By Erika Webb
As a Florida senior probation officer, Matthew Russey sometimes has to wake people up in the middle of the night.
Recently the eight-year Department of Corrections employee found himself in a quandary.
Officer Russey was checking weekly on a parolee Terreius Chambers of Daytona Beach, who lives with three other men.
All four of the home's residents are deaf.
"Knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell is kind of pointless," Officer Russey said in a telephone interview. "Shining a flashlight only works if someone's awake."
He knew devices for the hearing impaired existed, he just didn't know how many. Before calling anyone, Officer Russey did some online research.
He found devices costing from $199 to $800.
"When I saw the price, I knew the offender couldn't afford it," he said.
He called Easter Seals and was referred to Port Orange Lions Club President Ray Siracusa who suggested he call DeLand Lions Club President Wendy Wilson. She got busy looking for a solution.
First, Ms. Wilson called the president of the District 35-0 Hearing Program of Central Florida, Cheryl Crozier. Mr. Siracusa and Ms. Wilson are hearing board members. He is incoming president.
"After an email to the entire board, the hearing program voted unanimously to purchase the equipment," Ms. Wilson said.
The Alertmaster Personal Vibrating Tactile Receiver AM-PXB is worn or carried for notification of household events whether inside, outside or in remote areas of the house where flashing lamps may not be seen, according to the website, unitedtty.com. The transmitter is a wireless doorbell button.
A wireless system, the size of a pack of cigarettes, vibrates when a transmitter from the doorbell rings, Ms. Wilson explained. It allows the person wearing the system to move around the house with ease.
"Wendy did a lot of research," Mr. Siracusa said. "She came up with a lot of ideas and used her expertise to find (a device) for around $80 that's a lot better than the one for $200."
Once it arrives and is installed, Mr. Siracusa, Ms. Wilson and Officer Russey will confirm it is being used.
"We need to make sure the gentlemen are happy with it and that it is compatible for them," Mr. Siracusa said.
And the two Lions members want to be sure it's suitable to Officer Russey.
"He wants to do something good for them," Mr. Siracusa said, "and he wants them to know if someone's at the door, they could be there to check on them."
Though Mr. Chambers is the only resident being supervised by the Department of Corrections, all of the residents' safety is a concern for Officer Russey.
"If there was a fire, they would not hear the fire alarm," he said. "I thought, 'you know what?' It's time to help these guys.'"
Many think the Lions Club only assists the visually impaired, but the hearing program has been around for a while, Ms. Wilson said.
In Central Florida, the Lions of District 35-O Hearing Program started in 1979.
"Lions District Gov. Lerch had a meeting where five Lions attended," she said. "A hearing center store used hearing aids and tested people for free, and William Lassiter from Lockhart Club made molds free."
Seventeen hearing aids were collected and given out in the first year.
Now, she said, about 10 hearing aids are distributed monthly.
A Lions Club provides and submits an application along with a $25 check from either the individual in need or the club. Hearing aids cost between $150 and $200.
The check is given to the hearing specialist or audiologist testing the client and making the mold, Ms. Wilson explained. The hearing board reviews the application and makes a decision. If the applicant is not accepted, the $25 is returned.
"The decisions are based on income verses expenses," she said. "It is important to ask about insurance. Medicaid, Veteran's Administration and some rehab programs provide new hearing aids."
Adults 18 and over receive refurbished aids.
"We do make some exceptions if they cannot be fitted with refurbished aids," Ms. Wilson said. "New aids are then approved. Children 17 and younger are fitted with new aids."
Applications for children must be accompanied by a letter from a school nurse, doctor or hearing specialist. The hearing board pays for all additional expenses.
In 2005, when Ms. Wilson became involved, she said, one out of every 1,000 children were hearing impaired. Today, she added, the number has jumped to three out of every 1,000 children.
"Thank God, nowadays they're checking newborns before they leave the hospital," Ms. Wilson said.
Through the Honorary Life Membership program, $100 gives a Lion or friend a certificate and pin into the program.
"This money is not set aside," she said. "It is used to purchase more hearing aids."
To donate aids or inquiries about applications, please contact your local Lions Club.