Braille Monitor                                                             March 2007

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Charlotte Woman, 90, Keeps Sight on Service

by Dianna L. Cagle

 Hazel StaleyFrom the Editor: Hazel Staley is a longtime Federation leader in North Carolina. She was surprised when the minister came into her Sunday school classroom to take pictures. When she asked why he was doing such a thing, he replied that to his knowledge she was the only ninety-year-old person still teaching Sunday school, and he thought that fact deserved some notoriety. The result of his efforts was the following story, which appears on the Web site of Baptist Life, <www.biblicalrecorder.org>. Here it is:

Each Sunday at Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte, Hazel Staley brings her Braille Bible to teach Sunday school. "She's just a very neat lady," said Bob Garner, minister of education and children, who has been at Eastern Hills for three and a half years. "Her being blind has no effect on her outlook on life. She said it's never been a problem."

Staley, ninety, said teaching God's word excites her. "I've been teaching Sunday school most of my adult life," she said. Staley calls her class "sixty-nine to heaven," referring to the ages of the people she teaches.

Born in Union County, Staley contracted bacterial meningitis at age two and lost her sight. She went to the School for the Blind in Raleigh from kindergarten through high school. She became a Christian as a teenager. She went to an all-women's college at Flora McDonald College, which later merged with Presbyterian Junior College to form St. Andrew's Presbyterian College (now located in Laurinburg). She received her master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina and began working for the North Carolina Commission for the Blind.

Staley covered about ten counties, visiting her clients. She owned a car but paid someone to drive her to her clients' homes and to help her clients with errands and other needs they might face.

She was married in 1947 to Bob Staley, who served in World War II and the Korean War. "We had a wonderful marriage," she said. A son was born to the happy couple in 1951.

Since her husband died in 1986 after battling lung cancer, Staley has been living alone. It was not until the last couple of years that she realized the need to have more security and a system of people looking out for her. She sold her house and moved to a retirement community in 2005.

Staley remains active in the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina. Over the years she has served in numerous roles, including sixteen years as president. Knee surgery in 2003 slowed down her efforts on a national scale. After her surgery it was more difficult to walk long distances and stand for long periods of time, both of which are requirements of traversing airports.

Staley also had carpal tunnel and lost sensitivity in her fingers. After surgery, she says she has regained her sensitivity, which is important in reading Braille. "I don't have much strength in my wrist," she said. Her nerves were so damaged that she can't close her right hand. She uses both hands to read. She uses her right to scroll from left to right following the letters and her left as a guide to read the first letter of the next line--giving her right hand time to come down and start the next line.

Staley continues to have a devotion each morning. She uses her CD player to listen to that day's Open Windows lesson. She has also started going to a Bible study at the retirement home.

"I'm inspired by her," said Garner, who recently bought the compact disc player for her. Garner said he tried to find one with big buttons. Staley said many of the devotions, books, and other materials that were coming on cassettes are now only available on compact discs.

"Wherever I've lived I've usually taught in Sunday school," she said. "I try to work on the lesson a little bit every day." Staley is the only totally blind person in the community. "They are the kindest most helpful people," Staley said, referring to the employees. "God has provided for me every step of the way through my whole life."

Staley considers the decision to move her third best decision in her life, behind trusting Christ as her Savior and getting married. Her son and two granddaughters live nearby.

Right now Staley is leading her class through Ezra and Nehemiah using the Explore the Bible Sunday school material. "I like studying a whole book all the way through," she said. Staley uses her Braille Bible, and an agency Brailles the lessons for her and others who need the materials.

Agnes Liles, eighty-seven, said Staley's love of history comes through in her teaching each week. "She studies all the time and keeps up with everything," Liles said. "I think sometimes we are a little negative about the historical points." Liles said the history Staley brings in actually adds to the lesson. "She makes sure she knows what she teaches," Liles said. "Everybody just marvels at her ability to do what she does. She's so thorough."

Garner said Staley's abilities astound him. "It's amazing to watch her read," he said, "her fingers flying across the page."

Each day Staley says she likes to go to the gym to exercise, but she needs to keep her mind active too. Now that she's finished a correspondence course in basic conversational Spanish, Staley said she is concentrating on memorizing Scripture. And there are many activities to keep her busy as well.

She also still serves as the state membership chairman for the Federation of the Blind. She does some traveling to help establish and organize new chapters. "I feel that God has used me, and I've enjoyed every bit of it," she said. "I'm still glad to continue working for him."

An article she wrote for the National Federation of the Blind sums up Staley's feelings on service: "Someone has said that service to others is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on earth. I plan to keep the rent on my space current."

An Overview of Planned Giving

Making a charitable gift is one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Here are some of the special giving programs available through the National Federation of the Blind:

The National Federation of the Blind is a service organization specializing in providing the help to blind people that is not readily available to them from government programs or other existing service systems. The services of the NFB are specially designed to meet the needs of all blind people. By maintaining a widespread campaign of public education, advocating for the rights of blind children and their families, administering scholarship and mentoring programs for blind youth, providing financial and other specialized assistance, conducting seminars on blindness, evaluating and developing accessible technology, and providing information and services to senior citizens so that they can adjust to vision loss and live more accessible and independent lives, the NFB is changing what it means to be blind.

We will be happy to provide you with further information about the National Federation of the Blind or any of these giving opportunities. Please call or write us at:

National Federation of the Blind
Department of Outreach Programs
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2406
outreach@nfb.org

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