Mark Riccobono: Greetings, fellow Federationists. Today is Monday, June 3, 2019, and this is Presidential Release Number 484. I have just returned from Trinidad, where I was at the North American Caribbean Regional Meeting of the World Blind Union, along with Dr. Maurer and Mrs. Jernigan. We had a good meeting in Trinidad. This is the largest participation we’ve had from organizations of the blind in the Caribbean, and so we’re seeing some good growth in that area, and it’s great to have more collaboration from organizations in the Caribbean dealing with blindness. I think it’ll present more opportunities and help to build the region as well as the World Blind Union. So we are now full bore into working on the final details for the national convention as we get into the final weeks here. We’re not quite into summer yet, but we are past that mental block of Memorial Day, which people often think of as the start of summer.
We do have a number of NFB summer programs that are underway, though. Many of our Bell Academies are happening in a number of our affiliates, and there are many more to come this summer. I hope you’ll get a chance to engage in one of our Bell Academy programs and help out. Also we have our NFBEQ program that’ll be here at the national office in a couple of weeks. This is where we teach engineering to students, and you’ll have a chance, if you’re coming to the national convention or you tune in via the stream to hear to a presentation about our National Science Foundation project that funds that work. We’ll be talking about it at the convention.
Speaking of the summer, later this summer the Blind Parents Division of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado will be hosting a seminar for blind parents on August 23 and 24 at the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton, Colorado. There will be content for parents and kids of all ages, as well as grandparents, and a special track for the kiddos. Melissa Riccobono will be the keynote speaker at this conference, so I could not recommend you think about participating more highly, but Melissa will be there, and I’m sure there’ll be lots of other great content. Everyone is invited to come participate in this event. To reserve a room, you can contact the Hampton Inn and Suites Highlands Ranch at (303)794-1800. Mention that you are with the Colorado Center for the Blind to get the special room rate. For more information about the seminar, you can contact Maureen Nietfeld at 215-353-7218 or email [email protected].
One of the things that we’ve been working on leading into this summer is our process for getting new members oriented to the National Federation of the Blind. We’ve now put on our website a form for chapters to use to enter information about new members. You will recall that earlier this year we collected membership information for all of our existing members, and so that is now in our database for almost all of our affiliates, but we of course want to have new members coming into the organization. We want to get them into our database and plugged in as fast as possible, so on behalf of Jeannie Massay, who chairs our membership committee, I urge you to use the new member form on our website when you have brought a new member into your chapter. You should have someone designated to put their information into the new member form. The new member forms will allow members to receive a membership certificate, the membership coin, of course, and a number of pieces of literature from our organization as an introduction. Also, assuming the new member has an email address, they will receive a series of emails from leaders in the Federation over a twelve-week period of time. It’s not that they’ll get 12 weeks of emails, but the emails, there’s four or five of them. They’re spread out over the twelve weeks or so, and this is just a way to continue to feed new members information. So I’d encourage you to use the new member form. If you have questions, please send an email yourself to [email protected], and let’s continue to work on welcoming new members to the Federation family.
We are just a little more than a month away from the 2019 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Our first time outside of Orlando for some time. Our first time ever in the state of Nevada at Las Vegas, Nevada, to be specific. It’s going to be a great convention. Things are coming together, and I wanted to give our Chairman of Convention Operations a few minutes to talk about our being at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. We all have gotten very used to the comfort of the Rosen properties in Orlando, and we may have our expectations set on what we’ve experienced for the last seven years or so, but we are going to a different place where the details are different, so here to talk to us about our convention is our Chairman of Convention Arrangements, John Berggren.
John Berggren: Thank you, President Riccobono. Federationists, I hope you’re excited for an outstanding convention this year. Pretty excited to be in a new place, Las Vegas. The Mandalay Bay is a beautiful hotel. It is also a large hotel. We’re used to what we thought were pretty big hotels. The Rosen Shingle Creek I think had 1,400 or 1,500 rooms. Mandalay Bay has 4,200 rooms. So we’ll be in a big space. We’re lucky, I think – we’re fortunate to be there, and I am excited about this year’s convention. As President Riccobono mentioned, we’ve gotten used to some details about our stays at convention hotels over the last many years in Orlando, so there are some things that are different. I’d like you to keep these in mind as you pack your bags for Las Vegas this year.
As do many hotels, the Mandalay Bay will ask you for a deposit when you check in. The purpose is to cover any room incidentals you may incur during your stay, whether it be room service or spa visits, things like that. While the hotel’s standard policy is to collect $100.00 per day, up to four days of your stay, they have agreed to cut that deposit to only the first two days. Now, that’s still going to be a deposit of $200.00 when you check in. You can provide that via credit card, cash, or debit card, and keep in mind, this is a deposit only, and if you don’t incur any incidentals, that deposit will be returned to you when you check out. However, do remember that this deposit will place a hold on funds in your account, and this is particularly important to keep in mind if you’re using a debit card. That hold may last several days after you check out, and those funds will not be available ‘til that hold is released by your bank, so keep in mind that that deposit is going to tie up funds on your credit card or in your checking account if you use a debit card. Just keep that in mind.
Another thing I’d like to talk to you about is mini-bars. We’ve had the luxury of each room having a small refrigerator when we’ve stayed at recent convention hotels. This is a little different at the Mandalay Bay. The refrigerator is nearly entirely dedicated to the hotel’s mini-bar. The mini-bar, in fact, consists of both the refrigerator and a tray on the counter about the refrigerator. The hotel is hoping to entice you to spend your hard-earned money when you return to your room at the end of a day tired and hungry, but please keep in mind these items may be a bit pricey, and the items are monitored electronically, so if you remove an item from its spot, whether it be the tray above the refrigerator or an item in the refrigerator, if it’s removed from its spot for more than fifteen seconds, your room will be charged for that item. It doesn’t matter if you’ve eaten it or just set it aside. After you’ve checked out, the hotel may credit your account with anything they find hasn’t been consumed, but I wouldn’t encourage you to count on that. So I guess I’m suggesting to you that you not move aside the beverages in your fridge to make room for your lunch meat and that you not use the coffee cups from the tray on your counter unless you plan to pay the hotel prices for those items. I will note that there is a brand new coffee bar in the lobby of the Mandalay Bay, and there are several Starbucks throughout the hotel, casino, and meeting space if you need a caffeine fix at any time during the day. Just simply keep that in mind when you consider mini-bar items in your room.
A noticeable change from years past, our Presidential Suite and our Hospitality Suite will again be available for you to visit when you come to convention this year. However, those room numbers will not be available in the agenda this year as they have been in years past. We won’t be able to lock down those room numbers until very near to the convention, so we’ll do our best to communicate that information to you via email just prior to convention. That’ll obviously be for those of you who have preregistered. We’ll already have your email addresses. In addition, the way the hotel works this year, their security is fairly tight, so when you check into your room, you will receive your room card. This is an RFID card, meaning it’s a proximity card, not a swipe card. You’ll take that to the elevator lobby, and when you step into the elevator – the appropriate elevator. I’ll tell you that there are three elevator bays, and they each go to a different set of floors. This is sort of similar to what we had at the Rosen Shingle Creek. So you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got the right set of elevators. Once you step into the elevator car, just above the floor buttons will be a swipe mechanism, where you hold your room card up to that so you’re allowed to press your floor. Now your card will only get you to your floor only, so keep that in mind. You’ll need to meet friends in the lobby and join them in their room when they’re along with you to swipe the correct floor for their floor. We’re going to have something similar for the Presidential Suite and the Hospitality Suite. Somebody will be available in the elevator lobby on the casino level to get you swiped up to the correct floor for both of those suites. So keep an eye on your inbox later this month, early in July to get the suite numbers for the Presidential Suite and the Hospitality Suite.
Places to eat while you’re at the Mandalay Bay. There are going to be a lot of options. Just in the hotel space alone, there are nearly 30 food outlets. Connected to the casino, in between the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor, is the Mandalay Bay Plaza. That includes probably another nearly two dozen food outlets. So there will be no shortage of places to eat. We’re going to do our best to get as many of those menus onto our website if you’d like to peruse them in advance. Similarly, those menus will be available for your perusal on NFB-NEWSLINE, so take a look there in the coming weeks. We are working with the hotel. They are getting their menus embossed in UEB Braille, and you can expect to have that option when you arrive at a menu, but if you’d like to know in advance what your options are, head to our website, head to NFB-NEWSLINE and check those menus out.
We have probably become familiar with the way to the meeting rooms in the Rosen Shingle Creek property. Many of us probably could make that trip in our sleep. It is a similar hike from your sleeping room to the meeting space at the Mandalay Bay. We are going to provide, as we have in years past, a text description of the hotel layout. This should help you find your way from the lobby to your sleeping room and from your sleeping room to the meeting space via the casino and restaurant avenue. We’ll also include a route for those of you who would like to avoid the casino. We’ll include an outdoor route that goes by way of the swimming pool and into the meeting space. This text description will be included in this year’s agenda, which should be posted on the website in the coming days. We’ll also make sure that in one of the emails that goes out to our preregistrants that there is a link included for the text description. This will also be on our website, so if you head to nfb.org/convention you’ll be able to find the text description for the hotel there as well, so you can sort of do a little preliminary research on how to make your way around the hotel. I encourage you to read that. While we will have our usual marshals in place helping to guide folks around from space to space, having some advance notice of where things are in relation to one another can’t hurt and can only help you find your way to your favorite meeting a little bit quicker.
As President Riccobono mentioned, about a one-month countdown to the 2019 convention. I am certainly excited for all of the things that are to come. I think you fill find that this is going to be a spectacular convention this year, and I look forward to seeing all of you on the ground in Las Vegas come July. See you on the 6th.
Mark Riccobono: Thanks, John. There’s a lot of work to coordinate the logistics with the rest of the team, and John does a great job. Now just to be clear, John, we are gonna have a convention in 2020.
John Berggren: My understanding is that we will indeed have a convention.
Mark Riccobono: But you’re not gonna tell us where it’s gonna be.
John Berggren: Well, I was thinking about it, but I think – we don’t wanna make this podcast too long.
Mark Riccobono: Okay, all right, so we’ll leave it at that. I would’ve told you, but I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to wanna let the news out. So thank you, John, for that, and I’m looking forward to being with everybody in Las Vegas. We will be streaming the convention if you cannot be with us, so also watch for that information will be out later this month. We certainly hope that you will be with us, and if you haven’t made your reservations, the timeline has passed to get the convention rate, but you can still find places in Vegas and show up at the convention. We would invite you to do so, and if not, I would hope that you start making plans now to be with us at our convention in 2020.
Related to convention, we do consider resolutions at the convention. These are policy statements of the organization. You’re welcome to submit a resolution. It has to be in two weeks prior to the convention in final form to the chair of the committee. Chairing the Resolutions Committee this year will be Sharon Maneki of Maryland. In addition to submitting the resolution in final form, you will have to have the proponent at the meeting in person in Las Vegas, so you can’t just submit a resolution and then not have someone there to be the proponent. You can communicate with Sharon Maneki via email. Her email address is [email protected]. You can also give her a call if you need to at 410-715-9596. I’d encourage you to get your resolutions in.
Also related to conventions, we have launched a new listserv called NFB-Conventions. This is a list where we can distribute convention-related announcements and where you can find a roommate and et cetera, et cetera. This is for both our national convention, and it could be announcements related to our affiliate conventions. Again, it’s an announcement-only list, so when you submit something, a message, to the list, it will go through the moderator before it hits the list. It’s not for discussion. You can’t post to the list. You can simply pass announcements. We thought this would be a better way to streamline messages going out about convention and streaming of affiliate conventions and that sort of thing. Finally, this list will not be used by exhibitors and sponsors to post announcements directly. If there is a promotion that the Federation wishes to push related to the convention, it will be sent by the Federation, so you won’t get hit with an ad from every single exhibitor in the Exhibit Hall or that sort of thing. We hope that this list will be useful. We’ll try it out this year and throughout the year and see what happens. It is being moderated by David Andrews. If you want to reach him, you can send an email to [email protected]. To subscribe to the list, you should go to nfbnet.org and search for the NFB Convention Listserv, or you can send an email to [email protected] and put the word “Subscribe” in the subject line. Doing either of those things will also give you all of the information about the list and appropriate announcements for it and that sort of thing. Try it out. See what you think. I hope that it cuts down on the clutter on our general Listservs and allows people to find convention information more quickly using our Listservs.
I should’ve mentioned related to our new member efforts that we continue to work on branding of the organization and articulating our brand. We created these cards that have, on one side, our NFB pledge and, on the other side, our One-Minute Message, and these are available to chapters or affiliates in bundles of fifty. A bundle of fifty costs you $20.00 plus shipping and handling. They’re available in our Independence Market while supplies last. I’d encourage you to call the Independence Market and order these if they can be useful to you in your chapter or affiliate. You can reach the market at 410-659-9314, extension 2216. Let’s continue to promote the work and brand of the organization, and these cards are a great way to do that.
We do have one new member for our Dream Makers Circle here in the month of June. Our Dream Makers Circle is the way to plan an end-of-life gift commitment to the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you to Gail Gruber-Bankson of Sauk Rivers, Minnesota, for being the latest member to join the Dream Makers Circle.
Also we’ve been acknowledging chapters that contribute to the preauthorized contribution program of the National Federation of the Blind. I’m gonna on this release finish the acknowledgment of all of the chapters, so we’re gonna go back and pick up some that joined during the process of us putting this on the release monthly. I do encourage your chapter, if not on the PAC program to get signed up and get signed up maybe at the national convention. So thank you to these chapters. From the NFB of Florida, the Penelis Chapter. From the NFB of Colorado, the Grand Valley Chapter. From the NFB of Hawaii, the Honolulu Chapter. NFB of Iowa, Old Capitol Chapter and Cedar Rapids Chapter. NFB of Missouri, Springfield Chapter. NFB of Ohio, the Cleveland Chapter, the Lorain County Chapter, and the Miami Valley Chapter. Thank you NFB of Oklahoma, Central Oklahoma Chapter. NFB of Oregon, At-Large Chapter, Rose City Chapter, and Southern Oregon Chapter. From the NFB of Pennsylvania, the Greater Berks Chapter. From the NFB of South Carolina, the Sumter Chapter. From the NFB of Texas, the Arlington, Austin, and Houston Chapters. Thank you very much. From the NFB of Utah, the Weber-Davis Chapter. From the NFB of Virginia, the Blue Ridge Chapter, Fredericksburg Chapter, Potomac Chapter, Tidewater Chapter, and Winchester Chapter. From the NFB of Washington, the Greater Seattle Chapter. From the NFB of Wisconsin, the Dane County Chapter and the Milwaukee Chapter. Thank you again to all of our chapters who are contributing to the PAC program. I do note that we’ve had a couple of chapters that, since they were announced here on the release, dropped from the PAC program. I hope that you’ll get back on at the national convention and stick with it. Your contributions make a difference.
Finally, I want to acknowledge two divisions that have come on to contribute to the PAC plan – at the national level, our Blind Educators Division, and from the NFB of Maryland, our Seniors Division. Thank you to each and every one of you for contributing to our PAC program and helping our organization thrive financially. Get on the PAC plan, and if you’re not already on, please plan to do so during our national convention coming up.
I do have a few Federation family notes to share with you on this release. I regret to have to let you know that Tim Wolfe died on Saturday, May 11th after a long battle with the complications of diabetes. Tim was a member of our Central Maryland Chapter for many years until his health made it difficult for him to participate. He was the first blind civilian to work for a police department in Maryland. I would encourage you to keep Tim and his family in your thoughts and prayers and any other Federationists that we may have lost in the last month that I do not know about. We do have some new members of the Federation family in the last month. Nate and Shau Trella of Colorado report the birth of Shwana Nicole Trella, born April 25th, checking in at seven pounds, ten ounces and 19.5 inches long. The name Shwana means “the sound of rain” in the Mong language, so welcome to Shwana. Also, congratulations to Ronique Missoni, secretary of the Silicon Valley Chapter, who gave birth to Mya Dorothea Missoni on May 14, 2019, at 1:11 pm, weighing six pounds, eleven ounces. Mya and mom are doing quite fine, and the rest of the family is thrilled to have Mya join the team. Congratulations to both Mya and Shwana on being the newest members of the National Federation of the Blind.
Today being June 3, it’s a good day also to acknowledge, well, first the birthday of Elizabeth Riccobono, who shares a birthday with Mark Maurer, our immediate past president, so happy birthday to Dr. Maurer and to Elizabeth.
We have a busy month ahead. This will be the last release until after the convention. We’ll probably make a release in early August, since the convention ends on 12. I don’t think we’ll do one right after the convention. We’ll wait ‘til August. I know that there’ll be a lot to report on about the national convention. Maybe we’ll even talk about where the 2020 national convention will be. I wish each and every one of you safe travels to our national convention. If you’re not coming, I urge you to tune in to the online stream or throw a party for others to come tune into the online stream. Have a banquet party. Tune into the sessions. Be part of the action of our 2019 national convention, and most importantly, thank you to each and every one of you for what you do to help us grow our organization. Here are some of the customary endings. Let’s go build the National Federation of the Blind.