Erika Arbogast is the President of Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services, a 104-year-old private nonprofit organization in Pittsburgh. She also serves the community through her membership on the boards of many organizations including Pennsylvania Association for the Blind – where she is also Treasurer, Unique Source as Secretary of Board and Chair of the Governance committee, National Association for the Employment of People who are Blind, and VisionServe Alliance. Erika is also a volunteer at Magee Women’s Hospital.
Years in the Pittsburgh area: 36 All my life.
What was your first job?
I spent 4 years working with children with autism at The Wesley Institute. I developed and implemented behavioral programs for them and worked with their schools, other therapists, and family members to insure consistency.
How were you drawn to nonprofit work?
My family took in foster children when I was younger. We had kids with disabilities and children who had been through some pretty rough circumstances. I recognized from an early point in life that I had things pretty good and should be thankful for that. I wanted to help others that weren’t as fortunate as I was.
What keeps you motivated?
Coming to a job that I love. I enjoy my job tremendously and take it very seriously that other people depend on my leadership and decisions. It is easy to stay motivated when you get to see the positive changes that your organization makes on other’s lives every day.
Additionally, the individuals that we serve, BVRS’s staff, and our donors and stakeholders keep me motivated. They are so passionate about the services that we provide and that helps to fuel my passion.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
If you don’t go after something that you want you will never have it.
What are you reading?
With a 6-year-old and a very busy schedule, I usually only get to read on vacation. I like to read books about the holocaust and political books.
Share a favorite time-saving/productivity hack:
Exercise. I can’t tell you how many problems I have solved while working out. Sometimes taking a break from your work to exercise actually helps you to find solutions and to be able to move on with other tasks.
What major issue or trend is currently affecting your corner of the nonprofit sector?
Legislation that could affect our sector, specifically around taxation, charitable deduction changes, and financial concerns. Transportation also continues to be a major concern for the population that we serve so I am always thinking about this.
What is one goal that you hope to accomplish in 2015?
Helping our organization to become better known in the community through media campaigns, a location change, and through excitement around our Capital Campaign and new building (that we will be in by October 2015).
What is the best thing about the nonprofit sector in Pittsburgh?
It is a close knit group that bands together when issues arise. The foundation community is phenomenal here, and I have found that when you can document a need they will support it with funding. They have their pulse on the community and are willing to allocate dollars where the need exists.
Nonprofits in Pittsburgh also seem very willing to work together to solve problems or to collaborate to improve processes or systems.
Does Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services have any events coming up?
Young Professionals Bucco Bash (Pirates game) May 20
Steelers Alumni Golf Outing July 27