June 2018 Chronicle
By Denny Huff, President
Well, summer took its good old time getting here but it is finally here, and we have a lot to look forward to in the next few months.
Of course, one of the highlights this summer is the ACB national convention being held right here in Missouri. This is the first time the national convention has been to Missouri since 1981 so we are certainly looking forward to showing off our great state. I am hoping that we have a good turnout from our members and even if you can’t stay for the full week I hope you can at least attend one or two days if for no other reason but to visit the exhibit hall and see the latest and greatest in adaptive technology that’s available.
Of course, there will be some great speakers in the morning sessions including our good friend Charlie Brennan, morning talk show host on KMOX radio. He will be the speaker on Sunday morning, July 1 at 9:15 AM. If you can’t be there in person you can always listen on your PC, your smart phone, on your Victor Stream and on the Echo.
To listen to the convention on your PC or your smart phone go to: http://acbradio.org/live. To listen on your Echo, say, “Alexa, play ACB Radio Live Event.” If you want to listen on your Victor Stream, please give me a call and I’ll help you find it.
For the first time, the MCB Board met on a conference call during the month of April as opposed to an in-person meeting at a hotel. This was done to save MCB the cost of the hotel, meals and transportation for some 26 Board members. The amount saved was approximately $11,000.00.
Although we saved that amount of money by meeting in person, the Board made several decisions that required us to spend almost three times the amount we saved. Hopefully though, we will recoup all that we spent and even more over the next year or so.
Some of the business conducted during our Board meeting was to contract with Foundation Funding. This company will be working closely with our executive director and office manager to search and obtain financial grants to support our many programs. This is a renewal of a five-year contract and although the cost is for $8,000 we anticipate a return of 10 to 15 times that much.
One item the Board approved that I am particularly pleased with is the approval of the sensitivity training material presented by Patti Schonlau and her committee. In November of last year, the Board approved having a committee called, Sensitivity Training and I appointed Patti as the Chair. She and her committee worked many hours putting together material that will be used as the basis of what this committee will be doing. Their task will be to go to various places of business, hotels, airlines, doctors’ offices, organizations and any company that would have a visually impaired person to frequent their place of business. The material covers many aspects of working with a blind person from what to say to them and how to guide them.
There would not be a charge for a member of this committee to present their training, but we would suggest that if they felt it was a worthwhile training that they donate to MCB. My thanks to Patti and her committee which includes Wanda Matlock and James Hollins for all the work they have put into this program.
Our investments are a large part of our income each year and in fact, if it weren’t for our investments we would have been in the red this past fiscal year. The budget and finance committee work closely with our investment firms to monitor our finances. According to our bylaws, the budget and finance committee is to present an investment plan to the board each year for their approval. This committee does that each year and for the most part, there is not a change in the policy. This year however; the committee met with Jim Pohlman and discussed moving some of our investments around so that decisions can be made quickly whenever it is necessary as opposed to taking weeks for those investment decisions to be made. If you would like to know about the investment policy that MCB has, please contact our treasurer, Robert Vaughn.
The Board also approved contracting with Fire Spring, a non-profit web hosting company to maintain the MCB website. Darrel Vickers researched several companies and we met with some of them to discuss what they could do for MCB. Fire Spring offered the best package for the best price and the Board approved the contract. You can look for some good things to be happening with our website over the next several months. Thanks Darrel for the work you put into this.
The Board heard from our Strategic Plan Chair, Naomi Soule, about the progress of our strategic plan that was approved by the Board last October. We are making good progress with the plan and several of the items have already been completed including the Sensitivity Training Committee being formed and the MCB information line being incorporated. Although the plan is a work in progress, we do hope to have everything completed by the year 2021. If you would like to have a copy of the strategic plan, please call the office and request it. If there is something you would like to help with as a part of the plan, you can contact our executive director or me. I want to say thanks to Naomi and her committee for all the work they have put into doing this plan and making sure the items listed are being worked on.
The greatest expenditure was to our thrift store in Springfield. It was very difficult to present this to the Board as the investment made several years ago has not produced the return all were hoping for. Although we have not seen a return we had hoped for, we are still not giving up. It will be long term, but I and many others that are closely connected to the thrift store believe MCB will benefit from some of the actions the thrift store management has recently taken. On Saturday, May 5, I was able to attend the grand opening of a second thrift store of MCB. This store is located on Battlefield Road and has a great potential of being financially profitable from the beginning. Without going into a lot of detail I want to say I am impressed with our thrift store manager, Jeff La Montia for how he has managed the thrift store on North Kansas Expressway under the conditions in which that location has come under. I really don’t know if anyone else could have kept the doors open under those conditions, but Jeff has done it and is still doing it. Meeting expenses has been a problem for the thrift store over the past two years. But meeting those monthly expenses is what our manager and assistant manager, Rick Orr, have been doing. During the first few years we had as many as 27 employees and today that number has been reduced to only seven. This was done by not laying off people but rather by not rehiring someone when a position was vacated. Why the fall in income? Mainly it is due to the congregating of homeless people in the area. Again, without going into detail, customers were, and still are very reluctant to come to that area to do business. The MCB Thrift Store isn’t the only business to suffer from a lack of customers and sales, as some other businesses in the vicinity have been forced to close their doors. With the opening of this new store on Battlefield Road, it is anticipated that sales from this store will carry the load of both stores until the lease runs out on the store at the North Kansas Expressway location. Although the monthly expenses at the North Kansas Expressway store have been met, meeting the expense of the triple net, or as some call it, the bill back, has been a problem. Simply explaining, the triple net is an annual expense required by the landlord that pays for maintenance cost on not only our building but also any other building in the strip mall owned by the landlord. The amount is based on square footage and the more square footage a business the greater their share of the triple net. Since our building is the largest, 17,000 square feet, our expense is the greatest. Since MCB is still responsible for the lease we had no choice but to pay the triple net or we would have defaulted on the lease. Again, I know that Jeff, Rick and the Thrift Store Board would have rather done anything else but to have MCB pay this expense, but they know no other way of paying the money. I say once again, I am impressed with the managing ability of Jeff and Rick in how they have managed to keep the doors open under the circumstances they are faced with and now, with the opening of this second store we hope to see some return to us in a few years. So, thank you Jeff and Rick for all your hard work and your managing ability. If you have questions, please contact our vice president, Mike Keller.
I mentioned the ACB national convention coming up in a few weeks, but I also want to say a few things about our state convention in October to be held at the Capital Plaza hotel in Jefferson City.
This year our special guests will be Jack and Jill Fox, a father daughter team that are talking book narrators for NLS. Jack has a connection to Missouri and is looking forward to being with us along with his daughter. I hope you plan on attending the convention to hear this entertaining couple.
Don’t forget that this year is election year for president, vice president and secretary. All three positions will need to be filled as I and our vice president, Mike Keller will term out and DeAnna Noriega has decided not to run for the secretary position again. If you are interested in running for one of these positions, please announce your candidacy and tell us a little about yourself and why you want to fill one of those positions.
Once again, this year we will hold the MCB caucus for the ACB candidates via conference call. The date is Sunday, June 24 at 3:00 PM. The number to call is 218-548-8268 and use the pass code 26273#. We will have several candidates from ACB on the conference call talking about themselves and we will open the phone line for you to ask questions.
Finally, I would like to remind you about our MCB Information Line. You can call 773-572-6387 or if you don’t have unlimited long distance you can call toll free 844-605-4592. Currently we have the MCB Podcast, the Missouri Chronicle, A legislative report, member of the month, information about the blind pension and in memory, 2017.
I am going to close for this edition of the Chronicle, but I do hope to see you at the ACB convention in St. Louis in a few weeks. God Bless and enjoy your summer.
MCB UPDATE FROM THE Executive Director
By Christopher Gray
It has turned out to be an incredibly busy Spring for the Missouri Council of the Blind. Aside from our usual active workload, the ACB Convention planning activities have taken quite a bit of time from all of us. Many thanks to Jesuita Tabor for acting as our Missouri coordinator for this event. She is doing a fine job, and Missouri is geared up for what is sure to be a truly great ACB convention here in St. Louis. I hope to see as many of you as possible at the Union Station Hotel from June 30 to July 5 participating in the first national ACB convention that has come to Missouri since 1981.
As you'll read more about in another article in the Chronicle, MCB is truly pleased to have concluded the blind pension litigation which has gone on now since 2006. On Good Friday, March 30, the final hearing was held before Judge Joyce to certify the willingness of the class of blind pension recipients to agree to the terms of the settlement with the State of Missouri. The subsequent announcement of the settlement led to huge numbers of phone calls to the MCB office and to our attorneys on the case. We have literally received hundreds of phone calls on the matter. In my specific article on the litigation settlement, I will outline the process that is being followed and give you key information for the coming months. Please read it carefully, and if you have questions, don't hesitate to give us a call.
On March 26, MCB received our final audit for fiscal 2017. It is always a relief to have an audit behind us, and I am pleased to let you know that the audit was very favorable. We were very fortunate to have come out almost even on our expenses v. our income. While we came out on the positive side, it was by a very slim margin and largely attributable to an excellent year in the stock market for MCB.
We need to be mindful of the reality that MCB is extremely dependent on the stock market and some years are not going to be as kind to us as has this one. So far in 2018, we have seen some losses and hopefully these will reverse themselves over time. But in case they don't, the MCB office has been renewing its efforts to find grant funding and donor funding for the organization. We are working in partnership with an international company, Foundation Search, to identify possible opportunities for 2018, 2019 and beyond. We are soliciting funds for a variety of projects in the coming months, and during April and May will be working specifically on funding for the MCB summer camp and to replace our braille and ink printers in the office. Both are quite old and needing more and more maintenance each year. I hope to be able to report good things for these projects in future issues of the Chronicle.
All in all, this has been a positive quarter for the organization. With ACB coming to town in July, things can only get even better as we move forward in 2018.
MCB Needs Your Help at the ACB Convention
If you are attending the ACB convention, we could use a hand. MCB has decided to take a booth at the convention. Could you volunteer a couple of hours during the week to be at the booth when it is open? It is our hope to schedule people soon, always having two running the booth at a time. We will be providing information to attendees as well as having a few items to sell.
Please contact the MCB office and get yourself scheduled. Thank you for your willingness to volunteer.
By Wilma Chestnut-House, Chair
On April 21, 2018, Jannel, Denny, and I attempted to host a meeting in Jefferson City at the library in order to start a new affiliate. We did not have any takers. We will try one more time to do this. This time, we will do a conference call. The number is 218-542-8268 and the code is 26273. The conference call will be June 16, 2018 at 10:00 AM.
If the main concern for an affiliate being started is travel or bad weather, we have a remedy for that. The affiliate can set up for free conference calls at FreeConferenceCall.com and hold meetings. There is a group email list that can be made for all the members, and there is also a group text message for those with smart phones. The treasurer can set up an account with PayPal and your dues can be paid that way. We will help your new affiliate set all of these things up and you never have to leave the house.
Our President Denny Huff now has an office in Jefferson City and he said that if you meet once or twice a year, his new office can be used for the meeting. Problems solved!
Since Jefferson City is the capital of Missouri, it is only fitting that we have an affiliate there. This will be for Jefferson City and all surrounding areas. I will be posting this on the Chat line every other week until we have the conference.
On September 22, 2018, MCB will host our first Health Fair. It will be held at Missouri School for the Blind at the old Rehab Services for the Blind building at 3867 Magnolia Ave. The time for the public is 9:00 AM until 2:00 PM. There is no cost. We will have speakers concerning therapeutic recreation, chair exercises, herbal medicine, and diseases of the eyes. We would like some audience participation with the chair exercises. If you are interested in being an exhibitor, the cost of the table is $100. You will get a table, two chairs, and lunch for two. You can go on the MCB website and get the application.
As a PR project, I am asking all affiliates to participate in creating a cookbook for MCB. If your affiliate is interested, please let me know so that I can add your group to my list. If you are not interested, still let me know. Do this by August 1, 2018. You will have until December 31, 2018 to send in your favorite recipes. Only send in ones that you have tried. This cookbook will be sold at the 2019 ACB convention, the state convention, and any events that we attend. All proceeds will go to MCB.
This year we are not participating in the Delta Gamma “Run for Sight” event. I am attempting to get a group together for the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Run on September 30. There will be members from “The StL Firing Squad”, AGAPE Council, and I would like some MCB participants. If you don’t want to participate, then donate in the name of MCB or your affiliate. Let’s get our visually impaired people involved in very visible events! Let me know if you want to participate.
St. Louis Northern Lights
By Steve Schnelle, President
Hello from St. Louis Northern Lights. I’m sorry to report that we have lost one of our members during the spring. Kim Killian passed in early March. She was a charter member of STNLC and a mover and a shaker. We’ll miss her light and her motivation dearly.
This summer we have our Cardinal tickets again. The raffle includes 4 green seat tickets behind home plate, food and drink throughout the game, and 2 parking passes. It’s a $1,200 value. The game is on Friday, July 27th, right before the July camp week starts. It’s the last time the Cubs are in town this year. Raffle tickets are $10 for one and 3 for $20.
We’ll have new board members in August so stay tuned to find out who takes over the driver’s seat. Have a great summer and stay healthy and happy!
By Wanda Matlock
Hello to everyone from Delta Area of the Blind, I would like to start my report by saying how wonderful the turnout was on March 3rd, 2018 at the MCB Office for the celebration of Mrs. Marie Thompson’s life. When she lived in Portageville, she only lived about a mile from me. I have known her and her family for many years. Mrs. Marie will be truly missed. Her family was so overwhelmed by all the love and kindness that was shown at their Mother’s celebration.
On March 12th and 13th, LaWana Copeland, Jim Taul and I traveled to Jefferson City for Legislative Days. We were able to speak with several Senators and Representatives and still had some time between appointments to look around our beautiful capitol building.
On March 28, the United Way invited our affiliate to a fund raiser at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in Sikeston, Mo. We had 11 of our members in attendance. Everyone enjoyed the good food and socialization.
We had our monthly affiliate meeting on April 24th. We got our Summer Camp Applications mailed to the MCB office for the camp week in July. We also discussed both the ACB and MCB Conventions. We also discussed getting applications out for the Lola B. Garner educational scholarship. When funding allows, we award this scholarship to a student in the Southeast, Missouri area to help them continue their education. After our business meeting, we enjoyed pizza from Dominos along with drinks and dessert. The affiliate members voted not to have a meeting in May because of Memorial Day. Our next meeting will be held on June 26th 2018. From our affiliate to yours, have a safe and happy Spring!
AGAPE Council of the Blind
AGAPE Council of the Blind has three new members. We would like to welcome them all; Kimberly Maclin, Ronnie Dowell, and Debbie Norman. We will be hosting our annual Gospelfest on September 9, 2018. It will be held at Greater Faith Baptist Church at 4114 Natural Bridge. The time will be 3:30 pm until 5:30 pm. Our guest speaker will be Interim Pastor Dr. Alice Price from Central Baptist Church and we will have some great singing. It promises to be a blessed and joyful time. Come and join us!
CAMP ABILITIES, TAKE 3!
AGAPE Council of the Blind and The StL Firing Squad Beep Baseball team are hosting their third “Camp Abilities-St. Louis” summer camp program. This is a one week sports camp for blind and visually impaired children. The dates are July 8-13, 2018. The camp is free and the ages are 13-19.
The camp is held at Missouri School for the Blind at 3815 Magnolia Ave. There is transportation provided. Check with the school for pick up areas. This year the sports will be:
Beep Baseball: the campers will learn defensive drills and basic rules of beep baseball.
Track and Field: the campers will learn how to use starting blocks, passing the baton in a 4 X 100 relay, and using a tether.
Goal Ball: the campers will learn defensive skills and basic rules for the game.
Swimming: the campers will learn a variety of proper stroking techniques.
Bowling: the campers will learn how to bowl using a rail and how to score the game.
Extra time will be for dancing, martial arts, and tumbling. We will have Daryl Vickers who is a blind wood worker as a guest speaker and he will teach some wood working skills.
We will also have a water day on a giant water slide, a slip & slide. That is the day for snow cones.
If you are interested in your child coming to our camp, go to msb.dese.mo.gov and click on summer exploration programs. There is limited space. It’s going to be fun!
Blind of Central Missouri
By Marilyn Harding
We are glad winter seems to have loosened its hold on us. In February, Linda Gerken and Susan Sanderson attended the leadership conference held in St Louis. We learned that Donna Franklin had been made member of the month for November, 2017. We added two new members at our February meeting. We welcomed Betty Sanderson and Courtlin Sanders to our rolls. Courtlin is the granddaughter of Linda Gerken and has been helping the club for years in PR and all the computer stuff so many of us [read ME] don`t understand. Steve and Judith Bryant have agreed to represent us on the E&A Committee, and will go to Jefferson City next month for Legislative Day. Sadly, we said goodbye this month to Roy Whaley, a longtime member. Roy will be missed.
We are working on convention and hopefully, things will go smoothly. In March, our meeting started at 5:30 PM with pizza and soft drinks. While some ate, sighted members assisted the blind in filling out camp applications. Marilyn Harding presented Kirk Newland a quilt of valor for his service in Vietnam. A quilt had already been given to our WW II vets, Gerry Arnold and Carl Franklin. The big news this month was the settlement of the blind pension. It is still unknown when we will begin receiving any money.
Several of our members attended the United Way banquet. Our club was asked to bring personal items for donation to "Cram the Closet" program. A United Way Representative will be at our next meeting to collect items.
We continued working on convention issues. Steve Bryant has agreed to act as auctioneer at convention. We planned for our June picnic and pool party. The Whaley family donated some items to the club, which included a braille printer.
Well, April is finally here. Stacy Harrison from United Way was at our meeting, and talked about the mission statement of ''Cram the Closet''. Pictures were taken of the members standing in front of our donations. A little more information came trickling down about blind pension.
Now we should be getting packets in June/July and we continue work on convention. From our affiliate to yours, have a safe and happy Spring!
St. Charles County Council of the Blind
By Marjorie Petrofsky
Our February meeting was short and sweet. We discussed the business at hand and upcoming events.
Our social outing for the month was dinner at a Japanese restaurant in St. Peters. Ironically enough none of our cooks or wait staff were from Japan. The meal was delicious, they cooked as well as entertained us. We were served and waited on by Tom, Susan, Bill, Jack, Linda and Mike, go figure.
Our March meeting was wall to wall people, we had guests from several different organizations. It was very interesting and informative hearing from everybody. One of the organizations was a group called, 'SASI,' which stands for sight and sound impaired. The speaker mentioned that they were having a trivia night later in the month, so we decided that would be out March social event.
The trivia night was like no other trivia I have ever been to. The questions were really off the wall, like, if you go to Canada, it is against the law to shoot a gun at what creature? The answer is bigfoot, and I don't think they mean a person who wears a size 18 shoe or larger. Another question was up until 1970 it was against the law in Hawaii for a woman to eat what fruit. The answer was a coconut. Is that crazy or what?
It was one of those old laws from the 1700's that just never got erased from the books. There are still a lot of those old crazy laws. Did you know it is against the law in Alabama to whistle while passing a church on Sunday? It is also against the law in Maine for a man to kiss a woman on the left side of the street or in Vermont it is illegal for a woman to lick her fingers after she eats chicken. I guess Kentucky Fried wasn't around then. I could go on but I think everybody gets the idea.
Our April meeting was just the usual crowd and we talked mostly about the installation dinner. It was at Duchesne High School with a Mexican theme.
The dinner was on Saturday evening, April 21st. We had tacos filled with meat, lettuce, refried beans and cheese. We had our choice of dressings. Senor Denny came dressed in a colorful poncho and sombrero, plus some interesting trivia. We celebrated Kim Reese's 39th birthday with a cake and song of course. She informed us that this was her twelfth 39th birthday celebration. I hope everybody enjoys these next few months, Spring finally came, although she took her sweet time.
ATI Special Affiliate News
By Darrel Vickers, President
Adaptive Technology Inc. is a special interest affiliate of MCB. We discuss, support and encourage adaptive (assistive) technology for the blind. We host the vendor room at the MCB convention. We have our own website with a plethora of information about technology and how to get the most out of it.
I invite anyone with an interest in adaptive technology or who wants to know more about it to join us. To join, visit http://ati.moblind.org and click the membership tab or contact me. Dues are $15 annually. Because we are an affiliate, if you are a member of ATI you are a member of MCB.
App’s and information
Sound Scape by Microsoft:
What is Soundscape? Microsoft Soundscape is a research project that explores the use of innovative audio-based technology to enable people, particularly those with blindness or low vision, to build a richer awareness of their surroundings, thus becoming more confident and empowered to get around. Unlike step-by-step navigation apps, Soundscape uses 3D audio cues to enrich ambient awareness and provide a new way to relate to the environment. It allows you to build a mental map and make personal route choices while being more comfortable within unfamiliar spaces.
How does Soundscape work? Soundscape provides information about your surroundings with synthesized binaural audio, creating the effect of 3D sound. It can run in the background in conjunction with navigation or other applications to provide you with additional context about the environment. Your phone, in hand or in pocket, tracks movement using location and activity sensors, and lets you move toward a self-set audio beacon. Soundscape runs on iPhone 5S or later and is compatible with most wired or Bluetooth stereo headsets.
For more important visit: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/product/soundscape/
A Wearable Mobility Tool for the Blind, the BuzzClip is a small and discreet wearable for people living with blindness or partial sight. The device uses ultrasound to detect obstacles that may lie directly in one's path. It then notifies the user of these obstacles through intuitive vibrations, allowing the user to safely navigate around any objects that they may encounter. The BuzzClip offers essential head level obstacle detection and can be easily held or attached to many forms of clothing, making it a highly versatile and useful device.
All aspects of the BuzzClip from its design to its functionality have been created with our customers in mind. It is an extremely practical mobility tool that can reduce fears of travelling as it provides a reliable way to inform a user of their immediate surroundings and prevent collisions.
I am excited by the BuzzClip. I hope to own one and be able to do a full report on it in the next Chronicle.
For more information: visit https://www.imerciv.com/
Just for Fun
If you have an Amazon Echo device and like music, here is a simple little game called Song Quiz. You can play it alone are with other people. Alexa will play a short clip of a song and you try to guess the name of the song or artist. If you guess both you get extra points.
To play say Alexa play song quiz. Alexa will ask how many players. To play by yourself say one. Then it will ask your name. I just say Darrel. Then it will ask, “where are you from?” I say Missouri. These two things are important if you want it to keep track of your scores and get more of a variety of songs. Then it will ask you to pick a category. These are decades. It will say 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s, or 2010’s. Then it will tell you who you will play against.
It takes about 4 minutes to play one complete game.
Important! After you exit the game it will always tell you to link your Amazon account to unlock more songs. I would not do this. They will have access to all the personal information Amazon has on file about you. This makes me uncomfortable. I have found I still get new songs and the more you win the more difficult the song clips get. For example, at first it plays clips with the title in the lyric clip. As your score increases you may not even get words at all.
Song plays songs from the pop genre. If you like country music there is country song quiz.
Until next time, Darrel
Important Bylaws/Resolutions Reminder
By Janelle Edwards, Bylaws/Resolutions Committee Chair
To have a representative on the Bylaws/Resolutions Committee, if a regular affiliate is not currently represented, or the representative has changed, by September 1, regular affiliate presidents must notify the office which member will represent their affiliate. The representative may be changed later in some circumstances.
Proposed bylaw amendments, or resolutions, must be submitted to me by July 15 by either two members, or a MCB committee, or a regular affiliate, or a special interest affiliate.
If you have questions, my contact information is in the Chronicle insert.
Adaptive Technology Committee
By Darrel Vickers, Chairman
Hi Everyone, I want to take a minute to give you an update on our technology grants and provide an overview of this great program for those of you who might not be aware of it and how it works. Missouri Council knows how life changing, certain types of technology can be to a blind person. We are also aware the cost of this type of technology can be expensive and may be out of reach for some people. Therefore, MCB provides the adaptive technology grant. Each year MCB sets aside moneys for technology that blind persons of Missouri can apply for, to help offset the cost of adaptive technology.
How it works: For MCB members, MCB will match dollar for dollar for most types of adaptive technology with a $3000 limit over any five (5) year period. Any blind resident of Missouri who is not a member of MCB can also receive a grant, but we will match 25% of the total cost with the same $3000 limit.
Where we stand: We have approved thirty six (36) grants since September 1. As of this writing, April 30, we have approximately $5000 left in our budget.
Purpose: The MCB technology grant is a matching grant to help Missouri blind and low vision persons obtain all types of adaptive technology. The Missouri Council of the Blind (MCB) created this Adaptive Technology Grants Program to help fulfill its mission of enriching the lives of legally blind Missourians. Adaptive technology can be very expensive so MCB understands why many legally blind Missourians are not benefiting from its use. For the purpose of this grant program, adaptive technology is considered hardware, software, electronics, equipment, etc. that is standalone or works in conjunction with a computer that makes it possible for blind people to do things that sighted people can already do without using adaptive technology.
Coverage: The Adaptive Technology Program widely covers both hardware and software based adaptive technology, including upgrades and maintenance agreements, and narrowly covers computer systems as required by or used in conjunction with accompanying adaptive technology, such as screen magnification software, screen reader software, or a scanning system. Purchase of a computer along with or for use with accompanying adaptive technology is only eligible for up to a $400 matching funds grant. Only new adaptive technology and computers are covered, including adaptive technology upgrades to newer versions; used or previously owned adaptive technology and computers are not covered.
A full copy of the grant guidelines as well as an application can be found on our web site or by contacting the MCB office at (314) 832-7172. You can also contact me anytime. This is a wonderful program and I encourage you to take advantage of it if needed.
The Committee: The Adaptive Technology Committee is made up of three members: Darrel Vickers, Nancy Lynn and Donna Giger. If you have any questions about the program please contact me by email at email@example.com or by phone at (636) 667-3176. Until next time, take Care.
An Invite with a personal Touch
By June Lenk, Blind Task Force Chair
Greetings fellow MCB Members. I write this article while wearing sort of a double hat. As you know, I am the current Committee Chair and MCB’s representative to Missouri’s Blind Task Force on Student Academic and Vocational Achievement.
As a teacher of blind and vision impaired persons, I am as proud as ACB to announce that the Academy for Certification of Vision, Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP), has designated the American Council of the Blind as a Category 1 provider for continuing opportunities in the field of blindness and vision impairment. I recently, was contacted by the Chairperson of ACB’s National Special Education Task Force and asked to be a part of a seminar presentation during this summer’s convention here in St. Louis. During one of the seminars, I plan to present a segment on schools for the blind as a resource for public school-based vision programs and the future impact this movement might have in reference to preparing blind and vision impaired students for a collegiate setting.
This year, the American Council of the Blind has arranged to offer continuing education credits to blind and low vision therapists, rehabilitation counselors and other professionals. Credits will be offered for a wide range of specialized programs, workshops, seminars and other events presented by ACB committees and affiliates. If you or someone you know is interested in obtaining continuing college credits this summer, I would encourage you to invite them to come and participate in the many programs made available through ACB and its affiliate organizations. The dates for the conference and convention are June 29 to July 6, 2018. The seminars and events offering C.E. credits will begin on Saturday, June 30 and continue throughout the week.
“Calling All Performers”!!! Each Year, Friends in Art, also an ACB affiliate, hosts a showcase where performers and musical artists from around the country display their talent. The proceeds from this showcase help to support FIA and provide funding for scholarships offered by the affiliate. The showcase will be held on Monday evening July second and will start at 8:00 p.m. Auditions will take place on Saturday July first between 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. At the showcase, you will also have the opportunity to dance to and/or perform with a live band, made up of members from our own local and state affiliate. This year, Jack and I have been given the honor of being MC’s for the showcase.
Not since the year 1981, have Missourians been so privileged to have the American Council of the Blind hold its national convention in our own back yard. It is my sincere hope that members from every affiliate in the Missouri Council of the Blind come and participate in the education, dedication, fun, fellowship and celebration that is ACB.
Member of the Month
By Yvonne Schnitzler
Congratulations to those chosen the Missouri Council of the Blind Member of the Month for February, March, and April. The MCB appreciates their dedication to the organization and thanks them for the many contributions to the Council and communities.
Jim Murray is a United State Air Force veteran and a former law enforcement officer. Jim was a member-at-large and after joining the Joplin Service Club, served as Vice President, Treasurer, and MCB Board representative. He updates the Service Club on current legislation and important matters to the blind and visually impaired. Jim attended the Leadership Training this year and participated in Legislative Days in Jefferson City. He is an avid supporter of the Service Club in the community, taking part in the white cane promotion at the Joplin mall and demonstrating the white cane at Joplin Third Thursdays. Jim served on the panel, through Missouri Southern State University, that created public service announcements promoting awareness of the blind and low vision community as well as the Joplin Association for the Blind. Jim keeps up with the latest technology and takes personal interest in assisting anyone who has a desire to learn more about assistive technology.
Latoya Scott graduated from the University of Missouri in 2007 with a degree in criminal justice. She completed her internship with the St. Louis Police Department. LaToya has been a member of Tower Club for over ten years and serves as its Treasurer. She is extremely helpful fulfilling the needs of others especially in the area of transportation. Latoya has supervised the after school program for the City of St. Louis (Providence). She is active in the City Christian Church and helps with the Thanksgiving program feeding the needy. Latoya is employed by the Department of Family Services.
Kirk Newland became involved with the Blind of Central Missouri while providing transportation for his mother to attend meetings. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time to help others. Kirk volunteers for the American Red Cross, the Boy Scouts, and the Missouri Baptist Disaster relief, using his handyman talents to repair porches, out buildings at the church camp, and homes of those in need. Kirk volunteers at the Community Café serving meals to the homeless and unemployed. Also, he delivers Meals on Wheels to the home bound, and lends a helping hand at the Open Door Food Pantry.
Meet Us in St Louis, It’s A Party!
By Jesuita Tabor, Convention Chair
Everyone is invited to the ACB welcome party hosted by Missouri Council of the Blind on Friday, June 29 from 8 pm to 11 pm. Come and meet new friends and enjoy the evening with the sounds of TimBuckTu Band. Be sure to visit all the vendors at ACB convention, attend meetings, luncheons and social events.
Do not forget our convention in Jefferson City on October 5, 2018. The hotel is filled to capacity so be sure to make your reservations immediately. Hope to see you at both conventions.
By Linda Gerken
Youth Services is one of the many great programs we have within MCB. We still have some money for any child who is blind who needs an educational item for the summer. Please Speak with the teachers who will have your child next year and order over the summer so your child is ready for their next year of school. Also, if your child wants to go to any camp, please let us know so we can help them. My committee is waiting to hear what your child needs!
Summer Camp Report
By Beverly Kaskadden
The Camp Committee consisting of Celita White, Sam White and myself, will be meeting to finalize the cabin and table placements for the June and July sessions. You still have time to submit your applications for the September extended weekend at Cobblestone. The deadline for submission is August 1. Time flies by so fast, so don’t hesitate. We will knock ourselves out to assure everyone enjoys their time while at Cobblestone.
I cannot express enough the importance of reading the Camp Guidelines and filling out the application completely. If you still have questions, please give me a call or email me. When the applications have been processed, I will give the MCB office the okay to send out the acceptance letters. Again, please call me, not Cobblestone or the MCB office, with any questions.
I can report that there are new names on the attendance list, and I am so excited to see young families in attendance.
I am so proud of Missouri Council of the Blind to fund such a worthwhile program as this. I hope to see many of you soon. Call me at home (636) 561-6947 or my cell is (636) 541-2503 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seeing and Listening with Help
By Mary Hale, Dual Vision and Hearing Loss Chair
Yes, it is possible to get help with seeing and listening with SSPs (Support Service Providers). There are many people in Missouri who have a combination of vision and hearing loss. Chances are most likely that you or someone you know has a hearing loss along with blindness. Although many people still deny having a hearing loss. Why is that? Is having a hearing loss so wrong to admit? Is having blindness so wrong to admit? So what is the difference?
As individuals with blindness, we know how much we rely on other senses of touch, smell, taste and most importantly hearing. Without good hearing, our sense of wellbeing is impaired. Such as the sense of feeling confident, self-assured, feeling of safety, feeling of isolation and simply not knowing who or what is around us. All of this can be very frightening and can cause much confusion.
Missouri now has a program for all those who want to help themselves live a better, fuller life with a sense of happiness and security. For the many with the dual vision and hearing loss, there is help! The SSP Program is here for you.
SSPs can assist you as your “eyes and ears”. Not only can they help assist you with going to the grocery store and doctor appointments, they can help you get more involved with your community. Do you hesitate when going to support groups, blind events or even to church simply because it is too difficult? The SSPs can not only guide you, and/or help with transportation, but they also can help you to communicate with others around you. With a hearing loss of any kind, you simply will not be able to understand and follow many conversations. That is where the SSPs can help you.
For most of the state of Missouri, DEAF Inc. is the agency that is handling the SSP Program. If you are a person with both vision and hearing loss OR you know of someone who is interested in working as an SSP, please contact them. Email is DBSSP@deafinc.org, phone is (314) 222- 0364, website is www.deafinc.org. If you live in the eastern portion of the state, closer to Kansas City, you can contact the agency Beyond Interpreting at 660-491-0145 or email email@example.com.
This is a wonderful and fantastic program, but we need everyone who is eligible to sign up and show the government that there is a real need for this service. If you do not sign up, you are hurting yourself and limiting what you really CAN DO!
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 314-544-3252.
Committees of the Missouri Council of the Blind
By, Denny Huff, President
Many of you may not realize what it takes to keep an organization like the Missouri Council of the Blind operating from day to day. Well, it takes more than the office staff and myself to get all of the work done.
I want to share with you our committees and just a little bit about what they do. Maybe you'll get a better understanding of how MCB works and some of the work we do.
MCB Board - The Board is the governing body of MCB. They make the financial decisions and conduct business in-between our annual convention. The Board is comprised of the 4 officers, a representative from each regular affiliate, 3 directors and the public relations chair person.
Adaptive Technology Grant - Chair Person, Darrel Vickers
This committee oversees the 50-50 grant program for purchasing adaptive technology products.
Summer Camp - Chair Person, Beverly Kaskadden
This committee manages the enormous task of reviewing applications to the summer camp program, assigning cabins and tables for the meals.
Special Services - Chair Person, Joe Dobbs
This committee manages the grant applications that are made for special needs such as assistance with paying rent, utilities or any other circumstance deemed to be a special situation.
Scholarship - Chair Person, Wanda Matlock
The Scholarship Committee reviews the applications for the scholarship grants and makes sure that the grants are awarded to the qualified applicants.
Youth Services - Chair Person, Linda Gerken
The Youth Services Committee manages the request for educational material for the youth.
Personnel - Chair Person, Shirley Brokaw
The Personnel Committee handles matters concerning the office staff, keeps the personnel manual up to date and conducts an annual review of the executive director.
Policy - Chair Person, Mike Keller
The Policy Committee takes requests from committees and individuals for policy considerations. They also may submit bylaw amendment proposals to the membership.
Sensitivity Training - Chair Person, Patti Schonlau
Beginning this year the Sensitivity Training Committee will begin making presentations to the public, businesses and organizations on being sensitive towards the needs of a blind or visually impaired individual they may encounter.
Strategic Plan – Chair Person, Naomi Soule
This committee is responsible for creating and implementing a strategic plan.
Resolutions and Bylaws - Chair Person, Janelle Edwards
The Resolutions And By-Laws Committee is responsible for accepting bylaw amendment proposals and presenting those to the membership at the annual convention.
Convention Coordinator - Chair Person, Jesuita Tabor
As the name implies, the convention coordinator works with the host affiliate to make sure all areas of the annual convention are adequately prepared. This committee also collects bids from prospective convention sites.
Multi-Media - Chair Person, Chris Judd
The Multi-Media, formerly the Internet Committee, is responsible for the web page content, the MCB Information Line and the streaming of the Board meetings and annual convention.
Public Relations - Chair Person, Wilma Chestnut-House
As the name implies, the Public Relations Committee reaches out to the public to inform and educate the public about MCB.
Budget and Finance - Chair Person, Robert Vaughn
The MCB treasurer is the Chair of this committee and is responsible for managing the finances and investments of our organization.
Resource and Development - Chair Person, Kim Vaughn
This committee is responsible for fundraising in MCB.
Membership - Chair Person, Jannel Morris
The Membership Committee duties are to reach out to prospective members and to assist affiliates with membership drives. They are also responsible for compiling information to be given to new and existing members.
Education and Advocacy - Chair Person, Chip Hailey
This committee is responsible for educating the membership of MCB about legislative issues on the state and national level and then to advocate for or against those issues to our senators, representatives and congressmen.
Member-of-the Month Chair Person, Yvonne Schnitzler
This committee receives nominations from the membership for members to be recognized for the work they are doing for MCB. The committee judges those nominations and makes a determination based on the nomination letter submitted by an affiliate or an individual.
Low Vision – Currently not chaired by anyone.
This committee helps with new products and support for low vision individuals.
Credentials - Chair Person, Susan Sanderson
The Credentials Committee is responsible for validating membership in MCB for the purpose of voting at the MCB convention. This committee is also responsible for overseeing the voting process at the convention.
Emergency Preparedness - Chair Person, Bunny Maginnis
This committee presents information critical to preparing one’s self in emergency situations.
Thrift Store - Chair Person, Mike Keller
The Thrift Store Committee acts as a liaison between the thrift store and the MCB Board.
Blind Pension Litigation - Chair Person, Bev Armstrong
This committee handles the litigation for the blind pension lawsuit.
Dual Vision and Hearing Loss - Chair Person, Mary Hale
This committee is responsible for updating the membership on deaf blind matters and to make sure the listening devices are made available at the annual convention.
Building - Charles Johnson
The Building Committee takes care of the day to day maintenance and operations of the MCB office building.
The Missouri Chronicle - Chair Person, James Hollins
The editor of the Chronicle gathers articles and edits them for corrections and then submits those articles for publications in large print, Braille and audio.
Wolfner Library Representative - Chair Person, DeAnna Noriega. The Wolfner Library representative represents MCB at all meetings of Wolfner and keeps the membership updated on what is going on with Wolfner.
401 Task Force - Chair Person, June Lenk
The 401 Task Force works with the younger visually impaired of Missouri including the bi-annual Vision Summit.
Rehab Services for the Blind Advisory Council - Representative, Chris Gray. This representative attends the SRC public forums held in various cities across the state and represents MCB at the business meeting on the following day.
My thanks to all of these chair people for the work they do. They sure make my job a lot easier.
Blind Pension Litigation Settled
By Chris Gray
MCB can be extremely proud of finally reaching a settlement with the State of Missouri in the blind pension litigation, Gerkin V. Sherman. The pension litigation has languished in the Missouri Court system since 2006, twelve long years. The State appealed four times during these years and with one relatively minor exception lost each appeal. The State also appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court but the Court declined to accept their appeal and passed the case back to the original court. This is significant proof that MCB was in the right to pursue this case against the State and the settlement of that case is a great victory for the organization.
Settlement talks were initiated by the State of Missouri in December, 2017. Of course, MCB was pleased to cooperate in such negotiations. Over a couple of months, our attorneys negotiated with the State in consultation with the blind pension committee and later with the MCB Board of Directors. Due to the confidential nature of such negotiations, nobody could discuss anything about this outside the Blind Pension Committee and the Board which was very hard not to do. By February, an agreement had been reached and pursuant to that, a postcard was mailed to any recipient of the blind pension who had been a recipient between 2001 and 2010. Approximately 7,770 postcards were sent, and approximately 3,100 were returned. The purpose of the cards was to inform the class of blind pension recipients of the terms for the settlement and to allow anyone in the class who wished to do so to disagree with the settlement. We really didn't imagine anybody would object, and thankfully that turned out to be the case. On Friday March 30, Good Friday, MCB and the State of Missouri attorneys met in the courthouse in Jefferson City, Missouri, stated our agreement by all to the settlement, and finalized a few minor arrangements at that time. Immediately upon the conclusion of our discussion, Judge Joyce affirmed the settlement and ordered it to be carried out without delay. How great this felt after literally years of delay in the past.
So, what happens next, and what do you need to do if you are a member of the class who could receive an additional payment from the State of Missouri? Let me try and spell this out in some detail.
1. If you did not receive a postcard in that original mailing to the class of blind pension recipients and if you believe you are owed a refund by the State, get in touch with MCB and let us know about your situation. The state could owe you money if you received Blind Pension or Supplemental Aid to the Blind any time between 2001 and 2010.
2. If you are the designated beneficiary or next of kin to a recipient of blind pension between 2001 and 2010 and that person is deceased, you can receive the payment that would have gone to them were they still living. If you believe this to be the case, again please contact the MCB office and we will assist you in organizing the details for getting the money that is owed to you.
3. Assuming that you are properly identified to the State, you will receive a statement of what the State believes it owes you. We anticipate that the State will get these announcements prepared and mailed to you over the summer, hopefully by August, 2018. If you don't get a statement during this time and believe you should have received one, again please contact the MCB office so we can help you with this. If you do get a statement but you believe it to be in error, please contact the sender of the form as indicated on that form.
4. Assuming you agree with the form and/or when you resolve any issues regarding the form with the State, and provided that you are still a recipient of Blind Pension or Supplemental Aid to the Blind, you will receive your payment from the state in the same way you receive your monthly payments now. In other words, if, for example, your payments come to you via direct deposit, your payment for 2001-2010 will also come to you via direct deposit. You don't need to do anything, you will just receive the payment by February of 2019. Your payment will be a one-time payment for the full amount you are owed.
5. If you are next of kin or the beneficiary of the estate of an individual, please contact MCB for assistance. There is a form to be completed, and you will need to work with our attorneys to handle the details. They will assist you at no charge to you.
Well ok, that's a lot of detail. But, I hope it has been presented in a straightforward fashion, and one you can follow with relative ease. To recap, for most readers assuming you are owed money for the period between 2001-2010, wait for your form showing how much you'll get, review the form, and assuming it's right you need do nothing more. For others, review the above a time or two and it will probably make sense to you. If not, you can always contact us here at MCB and we will do our best to give you a hand.
Many, many people should be acknowledged who were a part of making this settlement possible. First and foremost are the MCB attorneys who assisted us tirelessly over these many years: Debbie Greider, John Ammann, and John Greider. Also, Bev Armstrong needs a huge "thank you" for her championing of this litigation and for being the Executive Director of MCB who truly saw the need for this to happen. I have valued getting to know her as the Chairperson of the Blind Pension Committee and for her educating of me on all the issues involved, and perhaps a few others as well. And finally, possibly the biggest "thank you" goes to those whose names appeared on the litigation paperwork, in particular Linda Gerkin whose name has been "taken in vain" most often during the course of the lawsuit. Too often, people are unwilling to stand up and make the commitment to be named in litigation such as this. Not true for Linda, or for the others whose names appeared on the original filings. I can't name you all here, but please accept my personal thanks of appreciation for your commitment and dedication to the rights of blind Missourians.
The settlement of Gerkin V. Sherman is truly a huge victory for all blind people of Missouri. It exemplifies the power of what people can do when they come together and work together toward a common goal. Alone we can often do so little, but organized and working hand in hand, we can do so much. Congratulations to all MCB members for working together to make this victory a reality. For those who are not members, please consider joining a local affiliate or becoming a member-at-large. We all need one another, so please consider joining with us to celebrate this great event.
AND THE WINNERS WILL BE!
By Denny Huff, President
If you are a member of the Missouri Council of the Blind and would like to nominate someone for one of the following awards, please send your nomination to DHuff@MoBlind.Org. Or you can send by mail to our office at Award Nomination, Missouri Council of the Blind, 5453 Chippewa St., St. Louis, MO 63109. The deadline for the nominations is June 30, 2018. Along with the nominee’s name, please include the reason you are nominating this person for that award. The winners of these awards will be announced at our 2018 annual convention banquet to be held in Jefferson City in October.
Criteria for Selection of Award recipients:
The recipient of the Nathaniel Johnson Award may be either legally blind or sighted but shall be a member of MCB. The honoree shall be someone who has done outstanding work in his/her community, for his/her Affiliate, or for MCB.
The recipient of the Ellis M. Forshee Award may be either legally blind or sighted. The honoree shall be someone who has done something outstanding on the state or national level. He/she shall be someone who works with the legally blind or with legislation for the legally blind.
The Darrell Lauer "Outstanding Leadership Award" will be presented from time to time, when deemed appropriate, to an outstanding member of the Missouri Council of the Blind who has shown qualities of exemplary leadership in the organization and in the community.
The Media Award shall be presented from time to time to an individual or a media source that has shown outstanding promotion or news coverage to the Missouri Council of the Blind or to one of its affiliates.
The Community Service Award may be presented annually at the Missouri Council of the Blind convention. The recipient of this award must be an organization who serves cross disabilities. The organization will be eligible for this award because the organization provides a service or services that enable individuals with disabilities to become more integrated into society through participating in activities within the community.
Darrell Lauer 1940 - 2002
The Missouri Council of the Blind and the community lost a great friend and hard worker with the passing of Darrell Lauer on May 7, 2002. Legally blind since age 12, Darrell distinguished himself locally, regionally, and nationally for his dedication and advocacy for the blind, disabled, and elderly. He graduated from the Missouri School for the Blind, Central Missouri State University and received a Master of Social Work from Washington University in 1973.
Mr. Lauer began his professional career as a Head Start Counselor and in 1966 was promoted to Family Counselor. In 1971, he became a Consumer Branch Manager for the Human Development Corporation in St. Louis working with the local utility companies to facilitate services for the needy, disabled, and elderly. He trained as an expert witness and lobbyist against the utility companies in conjunction with the Public Service Commission and worked for the passage of free information services for the disabled with AT&T and Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC).
From 1982-2000, he was employed by SBC. He helped create Braille billing and arranged a national training program for certified disability leaders for ADA. He assisted in an initiative project involving 20 major corporations creating computer related internships for disabled individuals leading to permanent employment with the companies. All of these programs merited national awards for SBC and Darrell represented the company at the National presentations.
Darrell was appointed to the St. Louis County Commission for the Disabled in 1991. He served as president of The American Foundation for the Blind and the Missouri Council of the Blind. He served on the Board of Directors of organizations whose missions focused on aging, disability rights and independent living for the disabled. Some of those included the St. Louis Society for the Blind, which honored Darrell with a lifetime achievement award, the Greater St. Louis Area Boy Scouts Council and the Central Institute for the Deaf. He was a past secretary of Paraquad. He was the president of the Midwest Regional Board of the American Foundation of the Blind from 1988-1995 and made a lifetime honorary board member.
Mr. Lauer was the first person to receive the National ADA Medal. Other awards received by Mr. Lauer include HDC Employee of the Year, twice the Humanitarian Award from the National Silver-Haired Congress, twice the Arkansas Traveler Award and the United Way Man of the Year for Community Services.
Each year, Darrell enjoyed doing the broadcast of the Veiled Prophet Parade, through downtown St. Louis, over Radio Information Service. Darrell arranged with the Telephone Pioneers so he could describe the parade to blind people, which they could hear over the radio or headsets. He organized the first “beep” baseball and “beep” sailing program with the help of the Telephone Pioneers.
Nate, as he was known by his many friends, graduated from the Missouri School for the Blind in 1959. He was a classmate of Darrel Lauer. From high school he went on to college at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. After college he was employed in social work positions in the St. Louis area. He then moved on to home teaching and counseling with Rehabilitation Services for the Blind and worked out of the Sikeston, Missouri office covering much of Southeast Missouri.
He was an extremely gregarious and likeable individual, made many friends, and was responsible for bringing many people into the MCB. He played a strong part in the organization and founding of the Delta Area Council of the Blind. He served the MCB as secretary and this organization was very near and dear to his heart. All were saddened by his untimely death from prostate cancer in the mid 1980’s. He had a kind of gruff voice similar to Fats Domino. In fact, it could have been a bit difficult when you heard it to know who was playing the piano and singing, “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill,” Nate or Fats.
Nathanial Johnson was so well liked, MCB wanted to honor him by giving an award in his name. The award was previously known as the Federationist of the Year Award.
Ellis M. Forshee
Ellis M. Forshee graduated from the Missouri School for the Blind in 1913. In those days, there were not many options open to young, blind men seeking a living. Some became chiropractors; others went into the legal profession, and some worked on street corners playing music or selling pencils. Many worked in industries for the blind making brooms and mops in what was known as the "broom shop”. Others sold the mops and brooms door to door. Forshee worked in a shop where he was often observed walking around tapping his cane and talking to any and every one. He never met a stranger. He talked easily with anyone about anything.
Forshee was an early member of The United Workers for the Blind of Missouri, the first organized group of blind people, formed in 1912. He was active in legislative matters, making numerous trips to Jefferson City to speak with state legislators regarding the establishment of a blind pension program. It was only natural when the MCB as a young, fledgling organization, wanted to name a legislative award that they paid tribute to this individual and chose the name, The Ellis M. Forshee Award.
Vets News Line
By Darrel Vickers
I want to take a moment to talk about benefits for Veterans who have or are losing their site. If this is you or you know a veteran this information could help please share it with them.
As some of you may know I am a Navy vet. I began losing my sight while I was in the service. Over a twenty-year period I lost my sight except for a little light perception. My eye condition is not service connected so I thought I was unable to receive medical VA benefits. Then a friend, Denny Huff, put me in contact with another Vet like myself. After talking with him I realized the VA wanted to help me even though my condition was not service connected. At the time I really did not think the VA could do anything for me. But Morris encouraged me to just contact the VA anyway. So I got the name of what the VA calls a vision coordinator and got the process started.
After I had a full physical, eye examination and a chest X-ray I was placed on the schedule to go to the Heine's Blind Rehabilitation center in Chicago. This was one of the best decisions I have made. Heine's is a first rate facility and every member of the staff is great. Each program is customized to the Vet's needs and desires. In my case the number one thing I wanted was orientation and mobility training. I had a cane but never had any formal training.
I was there for six weeks. I always thought I could get around pretty well. I soon realized after a short time I was wrong. I met a couple of guys who had recently lost all of their sight. All though I had been using a cane for at least fifteen years they were helping me get around and they had only been using a cane for a few weeks. By the time I left I was helping other people. They will purchase equipment such as a computer and other adaptive devices. Another thing, all your health care cost are paid with no co-payments.
Please do not let fear prevent you from taking advantage of this wonderful facility. They have a very comprehensive rehabilitation program including O and M, computers, living skills and so on. They have a full woodworking shop, machine shop, music classes, etc.
It is not just all work and no play. I attended a Cubs game, went sailing, played golf and many other things. I also made some new friends and even after five years a couple of guys and I are still very close. I could go on and on but I need to keep this article short.
List of VA facilities with a Vision Coordinator in Missouri:
- Kansas City VA Medical Center, 816-861-4700
- St. Louis John Cochran Division, 314-652-4100 or 800-228-5459, extension 54121
- Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital, Columbia, 573-814-6000
- John J. Pershing VA Medical Center, Poplar Bluff, 573-686-4151 or 888-557-8262
Remember your loss of sight does not have to be service connected. You served your country.
Another organization you may want to consider joining is the Blinded Veterans Association. http://bva.org.
Please call me at 636-667-3176 if I can answer any questions. Take Care, Darrel Vickers, USN AMM Third Class.
S.O.A.R.ing to New Heights
The Summer Orientation & Mobility and Adapted Living Resource program (SOAR – St. Louis), formerly known as the Summer Transition Employment Program (STEP), is held annually in June at Webster University, MO. This 3-week, highly intensive program provides structured training and specialized instruction to twelve young adults ages 16-21 who are legally blind and intend to live independently, seek competitive employment and/or pursue higher education. SOAR is structured around a series of lessons called domains that each focus on teaching an adapted living skill. Domains include cooking, kitchen management, independent travel skills, self-care, clothing management, home maintenance, money management, career exploration and sex education. The Lighthouse for the Blind is proud to sponsor this program that not only emphasizes independence, but also encourages social interactions and fosters comradery between participants as they learn and progress together.
The Lighthouse would like to provide our readers with an inside look at SOAR through the experiences of two participants - Sean Borah and Erin Jacobson. Sean and Erin both arrived the opening day of SOAR full of apprehension and anticipation. They had never spent an extended period of time away from home and were unsure of what to expect over the next three weeks. Erin particularly felt the pressures of leaving her family and living with an unfamiliar roommate. She had become visually impaired only two years prior after suffering complications from an autoimmune disease and was still adjusting to her vision loss and subsequent dependence on family members. On the opening day of SOAR, Erin remembers feeling extreme homesickness after her parents left. “There were a few tears shed,” she readily admitted. “But then I realized everyone else was feeling the same way I was. It became a sort of icebreaker that ultimately drew us closer together. After the first day, we pretty much became a family!”
Erin describes herself as shy and quiet, but towards the end of SOAR, she had grown into a more outgoing and self-assured person. She contributes her new found confidence to the strong relationships she developed with her fellow participants and the pride that comes with achieving new skills. “I had just learned to drive when I started losing my vision,” says Erin. “Relying on my family for transportation and other chores around home felt like a lack of accomplishment on my part.” After three weeks of specialized training, Erin is proud to admit she can now cook and complete household chores by herself. She says, “I became really good at dusting furniture, but don’t tell my mom!” “SOAR has given me the confidence to look forward to the college experience,” says Erin. “I have developed life-long friends over the past three weeks and will be sad to see SOAR end, but I can’t wait for the next step!”
Sean, born with the eye disease Retinitis Pigmentosa, dreaded coming to SOAR. He didn’t understand the value of the program and firmly believed he did not need to learn how to accomplish tasks differently because of his vision. It did not take long for him to change his opinion. According to Sean, he had an epiphany his first week at SOAR when Marcus Engel, motivational speaker and author, gave a guest presentation to the SOAR participants along with his guide dog. Marcus was catastrophically injured and blinded in a severe car accident caused by a drunk driver. He has since devoted his life to traveling the country and challenging individuals to overcome adversity and to make positive choices. Marcus’ story and first-hand advice resonated with Sean especially his tips on living independently without sight. Marcus encouraged the SOAR participants to focus on developing strong cane navigation skills before utilizing the services of a guide dog. According to Sean, “I had always thought I could live on my own without special instruction, hence my hesitation to attend SOAR. I now realize I was not prepared for college or a guide dog.” Once Sean decided to embrace his domain instruction, he began to revel in his successes in cooking, money management and orientation and mobility. Sean is a talented musician and through the guidance of a career advisor at SOAR, he explored the possibility of pursuing a career in music therapy. He feels a renewed sense of purpose and optimism for the future. “I did not want to come to SOAR, but I am so glad I did,” says Sean. “I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of.”
Sean and Erin both left SOAR with a renewed sense of self. Sean and Erin both agree that the instructional side of SOAR was invaluable, but by far the most beneficial aspect of SOAR were the friendships they made. Both participants plan to further cultivate the relationships they began at SOAR. “Nothing compares to meeting people who understand what you are going through,” says Sean.
Sean and Erin both have advice for future SOAR participants. Erin says, “Keep an open mind when it comes to learning new things and experiences and be prepared for constructive criticism.” “Embrace your domain instructors,” Sean added. “You are going to get really tired sometimes, but it will all be worth it!”
For more information please contact Angie Yorke, Programs Manager, at (314) 423-4333 or email@example.com.
announcing my candidacy for President of mcb
By Darrel Vickers
Hi, my name is Darrel Vickers and I am declaring my candidacy for president of Missouri Council of the Blind. I love MCB and fully support our mission.
My Background (short version) is in small business. From commissioned sales person, sales manager, general manager and for the last 11 years before I retired in 2011, I owned a small business. Except for construction until I graduated high school and joined the Navy it has all been in the information technology field.
I joined MCB in 2010 so compared to most members I am just a Pup. By 2010 I knew I wanted to retire. Both of my kids had graduated college my daughter was married and my son was about to be, so the pressure was off.
I knew if I were to retire I had to get involved in something where I might make a difference.
Denny Huff introduced me to MCB when he was trying to start an affiliate in my area in 2010. Unfortunately we could not get it going but Denny stayed in touch. He suggested I might enjoy coming to the weekend camp at Cobblestone and even gave me a ride up and back.
There is where my passion for MCB really got started. I met so many interesting and wonderful people like the Shockley’s, the Hallow’s, Beverly Kaskadden, Linda Gerkin and her wonderful mom Emma Lu and so many others. When we were coming home Denny casually told me MCB needed a person to set on the Wolfner Advisory Board so I said yes.
Then a while later he ask me to join our special interest affiliate ATI so I did. Then next year I ran for president of ATI and now I am in my last year in the position.
In 2015 I ran for one of the three Board positions and was surprised when I won, mainly because I was not that well known. In 2017 I was elected to another term.
So currently I am the president of ATI. I sit on the Board of MCB as one of the 3 generally elected directors. I Chair the Adaptive Technology Grant Committee. I also sit on the Budget and Finance Committee, Resource and Development Committee, the Personnel Committee and the Strategic Plan Core Committee.
What I hope you take away from the above is I am committed to this great organization and the wonderful people who make it successful. I know I still have much to learn. I also know there are great leaders, past and present who will continue to guide me as they do for all of us.
I am respectfully asking for your vote for president of MCB. If you would like to ask me a question or just talk, my phone number is 636-667-3176. Thank you.
Board Meeting Minutes
January 25, 2018
President Huff called the meeting to order by conference call at 7:10 P.M.
In attendance were all officers and directors except for the Public Relations Officer.
Affiliate representatives with the exception of those for the following were present:
Agape Council of the Blind, Lake Stockton Area Council of the Blind, Rite for the Blind, and St. Charles County Council of the Blind.
Guests included Chris Gray, John and Debbie Greider, John Ammann and Bev Armstrong.
The November 13, 2017 Minutes were approved.
President Huff explained that a bequest had been made by Otella Robison, a deceased member of the Queen City affiliate, to the Youth Services and Summer Camp programs. He proposed guidelines for grants for members who had not attended summer camp in three years to be able to attend. The guidelines were approved.
The board moved into closed session. When the board returned to open session, they had voted that Debbie and John Greider would be appointed as the attorneys for MCB.
Director, Naomi Soule reported that she had been appointed to the Auction Committee for the ACB Convention. She will give us more information as the St. Louis ACB Convention approaches.
Director Darrel Vickers reported that he has not been able to reach anyone at the Aria Company about reduced pricing for MCB members.
He also reported that although the new website is not ready to launch as yet, new information is being added to the old site until the new one is launched. He estimated that will occur within a month.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:15.
DeAnna Noriega, Secretary