Volunteerism in focus

Visually impaired woman receives Myra Kraft Community MVP Award

The Cranston Herald ·

On June 12, a diverse group of 26 volunteers from across New England were recognized and honored for their contributions and dedication to their organizations at the 2018 Myra Kraft Community VIP awards at Gillette Stadium.

This year, Cranston’s own Doreen Holmes was a winner of $10,000 for her cause.

Doreen went to Bain Middle School and is a graduate of Cranston East Class of 1971.

Her friend, the Executive Director at In-Sight, Chris Butler secretly nominated her for the award.

Doreen was not born with vision problems or issues. Even as she got older, the most she used for visual aids were the cheater-reader glasses from the dollar store.

She did notice that over time, she needed to get glasses that were stronger and stronger.

“At the time, my doctor, Helene Bradley said it was normal to need stronger glasses,” Doreen said.

In November of 2008, Dr. Bradley told her she needed to see a retina specialist.

“I remember it so clearly. It was the week before Thanksgiving.  Dr. Glenn Prescod, (ophthalmologist), told me I had macular degeneration. My first thought was ‘is this when you go blind’? He said to me, you’re only 58, you’re the youngest person I have ever seen with it. This usually comes on in your late 60’s,” she said.

Dr. Prescod told her that in order for her to have this diagnosis at such a young age, it had to be hereditary.

“My mom only wore glasses for reading, my dad never wore glasses, I had an aunt go blind from diabetes, so I’m not really sure where it came from,” Doreen said.

She was in the early stages of it, and her vision in the left eye was the most impaired.

“I was told don’t let this overwhelm your life. Take vitamins and get in touch with In-Sight, they offer services for the blind. The day might come when you lose your vision,” she said.

In 2010, she lost all vision in her left eye, and the vision is the right eye is blurry with floaters she was devastated.

“I was taking yoga at the YMCA in Cranston. I told my instructor Anna I had to quit her class, as I couldn’t see her anymore. She said, ‘my cues’ should be spot on, you should not have to see me’. I moved to a different spot in the classroom, and it worked. I didn’t need to see her to be in the class,” Doreen said.

In 2015 Anna told Doreen she should teach yoga.

“You have the heart, you help others in my class,” Anna told her.

For Christmas that year, her son gave her a gift to take a special class from Yogafit on how to be an instructor.

“As it turned out, they were going to be in Rhode Island the week before Thanksgiving. I had to learn how to communicate how to move,” Doreen said.

At this time, In-Sight had contacted her about teaching a yoga session in the spring of 2017.

“I was a Yogafit instructor – I was living the dream. We had so much at that session they asked me to come on full time,” she said.

Doreen gets emotional when she talks about her time at In-Sight.

“That place is my second home, it is a blessing in my life. When Chris wanted to pay me to teach, I told him to take the salary and put it back into In-Sight. You can’t put a price on making my peers happy,” she said.

Doreen now spends her days at the St. Patrick’s Church soup kitchen on Mondays, and the food pantry Wednesday nights and Thursday days, teaches at In-Sight twice a week, and still attends Anna’s yoga classes at the Y on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays.

Doreen and several other In-Sight attendees formed their own little group called “Just Us” and they talk about life’s problems, family struggles.

“While we were in our little group, Chris Butler asked if he could talk to me. He said how thankful he was to me, he spoke about the 28 years given to the soup kitchen, my time as a Blue Star mom, then he started talking about the Myra Kraft awards. They are for people who do community service,” she said.

Butler had nominated Doreen for the award back in January of 2018, but as time went by and he hadn’t heard anything, he forgot about it.

“Out of 450 nominees, they only select 26 winners. Chris heard back from them the first week of June,” she said.

On June 12, Doreen, Butler, Lucille Gaboriault, Director of Community Resources for In-Sight and Doreen’s daughter Jen headed up to Gillette Stadium for the award ceremony.

“I told Anna, that because of you I am getting this award. You inspired me, I can see with my heart not my eyes,” she said.

Rachel McNally who worked with Doreen sending Johnson & Wales Service-Learning students to assist in the soup kitchen had high praise for her.

“I have known Doreen for more than a decade. Her passion to help others is evident through her work with St. Patrick’s, RI Blue Star Moms and In-Sight. She is truly one of the most compassionate, kindest people I know.  She has won a Points of Light Award from GW Bush," said McNally.

As each nominee was introduced and his or her story told, Doreen felt closer to Myra Kraft.

“Mr. Kraft told a story that he never really knew where his wife was during the day. She would simply leave a note on the counter saying ‘I’ve gone to volunteer.’ I felt like Mrs. Kraft was in the room with us that day. Her spirit was definitely present,” Doreen said.

When she was called up, and during her photo session, Mr. Kraft kept talking to her.

“Between Andre Tippett telling me I’m adorable, and Mr. Kraft trying to talk to about yoga, I was very distracted, and the photographers kept saying look over here,” she said.

Doreen is grateful to Yogafit for the opportunity.

“Yogafit gave me the wings, I am not going to stop soaring,” she said.

She plans to become a Yoga warrior, teaching veterans, military members and people who suffer from PTSD.

At In-Sight, Doreen spoke with Butler.

“How do I thank you for everything? He looked at me and said, ‘no, how do I thank you?’” she said.

This story was originally posted by The Cranston Herald. Click here to view the original story in its entirety.

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