The Braille Monitor                                                                                                     February 2005

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Imagine a Future Full of Opportunity,
and Take Pride in Creating That Future

by Kevan Worley

From the Editor: Kevan Worley is president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, first vice president of the NFB of Colorado, and chairman of the Imagination Fund Committee. This is what he says as the NFB Jernigan Institute begins its second year of operation:

Kevan Worley
Kevan Worley

Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is man's most powerful tool." That very well may be true, and I'm not one to argue with Einstein, but imagination must be combined with understanding and hard work to create the kind of future we envision. Throughout our history the National Federation of the Blind has effectively used the tools of imagination, understanding, and hard work to build the best organized, most enlightened, and most effective organization of the blind that has ever existed. We, the members of our National Federation of the Blind, rightfully take great pride in what we have accomplished. But one of the great unifying sources of satisfaction for members of our movement is our constant quest to improve the lives of the blind people who will follow us--the next generation. Firmly established on the bedrock of our strong Federation philosophy of and about blindness which has freed so many, we continue to build using the tools of imagination, understanding, and hard work.

With the completion of our NFB Jernigan Institute, we have embarked on the next phase of our journey toward full inclusion in society on terms of true equality. We will advance our goals. More than ever before, we will reach blind people with the truth about blindness. Drawing on the NFB's perspective, potential, and philosophy, we enter an exciting and imaginative time. It will become even more exciting and dynamic as each of us participates actively and helps make it all come alive. In order to make it happen, we need everyone's tools at the ready. We need your imagination, your understanding, your hard work, and your pride in the NFB.

At the grand opening of the NFB Jernigan Institute we launched the Imagination Fund. Now it is time to build that fund because it is vital to realizing the tremendous possibilities we will create together. The goal of the Imagination Fund is to provide support for the work of the Jernigan Institute and advancement for the entire National Federation of the Blind. Each year a financial goal will be set, and members, friends, colleagues, and supporters of the Federation will be asked to make a gift or pledge ensuring that the initiatives of the Jernigan Institute and NFB affiliates are advanced.

The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute has a number of important goals toward which it has already made significant progress, including opening science and math to blind students. Last summer the Jernigan Institute sponsored two unique science academies for blind youth. One of the sessions, called Rocket On! enabled a group of high school students to design the payload and launch a rocket from NASA's Wallops Space Flight Facility. Before the NFB Jernigan Institute, such an ambitious project would have been only a dream; we have now made it a reality.

The third annual Possibilities Fair for seniors losing vision was held in Members Hall in the Jernigan Institute. A number of NFB affiliates were represented by members who came to learn how to produce an event like the Possibilities Fair back in their home communities. Furthermore, the new Institute attracted the largest number of seniors ever to attend our seniors fair.

We are now creating a state-of-the-art library on blindness, the Jacobus tenBroek Library, within the Institute. This library will be a resource center for researchers, educators, and others interested in the field of blindness. Our IBTC, the International Braille and Technology Center, is now a part of the Institute and will continue to advance technology to assist blind people.

Following the grand opening, the first event held in the Jernigan Institute was "Technology Training for Technology Trainers," a hands-on workshop for blindness professionals from across the country. This two-day training conference held in partnership with Mississippi State University was extremely successful, thanks to our new facility and technology trainers from the Jernigan Institute, our NFB Residential Training Centers, and partners like the Iowa Department for the Blind.

We are now offering innovative training through the NFB Jernigan Institute online education program. Four courses are now available. They have been designed to teach critical information about blindness from the perspective of blind people. Educators, blindness professionals, family members of blind children or adults, and anyone else interested in blindness-related subjects can now benefit from the courses in this blindness education program. All this is exciting--training for seniors, technology development, useful research, and online courses--and blind people and our organization have made it all possible.

We are perfecting the new Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader, which is slated to be released sometime in 2005. In the not-too-distant future hand-held reading devices will enable all of us to access print information in a way not thought possible just a few years ago.

Once we secure funding, additional initiatives will include mentoring programs to encourage young blind people to achieve to their utmost potential. The Institute will also help create new technologies to improve information access for blind people and develop training programs based on NFB philosophy. The NFB Jernigan Institute brochure distributed at the 2004 National Federation of the Blind Convention outlines these programs as well as plans for the next five years. Copies of this brochure are available through the Materials Center in print and Braille and on cassette and computer disk.

To continue all of these one-of-a-kind innovative research and training initiatives, it is critical that we raise awareness and money. All of us have family, friends, associates, and acquaintances who know how important the National Federation of the Blind has been in our lives. It is vital to our future work that we inform those people of the great work we are doing at the NFB Jernigan Institute and throughout the Federation. Our friends and family members want to know about the cutting-edge training and research projects on which we have embarked at our beautiful state-of-the-art facility. The people who know us won't know about our work, our effort, and the wondrous opportunities we are creating unless we tell them. The purpose of the Imagination Fund is to raise public understanding and gain financial support for the programs and initiatives of the National Federation of the Blind. To achieve these goals, we need your help.

President Maurer has conceived of a plan whereby the funds generated through the Imagination Fund will be shared with affiliates.

At the end of the first year of the Imagination Fund, May 31, 2005, 25 percent of the funds raised will be distributed equally among all state affiliates. This will help us strengthen our activities throughout the country. Another 25 percent of the money raised will be allocated for special projects proposed by state affiliates.

An Imagination Fund Projects Committee will be appointed to review brief proposals and award grants based on merit. Funds might be used for Meet-the-Blind-Month activities, for travel to NFB conventions, or to help members attend programs and training at the NFB Jernigan Institute. We will develop specific guidelines and a brief proposal form in the near future and circulate them to all state affiliates. The remaining funds raised through our vigorous effort to build the Imagination Fund will support the operation of programs and services of the NFB Jernigan Institute.

Each state affiliate president has appointed a state coordinator for the Imagination Fund. Some states are using more than one state coordinator to help organize and bring energy and commitment to this effort. State presidents, chapter presidents, and state coordinators will be working closely with the Imagination Fund steering committee. State coordinators and others will encourage members to make contributions whenever possible and to supply the names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of friends, family members, and colleagues to the Imagination Fund database. Everyone referred by members for inclusion in our database will receive a mailing briefly detailing and highlighting the imaginative work we are undertaking at the NFB Jernigan Institute. Your family, friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances will want to know about our organization's imaginative efforts. In the mailing we send out, we will invite them to contribute to our Imagination Fund.

The Imagination Fund was launched in January of 2004. We spent considerable time discussing it at our national convention. State coordinators have been appointed. Many Federationists have made cash contributions and pledges, and some have provided lists of family, friends, co-workers, and others for inclusion in the database. But the time to build in earnest is now. Please provide us with the names of people you know and who know you. The people we would like to contact include those to whom you send holiday cards and who send cards to you. Why not gather all the envelopes from the holiday cards you received this season and give them to your state coordinator. He or she will be happy to have the gift. Or you could send them directly to our national office at 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, c/o the Imagination Fund. Be sure to include your name as the source of the list of names and contact information.

Perhaps you could make this a family activity. Gather around the dining room table and share ideas about people who need to have the information about the great work we are doing. Include relatives, friends, and providers of goods and services for your home and business. Stick to individuals who will recognize your name and who have some idea of how important the NFB is to you. Start immediately, please, by providing your state coordinator with the contact information from your holiday card list or address book.

You should consider one more key piece of information. We have created a system of numbered designations reflecting the affinity of your relationship with the individual whose contact information you are providing. Ask yourself, "How close is this person to me?" We want your subjective judgment of how the individual you are referring for inclusion in the Imagination Fund database feels about you.

The number 1 indicates that you are extremely close to the person you are referring for inclusion: a brother, sister, or other relative; your best friends; or others with whom you are in frequent contact.

The number 2 denotes someone to whom you are close, but not quite as close as a number 1: other friends, relatives, and business acquaintances with whom you associate somewhat regularly.

The number 3 applies to someone to whom you are only moderately close, such as your physician, hairdresser, or other service provider.

Remember, however, that the contact information itself is what is most important. Please do not feel reluctant to submit contact information if you are uncomfortable assigning an affinity number at this time. You can certainly give us the contact information without assigning affinity numbers to the names on your list.

While it is not required, your inclusion of this affinity number, even though subjective, will be extremely helpful. It will help us to build, develop, and hone our educational and fundraising efforts. To make our Imagination Fund really succeed and grow, we need this contact information for our database. Remember, we do not want the names of the rich and famous in your home community, unless you have a relationship with them that they would recognize, and one to which you may be able to assign an affinity number. If you do not save the envelopes from the Christmas and other holiday cards sent to you, please begin doing so.

Once we have names, contact information, and affinity numbers, they will be added to our database mailing list along with your name as the source of the information. Prior to mailing to the contacts on your list, we will notify you and your state coordinator, indicating the individuals who will be receiving an Imagination Fund mailing. At that time you will be asked to make a phone call to those on your list, alerting them that they will soon be receiving the Imagination Fund mailing and urging them to consider a positive response. The information provided in the mailing will explain in detail how they can help. Even so, it is essential that you make this contact. By making this phone call, you will increase the importance of the Imagination Fund mailing that is coming. Without your call, our envelope may be viewed as a piece of junk mail. Since those on your list will now be expecting it, our letter and brochure are more likely to be read carefully, considered, and acted upon, resulting in a more positive outcome for our Imagination Fund.

As we have considered and developed this unique, targeted education and fundraising campaign, some have asked what information, and what type of language will be in the letter. Letters will be sent with information about our new Institute, and in the future other information about our organization. The letter accompanying this material will be personalized and will mention how important the NFB has been to you and your life.

We hope that those receiving this mailing will then be more inclined to contribute to our forward-thinking, imaginative, and dynamic efforts. We all know that many people know us and are aware of the way our lives have been strengthened through the National Federation of the Blind. If they receive information about everything we are doing and if they are asked, many of them are likely to help. The initial mailings will contain the new NFB Jernigan Institute brochure, which includes the targeted goals and objectives of the Institute and information about our organization and the Imagination Fund. A response card and envelope will also be enclosed, making it possible to make a pledge or send a gift. Future mailings will include updates on the progress within the Institute, upcoming programs, and events of interest.

Your assistance will ensure that blind people everywhere receive the helpful, hopeful message of our organization. Start immediately, please, by gathering your lists of names, addresses, phone and fax numbers, email addresses, and affinity numbers, and get that information to your state coordinator. If you don't know who your state coordinator is, ask your state or chapter president.

If you want more information or want to devote some of your personal time and effort to the Imagination Fund, please contact your state coordinator, your state president, or our Special Projects Department at the National Center for the Blind by calling (410) 659-9314, extension 2297. You can also send an email to <imagine@nfb.org>.

President Maurer has appointed an active and engaged Imagination Fund Steering Committee. Each of us on this committee will be working closely with a specific group of states. You can certainly get in touch with me, Kevan Worley, chairman of the Imagination Fund. I can be reached at (303) 306-7122, or by email at <kevanworley@blindmerchants.org>.

Friends and colleagues, let's have some fun building our Imagination Fund! Many chapters are developing creative and exciting activities to encourage members to bring their lists of contacts to meetings. Let's use our imagination. Do the hard work, and take pride in your effort. Have fun, get everyone involved, and be creative--as we always are in this organization. This is the work we must do to build the Imagination Fund to create a future full of opportunity for all blind people.

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