way, Lenora is so good at being blind, a lot of people think she can see.” When asked how getting to know Lenora has impacted her and other women in the chapter, Shayne adds “she’s taught us about the importance of trust and honesty. She trusts others to tell her what time it is. She trusts others to drive her where she needs to be. She trusts others to guide her every step. Lenora’s life depends on trusting what she can’t see, but her lack of sight allows her to “see” what others don’t. I think Lenora sees more never having had sight, than I will ever see as a woman with normal sight.”