St Peter’s Episcopal Church and Rockland Community raise funds for an Extraordinary, Visually Impaired Volunteer

Mike Grondin with the Eye Pal Ace Plus reading machine

John Michael Grondin is a Rockland native, dedicated volunteer and outspoken advocate for people with disabilities. He knows disability. He is visually impaired. He lost his sight due to the effects of diabetes but he doesn’t let this interfere with his active life in his church and the local community.

He lives at the Rankin Block and you may see him with his white walking stick in downtown Rockland. He is probably walking to St. Peter’s or to a local business or to a committee meeting for the city. He is a life-long member of St. Peter’s and is serving his first year on the church’s governing body. He is also a member of the Rockland Parks Commission.

His volunteer efforts for the vestry and parks commission have benefitted St. Peter’s, Rockland and people throughout Knox County. This summer he has been soliciting businesses for picnic tables for Rockland parks. So far he has secured donations of 7 tables. He has been an active member of St. Peter’s Share the Love Auction committee that raises funds for Knox County organizations that provide health services, and food, housing & heating assistance. At the February 2014 auction $15,000 was raised. His biggest challenge in his volunteer work is keeping informed of the activities and work of these groups. Minutes, agendas, and background material all has to be read into a tape recorder so Mike can listen & prepare for meetings. St. Peter’s senior warden, Marty Rogers, has wanted to find a way to make it easier and timelier to get this information to Mike.

Mike has never had a computer and has no computer skills. He is unable to read Braille due to injuries to his fingers that reduced his sense of touch. These resources that are often used by the blind are not options for Mike. Rogers contacted the Iris Network, a not-for-profit organization in Portland that assists people with low vision or no vision, to explore assistive devices that would be suitable for Mike. The professional staff at the Iris Network recommended an Eye-Pal Ace Plus Reader.

This devise works by taking a photograph of a printed document and then reads the information to the user. It also has the capability of sending and receiving email. When the user wants to send an email, he speaks into the machine & sends it to a pre-set email address. Incoming email is read to the user.

Bonnie Gouzie, the Iris Network director of access technology and employment services, demonstrated the device to Mike and assessed his ability to operate it. She reported she “was amazed at how well he picked up on the concepts, was able to find the knobs and buttons, and was able to scan and read his mail! We will need to provide more training, but I am confident this device will be a useful tool for him.” A medication bottle label can be read. He would no longer be reliant on other people to read his mail. For his volunteer work, he will truly be on the same page as the other committee members.

People from St. Peter’s and friends from various city committees are planning a public baked bean supper to raise $3,000—the cost of the Eye Pal Ace Plus reader. The supper will be Thursday, September 18th at 5:30 pm at St. Peter’s Parish Hall. Baked Beans, hot dogs, ham, salads, bread, desserts and beverages will be served. Cost is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12 and free for children under 6. Donations for the reading machine are greatly appreciated. Any funds over the goal of $3,000 will be given to St. Peter’s Rector’s Discretionary Fund which is used for people with emergency needs for housing, food, electricity and other special needs. Donations by check should be made out to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and in the memo line “Grondin Reading Machine.”

For additional information for the supper or making a donation, contact Marty Rogers at 236-8922 or or St. Peter’s Church at 594-8191 or or visit

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.