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Third Annual Meet-the-Blind-Month Campaign
by Jerry Lazarus
From the Editor: Here is Jerry Lazarus's report on Meet-the-Blind Month 2004:
Greater Baltimore Chapter members meet and greet community residents at the Federal Hill Street Beat Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. Here Ameenah Ghoston inflates balloons; Donna Ring types names in Braille on the Perkins Brailler; Chris Danielsen greets festival goers and hands out Braille alphabet cards; and Steven Brand gives away free balloons.
Question: What did NFB members do fifty-two times in 2002, more than a hundred fifty times in 2003, and exceeding two hundred times in 2004? Is that your final answer? If you said participate in October Meet-the-Blind-Month events, you are absolutely correct. This year's Meet-the-Blind-Month events were planned by no fewer than forty-three of our fifty-one affiliates. (For a complete list of events go to <www.nfb.org/meet/schedule.htm>.)
campaign, which was first launched in 2002 and conducted during the month of
October, is a coordinated, nationwide project planned and designed to provide
opportunities for affiliate and chapter members to reach out to their communities,
schools, local civic groups, and others to let them know about blindness and
NFB. Early planning by affiliate and chapter presidents not only increased the number of events but enhanced the creativity, versatility, and energy for this, our best year yet, ensuring that the public would learn even more about our movement.
Outdoor street festivals, often held in the fall, are great opportunities for holding a Meet-the-Blind event and letting the public know about the National Federation of the Blind. Pictured here a large NFB banner behind an information table lets passersby know who we are as they stroll the festival area.
Marc Maurer again provided affiliates and chapters with free Braille alphabet
cards. Along with the cards NFB Materials Center staff shipped out books and
other NFB literature with such speed and in such quantities that they ran out
of some literature. Our Materials Center did a heroic job in quickly replenishing
its supplies and shipping out orders so that all chapters had the appropriate
materials before their events. In addition chapters helped each other by sharing
materials to ensure that the literature supply was sufficient.
Betsy Zaborowski, Jernigan Institute executive director, stands with Mindy Basara, a TV anchor for Baltimore's NBC TV station, and Jim Gashel, NFB's director of strategic initiatives. Mindy served as honorary chairperson of the NFB-Riverside Fall Festival and White Cane Walkathon.
the nation's largest retailer, and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts continued to offer
an outstanding opportunity for NFB members to get in front of hundreds of shoppers
during the month and in many cases helped create a profitable fundraising component.
Nineteen states held thirty-eight Wal-Mart meet-and-greet events. In those events
alone we were able to hand out more than twenty-two thousand Braille alphabet
cards in addition to all the other literature that members distributed.
David Stayer, president of New York's Greater Long Island Chapter, distributes NFB literature and sells candy at the Bellmore Street Fair.
a limited time National Organization of Parents of Blind Children president
Barbara Cheadle offered the Braille Is Beautiful video kit program to
interested affiliates and chapters at no charge. The program, a disability awareness
curriculum for elementary and middle school students, includes two copies of
the video Jake and the Secret Code, along with a teacher's guide in both
Braille and print. Many of our affiliate and chapter members visit public and
private schools during Meet-the-Blind-Month, and Braille Is Beautiful
is an easy and
interesting method for demonstrating and promoting Braille. NFB Braille alphabet cards are given to the students, and after viewing the video presentation, they have a better understanding of the Braille code and the way a blind child uses Braille. No doubt, by using a professionally produced video with a follow-up discussion with blind adults, the visits achieved the goal of sharing with the students the importance of Braille and the way blind people read and write.
A young family stops to talk with volunteers at an NFB information table. The children check out NFB Braille alphabet cards.
One of the more creative events this year was reported by NFB of Alabama President Michael Jones. The chapter provided prize money for an invention competition for local fourth graders. The students were challenged to come up with innovative ideas that could be inventions to help provide independence for the blind.
Another interesting event was a train ride from Los Angeles to Ventura, organized by Robert Stigile, president of the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the NFB of California. During the ride members quizzed the passengers about blindness, then provided the answers while handing out literature. The Santa Barbara, High Desert, and San Fernando Valley Chapters held a tri-chapter event at Ventura College. This was a collaborative effort to show support for each other and to encourage people in the Ventura area to form a chapter.
Walkers in the NFB‑Riverside Fall Festival and White Cane walkathon begin their walk. The NFB Jernigan Institute can be seen in the background.
Juliet Cody, president of the Beach Cities Chapter in California, and other members of her chapter presented surfing demonstrations in Carlsbad.
A number of chapters were involved in run and walk events, including the fourth annual Team with a Vision event in Brighton, Massachusetts, headed by Cambridge Chapter resident David Ticchi. Some of the White Cane walks, like the one conducted by the Greater Summit County Chapter in Ohio, added a little something extra. Chapter President Mary Weldon organized interviews with chapter members at the Rubber City radio station at the conclusion of their walk.
Connie Johnson, president of the Erie County Chapter of Pennsylvania, organized a number of events, including Explore the Stars, which was held at the accessible planetarium at Edinboro University. Cary Supalo of the Happy Valley Chapter in Pennsylvania scheduled four showings of Erik Weihenmayer's documentary film, Farther than the Eye Can See, at Penn State University.
Ruby Polk uses the Braille Is Beautiful program, a disability awareness curriculum designed for elementary and middle school children, to show a Kansas City elementary class how Braille works.
For a second year Chapter President Sandy Addy succeeded in convincing municipalities in her Tri City Chapter area to put NFB literature into the paychecks of Arizona workers in Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley. Way to go, Sandy! With the opening of the new movie, Ray, based on the life of the late Ray Charles, New Mexico Affiliate President Art Schreiber took advantage of this opportunity to arrange for a table in the lobby of the Cottonwood Cinema in Albuquerque to distribute literature and provide public education about the abilities of blind people.
At this year’s Third Annual Black Tie-White Cane Appreciation Banquet, Anil Lewis, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, and second vice president Thelma Godwin, the event chairperson, stand with Rev. Magdalene Womack, WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News Anchor Monica Kaufman, the keynote speaker, and Ambassador Andrew Young honorary chairman of the event. Ambassador Young serves as Chairman of GoodWorks International Foundation while Rev. Womack is its Vice-President of Public Affairs.
Active organizers this year included Ruth Swensen from Arizona and Debbie Briddell from Delaware. Marion Gwizdala, Judy August, Kitty King, Lydia Markley, and Lois Kilgore from Florida managed to hold fifteen events despite the worst hurricane season in decades. Daniel Facchini, from New Jersey, scheduled three activities. Annette Grove from Illinois arranged four events, while Maryland Federationist Yasmin Reyazudden continues to conduct Meet-the-Blind events year-round. Robert Skillon from Mississippi and Betty Walker from Missouri each arranged for three events. Let's not forget student leader and Chapter President Yolanda Garcia from Texas, who arranged five events. Finally we mention Ruby Polk, from Missouri, who sponsored six activities.
These names, of course, only skim the surface of the individuals who participated in planning and conducting the many 2004 Meet-the-Blind Month-events. We congratulate all who were involved and remind you that it is never too early to start thinking about our 2005 Meet-the-Blind-Month campaign.
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