Braille Institute Auxiliary Hosts Festival of Flavors

Photo Credit: Gail Arnold
September 15, 2017

On Sunday, September 10, more than 100 supporters of the Santa Barbara Braille Institute gathered on its lovely campus for the 3rd annual Festival of Flavors. The Santa Barbara Braille Institute Auxiliary hosts this fundraiser to support the multitude of free classes, programs and services at the institute for the blind and visually impaired.

The event started with cocktails in the picturesque courtyard with the Montecito Jazz Project providing jazz tunes in the background. During a short program, Auxiliary President Sandy DeRousse welcomed the guests and Vice President and Event Chair Sydney Tredick introduced student Linda Boicourt who shared some of the challenges the blind face in the kitchen. Boicourt also invited guests to sample “sophisticated shortbread” and other desserts prepared by students in their state-of-the-art teaching kitchen. 

Along with the student-prepared sweets, a multitude of gourmet appetizers were offered by Finch & Fork, Loquita, Lure Fish House, The Palace Grill, and SY Kitchen. Zaca Mesa winery provided the perfect wine pairings.

The Santa Barbara Braille Institute (SBBI), at 2031 De la Vina St., is part of the Braille Institute, a nonprofit organization with five centers and 220 community outreach locations in Southern California. The Santa Barbara campus serves more than 4,000 blind and visually impaired people each year. SBBI provides classes, programs, and services, all free of charge. The institute is funded almost entirely from private sources.

The Braille Institute Auxiliary of Santa Barbara is a group of volunteers who raise funds, provide community outreach, and help out at SBBI.

SBBI has spring, fall and winter class terms. This fall, 96 courses are being offered in technology, general living skills, personal care, health, kitchen confidence, art, music, writing, fitness and sports, and other subjects. A few classes are offered in Spanish.

Transportation is provided free of charge to anyone wishing to attend classes who lives between Goleta and Carpinteria. SBBIserves people in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties.

The Braille Institute is part of the National Library Service (NLS), a network coordinated by the Library of Congress that makes 1.3 million volumes of books, periodicals, and other texts available in audio, braille and large print form, free of charge, including shipping. Of increasing popularity is the NLS’s service of free audio downloads from the Internet.

SBBI assists students with a wide range of adaptive technology at its new in-house Connection Pointe technology center.

Many of the students at SBBI are older, the average age is 79. The majority of students have some vision remaining. While many of the students are older, SBBI does have an active Youth and Teen Program serving those ages 6 to 18. It covers daily living skills, socialization and academics. It also has a Child Development Program that helps families of newborns adapt to raising a blind or visually impaired child.

SBBI has about 100 very active volunteers and hundreds of other volunteers. Volunteers function as drivers, teachers, classroom aides and library aides. They also perform clerical and reception duties and help spread the word in the community about SBBI. Currently, the institute is in particular need of volunteer drivers (vehicle provided) and library aides.

For more information about the Santa Barbara Braille Institute, go to For more information about the Auxiliary, email Membership Chair Barbara Toumayan at

Photo: Drs Jeff Bailey, Britney Pennington and Dennis Clegg from the UC Santa Barbara Center for Stem Cell Biology and Engineering. Photo and Article By: Gail Arnold

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