by Shelley Coppel
From the Editor: This article is reprinted from the Winter 2018 issue of the Palmetto Blind, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. Our work with seniors is exciting, and the cooperation between our senior division and our state affiliate is exemplary. Here is what Shelley has to say about last year’s event:
On October 14, 2018, a group of twenty-three staff and students (seniors this time) enthusiastically descended upon Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind for a week of amazing training. The NFB Seniors Division partnered with the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina to offer a first-rate training for a segment of our population who otherwise don’t have an opportunity for specific skills training for loss of vision.
We recruited seven individuals as staff: Frank and Shelley Coppel of South Carolina; Tom and Linda Anderson from Kansas; Liz Lewis and Michael Hartz from North Carolina; and Ruth Sager from Maryland, who is the NFB Seniors Division president. We also recruited the assistance of Christine Filter, a registered nurse who has served us for many years as our camp health nurse; a kitchen crew like none other headed up by Lenora Robertson, Ellen Taylor, Ora Bell, and JW Smith; and several volunteers. We also needed drivers since we required a golf cart to take us up and down the steep hill from one of the sleeping lodges. This lodge has a kitchen most like the one you would have in your home, which served as our training kitchen. Other classes that we offered were cane travel, organizational skills, Braille, iOS training, and a group where we discussed the effects of vision loss on our lives.
As we settled in the first evening, we discussed the schedule, were introduced to one another, found out where we each would reside for the week, and had a wonderful meal for our weary, excited guests. They represented nine states and ranged in age from the mid-forties to eighty-seven.
Monday morning began with a hot breakfast for fortification to begin our rigorous schedule. Sleepshades were passed out as were long white canes. Our classes were one-and-a-half hours in length, and we planned four classes in a day. Everyone participated in all of the classes. As the week progressed, folks were using their shades voluntarily and showing good cane skills as they navigated the paths, found their class sites, went grocery shopping, navigated an apple orchard, and found a pond where wonderful stories were swapped over a great fishing experience. Every afternoon we ended our day with a discussion time. We talked about the successes of our day and answered questions about the tough business of losing vision and how to deal with this personally. We also talked about how to advocate for ourselves and the way to bring those closest to us to an understanding of what help we really need, because sometimes we decide to struggle through an issue and find our own alternatives. On Thursday evening we made a bonfire and roasted marshmallows to eat s’mores. What a perfect ending for a week of great achievement.
Two of our students completed the Braille alphabet including numbers and punctuation. Many thanks to the NFB Seniors Division for coming to South Carolina and using our facilities at our beloved Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind. We look forward to many more opportunities to be of service to other state affiliates and national divisions of the National Federation of the Blind.
From the Editor: Now that Shelley has told you about how last year’s senior retreat went, here is the flyer for the 2019 event:
When: September 15 to 21, 2019
Where: Rocky Bottom Resort and Conference Center for the Blind, Sunset, South Carolina. Rocky Bottom is a camp owned and operated by the South Carolina affiliate of the NFB. This camp is located on Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in the state. It is a modern facility with a dining hall and several lodges for sleeping and holding classes. Retreaters will share a room with a colleague. Paved pathways connect buildings in this rural mountain setting. Fishing can be done on the property. Other off-site activities may be planned during the retreat.
Eligibility: Must be legally blind and have a strong desire to learn nonvisual techniques taught by blind instructors. Preferred age over fifty but some exceptions can be made. Candidates must be able to administer their medications and know the dosages and times they should be taken. We can suggest labeling methods and organizational skills but cannot administer medications. We will have a nurse on-call throughout the retreat.
Process and Cost: Please contact Ruth Sager, president, NFB Seniors Division by email at [email protected]; by mail at 7634 Carla Road, Pikesville, MD 21208; or by home phone at 410-602-9030 to obtain an application. Fill out the application, and return it to the above address by August 10, 2019. Upon receiving your application, you will be contacted by an instructor or Seniors Division board member to schedule a telephone interview. This interview is designed to help us make your retreat experience as beneficial for you as possible. We want everyone to participate in all of the activities, but we will try to tailor some classes to fit your specific needs.
Candidates will then be notified if they are successful retreat participants. The cost per attendee is $300. This cost covers room and board, any activities which take place during the retreat, transportation from the nearest airport (Greenville-Spartanburg) and after the retreat, transportation from Rocky Bottom back to the airport. All other expenses incurred will be covered by the candidate.
After you have been notified that you are a successful retreat participant, the $300 check should be sent to: NFB Seniors Division, c/o Ms. Duncan Larsen, Colorado Center for the Blind, 2233 Shepperd Avenue, Littleton, CO 80120, no later than September 1, 2019.
For more information, please contact Ruth Sager as listed above.