Future Reflections                                                               Convention Report 2005

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2005 Braille Book Flea Market

by Peggy Chong

Judy stands near a pile of boxes and books.
Judy Rasmussen of Maryland works all afternoon cheerfully sorting books in preparation for the flea market.

On July 4, 2005, the Braille Readers Are Leaders Reunion and Braille Book Flea Market took place at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Long before the doors opened at 5:00 p.m., a line had already formed. Parents, teachers, and children were competing for the first look at the offerings.

Peggy Chong surrounded by boxes.
Peggy Chong checks through boxes and begins the sorting process.

Inside, many volunteers had been working for hours to unpack and sort the six pallets of boxes containing a little bit of everything. NFB members who were old hat at this—Barbara Loos, Nadine Jacobson, Sandy Halverson, Judy Rasmussen, and several others—instructed the newcomers in how to get the job done quickly. Some of the new hands this year were staff members from the Iowa Department for the Blind: Julie Auftenkamp, Jodi George, Kim Ray Barber, and Terry Osterhaus. The team worked tirelessly to get the books unboxed and out on the display tables.

At 5:00 p.m., the doors were flung open and the mad rush began. Volunteers were directing people to the tables containing the types of books they wanted most to see. As soon as a copy of a book disappeared from the table, a volunteer put another book in its place. For almost two hours, the noise level rose as volunteers and guests yelled across the room while the browsers sought to find that perfect book-treasure.

Lauren Beyer in front of the book table.
Eleven-year-old Lauren Beyer of Montana browses for books at her first NFB Convention.

This year, Federationists and friends were very generous in their contributions to the Flea Market. We had Harry Potter novels, classics such as Huckleberry Finn, cookbooks, and “how to” books. But our most popular were the Twin Vision (print-Braille) children’s storybooks. Well over one hundred Twin Vision books were donated, but within fifteen minutes, they were all gone.

Almost all of the children walked out with an armful of books. Behind them were Mom and Dad, often laden down as well. But many people opted to send books back home. Some parents brought pre-addressed labels, making the boxing and shipping of books much easier.

UPS volunteers pose for a picture.
UPS volunteers (from left to right) Susan Schafer, Deborah Warren, Tracy Davidson, Pamela Zimlich, Kelsey Warren, and Bobbie Shunnarah (front center).

I also need to mention the terrific support of the UPS volunteers in Louisville. They collected the books before the event and then brought them to the hotel. Three volunteers were on deck to help with the unpacking, sorting, and setting up. They stayed through the event and long after to box, label, and ship the books back home for many of the families. Almost ninety cartons of books were shipped to homes around the country.

This is always an exciting event for all of us volunteers, and everyone looks forward to working on this event in 2006. But we would like to ask everyone a favor: this year, when thinking of books to donate to the flea market, PLEASE send as many print-Braille children’s storybooks as you can find. We’ll see you in Dallas!


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