Palmetto Blind

The Palmetto Blind

The voice of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina



Donald Capps enjoying Christmas Carols at a previous Rocky Bottom Christmas Board Retreat while Hon. Parnell Diggs plays his guitar.



Dr. Donald C. Capps, August 30, 1928 to November 6, 2019

A major leader in work with the blind


WINTER 2019 – 2020


The PALMETTO BLIND, published twice a year in large print, in digital format, email and Braille by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. David Houck, Editor. The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina is chartered under the laws of the state of South Carolina to promote the spiritual, social and economic well-being of all blind South Carolinians. The state organization is an affiliate of the nation’s oldest and largest organization of the blind–the National Federation of the Blind.

The PALMETTO BLIND is the voice of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and is available free of charge to any blind individual or member in large print, Braille online, or text email format. Other subscribers are encouraged. If readers desire to do so, donations to cover the annual subscription cost of $10.00 per year may be made payable to the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and sent to: Valerie Warrington, Treasurer, National Federation of the Blind of SC, 119 S. Kilbourne Rd., Columbia, SC 29205. Upon request, we can email a color photo version in a pdf format. This version is not useful to adaptive technology like JAWS or Guide. Braille or large print copies may be retained for personal libraries.

Giving A Dream – One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB of SC is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.

Seize the Future – The National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina has special giving opportunities that will benefit the giver as well as the NFB of SC. Of course the largest benefit to the donor is the satisfaction of knowing that your gift is leaving a legacy of opportunity. However, gifts may be structured to provide more.

  • Helping the NFB of SC fulfill its mission
  • Realizing income tax savings through a charitable donation
  • Making capital gain tax savings on contributions of appreciated assets
  • Providing retained payments for the life of a donor or beneficiary
  • Eliminating or lowering federal estate tax in certain situations
  • Reducing estate settlement costs

NFB of SC programs are dynamic:

  • Making the study of literacy and technology a real possibility for blind children and adults • Providing hope and training for seniors losing vision
  • Promoting state and local programs to help blind people become first class citizens
  • Educating the public about blind people’s true potential
  • Advancing technology helpful to the blind
  • Creating a state and national library on the progress of blindness
  • Training and inspiring professionals working with the blind
  • Providing critical information to parents of blind children
  • Mentoring blind job seekers. Your gift makes you a partner in the NFB of SC dream. For further information or assistance, contact the NFB of SC, 119 S. Kilbourne Rd., Columbia, SC 29205. 803-254-3777 or





The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day, we raise the expectations of blind people because low expectations create obstacles between blind people and our dreams. You can live the life you want: blindness is not what holds you back.

In Memoriam – Dr. Donald C. Capps

By Parnell Diggs


          Perhaps the most distinguished Federation leader South Carolina has ever produced, Dr. Donald C. Capps. But this is not to tell the story of his long life of 91 years in sequence of events from start to finish. Instead, I will use this opportunity to convey a few thoughts about Dr. Capps, the man in retrospect in 2019.

Dr. Capps absolutely, dearly loved the National Federation of the Blind. It was so connected with his life that it could not be separated from his being. He first came to the Federation in the mid 1950’s when he was but in his 20’s. He attended his first chapter meeting at about the age of 25and his first national convention at the age of 27.

He attended his last meeting in October of 2019. In recent years, it had been increasingly difficult for Dr. Capps to attend Federation meetings due to a number of health issues. For him to get out of the house and get to the Federation Center, in October 2019 for example, required tremendous exertional effort on his part. We now know that the October meeting was to be his last, as he passed away some 27 days later.

It was not always physically difficult for Dr. Capps to attend meetings. At the age of 27, he and Mrs. Capps traveled cross country by car to attend the San Francisco convention in 1956. There he met Dr. tenBroek (then President and Founder of the NFB) and Kenneth Jernigan who would become one of Dr. Capp’s best friends until Dr. Jernigan’s death in 1998. Within ten years of attending his first national convention, Dr. Capps had begun working on initiatives that many of us now take for granted. For example, the Federation Center was dedicated in 1961, when Dr. Capps was 33 years old. Dr. Capps saw the need to improve programs for the blind in South Carolina. The person who was running the Division for the Blind which was in the South Carolina Department of Public Welfare said that, “That young Don Capps had better watch his step.” But Dr. Capps was not to be deterred. Along with his brother-in-law Gene Rogers, Dr. Capps wrote the legislation creating the SC Commission for the Blind, which was established in May of 1966. At that time Dr. Capps was 37 years old. Over the next five decades, Dr. Capps continued to work tirelessly on initiatives that would improve the quality of life for blind people across the nation and around the world. You do not have to be a longtime member of the Federation to know of the dozens of bills enacted in South Carolina in which Dr. Capps played an essential part.

Dr. Capps was about 50 years of age when we established what was then Rocky Bottom Camp of the Blind (later Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind). Dr. Capps was about 55 when , in his wisdom, he was responsible for hiring a young aspiring professional, David Houck, and these two gentlemen worked closely together for the next 36 years.

I could easily work this into a book, but there will be other opportunities to talk about the life of Dr. Capps, so I will end my remarks by telling you one more thing that you should know about Dr. Capps. He believed in young people and the importance of bringing youth into the Federation. At his funeral, Dan Frye articulately shared memories of his childhood, having met Dr. Capps when Dan was about 13. Dr. Capps while attending a Columbia Chapter membership banquet in April of 1989 was the first person to approach me, shake my hand, and welcome me to the Federation Center on that fateful evening. I was a 20 year old student at the University of South Carolina, and Dr. Capps (at the age of 60) had already enjoyed a successful career of nearly four decades at Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company. Dr. Capps had retired from Colonial Life just a few years before. He was involved in the work of the Federation on a full-time basis, spending many hours each day working to improve the quality of life of his blind brothers and sisters. He never missed an opportunity to lead a blind person to the Federation, but this was especially true when it came to young blind people. There are Federation leaders in South Carolina and across the nation who came to be part of the Federation after being recruited by Dr. Capps. He will be known as one of the greatest chapter organizers and membership recruiters that the Federation has ever known.

From the age of 25 to the age of 91, Dr. Capps gave every ounce of energy he could muster to the work of the National Federation of the Blind. I hope that others will follow the example set by Donald Capps on giving of our time, energy and talent to this big program of work with the blind. But the bar set by Dr. Capps is very high, as 66 years of dedicated service is a long time to spend in the furtherance of any cause. But from what I have learned from Dr. Capps in my 30 years of working with him, I think it would be safe to make the following estimation. Dr. Capps would be pleased with those who commit to work with the National Federation of the Blind if they would simply do their fair share and then some. Editor’s Note: At Dr. Capps funeral there were four blind pallbearers, Frank Coppel, Parnell Diggs, Isaiah Nelson and David Houck.


Longtime Federationist Doris Bell Passes


Picture Caption: Doris Bell


Obituary listing:

“Doris Brown Bell, age 89, of 2759 Bellview Church Road, and wife of the late Robert Ray “Bob” Bell, passed away on Wednesday, August 21, 2019.

Born in Greer, she was a daughter of the late Oscar Emory Brown and Inez Brannon Brown Nabors. Mrs. Bell retired as a bookkeeper for Belk’s and J.C. Penny in Clinton, was an interior decorator for The Country Shop, and was a director for the Family Court Cottage Children’s Home in Laurens. Along with her husband, she co-founded The Robert R. Bell Center of the Blind in Laurens, was involved with the development of Rocky Bottom Camp of the Blind, and was active with the National Federation of the Blind on the local, state and national level. A member of Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church, she was involved with the Presbyterian Women of the Church and a member of the choir. Mrs. Bell was the last surviving member of her immediate family.

Surviving are: her sons, Robby Bell and wife Beth of Laurens, Mark Bell and wife Wanda of Laurens; grandchildren, Austin Bell and wife Lourdes of Duncan, Mary Bell Willard and husband Andy of Simpsonville, Rebekah Bell, Joseph Bell, Linsey Bell, and Elizabeth Bell all of Laurens; great-grandchildren, Temperance Bell, Cloie Blake, and John Talley Willard.

Memorial services were held at 1:00 PM, on Saturday, August 24, 2019, at Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church conducted by Rev. Robert Brozina.“


Portions taken from the June 28, 2017 Positive Note:

“This week we are spotlighting a very special longtime federationist from Laurens. I am referring to our Laurens Chapter Associate Member Doris Bell who stood alongside her husband Bob in all he accomplished throughout his life in the federation. Doris Bell was born in Greer and at ten years of age her family moved to Laurens where she graduated from High School. Then she attended the National School of Business in Middlesburg, KY and later attended Greenville Technical College where she studied in their School of Interior Design.   Interior design was her passion as Doris performed interior design at the Country Shop in Laurens but she also did interior design on her own and gained a good reputation for her work. She was also the Director of the Family Court Cottage in Laurens where she applied her interior design skills. Doris Bell first met Bob Bell on July 5, 1947, as she puts it, “I met a blind man on a blind date.” They were married for 65 and one-half years until Bob passed away. While Bob Bell was very active in the federation locally, statewide and nationally, Doris was with him in all that Bob did, being ready to go with only a moment’s notice. They had two sons, Robby and Mark. Doris also has six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren which occupy much of her time presently. In 1970 Bob Bell retired from Laurens Glass due to his eyesight and while at the Commission in Columbia earlier he found out about the NFB of SC. They became involved in the Greenville Chapter in 1970 and Doris says that after the 1974 Chicago National Convention she became an enthusiastic federationist. “The federation is not just local but statewide, national and worldwide in its outreach.” Doris estimates that her and Bob organized or reorganized at least 15 local chapters over the years. The Laurens Chapter was organized on November 14, 1973. Doris served as the van driver, chapter secretary and interior decorator in the chapter and she raised 90% of the needed funding to establish the Bell center in Laurens in 1981 with her letter writing campaign. Van driving was not limited to chapter meetings but was extended to state functions, state and national conventions, Washington Seminars, etc. Bob and Doris Bell worked extensively with Rocky Bottom since its beginning. Doris used her decorating skills extensively in all the facilities. It seemed at times Doris and Bob were as much in Columbia as in Laurens. Doris observed Mary Calhoun was always left out of activities as she was a senior citizen. This prompted Bob Bell to begin the Senior Camp program which Frank Coppel now does such a fine job on as well. Seniors need activities designed for them just as we do for blind children Doris observed. Aside from interior design Doris likes flower arranging and working with children. They refer to Doris as “Ma Bell.” Doris has been active in Rocky Springs Presbyterian Church as she taught Bible School, was District Chairman, sang in the choir and sang duets in other churches. Three or four weeks ago Doris suffered a heart attack and is now in hospice at home. She would like to hear from you with cards or letters sent to 2759 Bellview Church Rd., Laurens, SC 29360 or you can call her at 864-682-3447 but if you call, let it ring for a while so she can answer it or call back later. Doris Bell has given her life in the service of the blind, children, seniors and anyone she can help so they can “live the life they want.”


Dr. Marvin Efron Passes –

Giving Sight to Thousands of the Legally Blind and Visually Impaired

Published in The Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star from Nov. 4 to N


Picture Caption: Dr. Marvin Efron


(Editor’s Note: Dr. Efron was loved by thousands of the blind in South Carolina who received their low vision screenings from him. He served on the Federation Center of the Blind Advisory Board for decades, even serving as its Chairman for a decade. At the 2018 NFB of SC Convention in Columbia, Dr. Efron was honored with the NFB of SC Distinguished Service Award, viewed in the photo on the left.)


Dr. Marvin Efron (1930 – 2019) Get photo from PB August Conv 2017

WESTCOLUMBIA – “Dr. Efron was a champion for vision education and eye impairment research for global out- reach. His very presence made our world a distinctly better place in which to live …. He was a gentle scholar and a true gentleman standing tall in integrity and purpose.”

Dr. Marvin Efron, 89, of West Columbia, entered into eternal rest on November 1, 2019. He was born May 30, 1930 in Aiken, SC to the late Harry and Mary Fadem Efron.

Marvin was an Optometrist at Eye Associates of Cayce, South Carolina having practiced over 69 years. After graduating from Aiken High School in 1947 he graduated with an undergraduate degree in Pre-Optometry from the University of South Carolina at age 18. Marvin then attended Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN graduating with honors in 1950 at the young age of 20. He then obtained his Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the University of South Carolina in Educational Psychology. Dr. Efron also did Post Doctoral work in Education for the Deaf and the Blind at the Institute Voor Doven in St. Michielgestel, The Netherlands.

He leaves behind “the love of his life”, devoted wife of 63 years, Sara Lyon Timmerman Efron along with his two treasured daughters: Leslie Efron Platt and Susan Efron Crouch and beloved son-in-law; Marty Crouch and grandchildren; Austin Harris [Lauren], Tori and Conor Crouch; Sara, Libby and Charlie Platt.

He also is survived by a sister Evelyn Bernstein and many nieces and nephews.?In addition to his parents, Dr. Efron is predeceased by two sisters; Sylvia Weissman and Lyn Rossoff, and a brother; Joseph Efron.

Dr. Efron was the past Executive Director of the South Carolina Partners of the Americas; past Treasurer and Board Member of the Institute for Evidence-based Decision-making in Education [EDIE]; past Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for the SC Commission for the Blind and also served on he Advisory Board for the SC Programs for the Deaf/ Blind. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Efron was a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology in the School of Medicine, University of South Carolina, teaching Low Vision Therapy and Practice as a lecturer and consultant for low vision rehabilitation for numerous colleges and educational agencies across the nation and spanning the globe.

Honors and recognition over the years includes Distinguished Alumni Award from USC; Order of the Silver Crescent from the State of SC; Optometrist of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award and Hall of Fame from the SC Optometric Association; Lifetime Achievement Award from the West Metro Chamber of Commerce; SC Commission for the Blind Appreciation Award; National Society to Prevent Blindness Robert Scott Memorial Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services; Rotary Foundation Paul Harris Fellow; Partners of the Americas Dumond Peck Hill Lifetime Achievement Award; Columbia College Outstanding Leadership Award for Civic Participation Among Women and Other Minorities in Colombia, South America and South Carolina; Cayce West Columbia Jaycees Distinguished Service Award;

Dr. Efron was past President of the West Columbia-Cayce Chamber of Commerce; past President of Saluda River Elementary School PTA; Past President of the Travelers Protective Association of America; past President of the Eye Associates of Cayce-West Columbia; past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School having served on that board for 30 years; past Chairman of the Partnership Board for the College of Education, University of SC; past Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Glenforest School, Cayce, SC; past Executive Director/President of the SC Chapter of Partners of the Americas.

Marvin was an enthusiastic world traveler having spent countless hours on vision mission trips over the years sharing his ophthalmic knowledge and medical talents with those in need across the globe. He particularly loved tracing his storied family history back over several centuries from their vivid Russian origins across to the Netherlands, then over the Atlantic to New York City, St Louis finally settling in Aiken, South Carolina.


Ralph M. Ellenburg, Sr. Passes at 97 – A longtime Friend of Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind

Picture Caption: Ralph M. Ellenburg, Sr.

Obituary    February 2, 1922 – November 29, 2019

Ralph McClellan Ellenburg Sr., 97, of Easley, South Carolina, passed away surrounded by family on November 29, 2019. He was born February 2, 1922 to Ernest McClellan Ellenburg and Lillie Stewart Ellenburg.      Ralph was married to Helen Patterson of Pickens for 70 years.

Ralph was predeceased by brothers Will Earl, Roy, Charles, Jack, Jimmie, Lafoy and Sherwood, and sister Mary Lou; wife, Helen; daughter, Hollace Kay Hamid. Surviving are his children, Ralph McClellan Ellenburg, Jr. of Easley and daughters Heller Gwen Ellenburg of Liberty and Heather Marie McConnell of Black Mountain, North Carolina, and his grandchildren, Tariq Gibran Hamid, Tara (T.K.) Redick, Jennifer Welborn, Tyson McConnell, and Regina Logan. Ralph also leaves behind nine great grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

Ralph was a philanthropist and successful entrepreneur having started and operated several businesses in the community. In his early twenties, he owned and operated Easley Ice Cream Parlor, Ellenburg Jewelry, and Ellenburg Amusement Company. He owned and operated Tri-City Lanes Bowling Center, but his crowning achievement was Ellenburg Asphalt Company. His company resurfaced Charlotte Motor Speedway. Ralph developed a method still used today for paving the high banks of a racetrack. Ralph was paving the roadways and building the railroad spur for a manufacturing park development outside Selma, Alabama when Dr. King’s Freedom March passed his jobsite. Preceding the years before retirement, Ralph partnered in real estate development along the South Carolina Coast and started the family rental business in Easley.

Ralph encouraged businesses to locate in Easley and supported new entrepreneurs with his advice and, more often than not, financially as well. He was dedicated to his community. He was a tireless supporter of and advocate for the Rocky Bottom Camp of the Blind, serving as President of their Advisory Board and not only leading their fundraising campaigns for many years but also could be seen working there regularly with his front end loader, back hoe, or fixing an appliance. He co-founded and served on the Board of Trustees of Community Bank, was President of the Easley Jacees, and held numerous other leadership positions in the community. Ralph was a lifelong member of Easley First Baptist Church. He spearheaded the fundraising to build Easley Baptist Hospital. He donated the stadium sound system for the Easley High School and did play by play announcements for their AA football team. He loved his hometown and assisted his brother Mayor Charles Ellenburg in revitalizing downtown Easley and building Old Market Square.

Ralph had an ability to fix almost anything and enjoyed working in his shop in the evenings and on the weekends. He was known to his family and friends as “the fix-it man” and lovingly and respectfully called “Mr. E”. He enjoyed many years of horsemanship on his Cedar Rail Ranch, and also enjoyed traveling with his wife, Helen, and his grandchildren in his motor home throughout the U.S. (including Alaska), Canada and Mexico.

A visitation will be at 1 PM Saturday, December 7, 2019 at Easley First Baptist Church, followed by a service to celebrate his life at 2:00 P.M. with committal at Hillcrest Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers please make memorials to Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind at 119 South Kilbourne Road, Columbia, SC 29205.


Spotlight Feature taken from the December 3, 2019 Positive Note introduced by Frank Coppel:


Mr. Ellenburg was a very special person who loved the blind and Rocky Bottom. In his honor, we are reprinting a spotlight article written by Dr. Capps which appeared in 2010 in the thanksgiving edition of the Positive Note. Dr. Capps words written In 2010 continues to reflect today our gratitude for Mr. Ellenburg’s generosity and his tireless work to benefit Rocky Bottom in any way possible. Here is what Dr. Capps wrote,

“Thanksgiving Day was set aside by our forefathers so that the working class and others might have a day of rest and for anything that might be good for a rest. Thus, for so many decades this has been a unique day of rest and relaxation. Relying on the official declaration I’m convinced that acknowledging the spectacular service of a special person is equally important and compatible with this philosophy. More than 50 years ago I was recruiting members in the Greater Greenville area. I met someone that told me Mrs. O. C. Hudson was blind and lived in Easley. She had a daughter by the name of Dorothy Hudson. It wasn’t long before Dorothy had joined the Advisory Board of Rocky Bottom and she gave special service to the program. I asked her one day if she knew anyone in the Easley area who would make an outstanding contribution to RBRCCB. She immediately stated Mr. Ralph M. Ellenburg, Sr. was the best in the county. She further stated that chances of enlisting his service on the Advisory Board was very small, explaining he was already busy. He had a leading part in the construction of the Baptist Hospital in Easley. I later learned that others had acquired his services as he was a substantial contributor to the soup kitchen that was provided for the homeless, etc. The numerous organizations he has helped are too many to mention. However, I’ve learned in a wonderful way this fine gentleman put forth tremendous effort in assisting persons with special needs. Betty and I visited with Mr. Ellenburg more than a quarter of a century ago and to our delight and gratitude he accepted my invitation to join us as an important member of our Advisory Board. Thus, I have worked very closely with him for a quarter of a century or since the mid 1980’s. A few years ago when a vacancy occurred, he was unanimously recommended by the Advisory Board to serve as Chairman. Without knowing him then as I now do, you can’t imagine the things he does including hard labor to assist RBRCCB and the blind. In the last few weeks a termite company discovered termites under the original building of Osterneck. The charge to correct this matter was considerable or more than $2,000. Ralph would have no part of this. Having never been in the “termite business,” Ralph learns quickly and has determined that he was getting rid of the termites at little or no expense. Other services over the past 25 years, although not exclusive, are as follows: repairing stoves, refrigerators, ice makers, lawn mowers, water heaters, fixing water line leaks, electrical and plumbing repairs, structural repairs, carpeting, and painting, etc. I remember his first Advisory Board attendance in the mid 1980’s and before leaving he gave me a check for $1,000 unsolicited. Our tremendous friend gave RBRCCB 5,000 shares of BB&T stock valued at $200,000. He gave well over $50,000 to the Ellenburg Lodge, completed in 1999. He secured $75,000 from Alice Manufacturing for Lawton Hall. The large and spacious Conference Center had a price tag of $600,000 and I don’t know how much he contributed but it was substantial. In the last few weeks, Mr. Ellenburg has secured contributions for the Labor Day Fun day Festival totaling about $5,000, increasing the total profits to $15,744.82, slightly more than in 2009. Additionally, Mr. Ellenburg attended our August state convention Banquet and when President Diggs opened the floor for contributions; shortly after this occurred, Mr. Ellenburg couldn’t stay quiet and took the courageous opportunity of committing ten members including himself, on the RBRCCB Advisory Board for $100 each for a total of $1,000. These funds will go to the NFB of SC and the Federation Center of the Blind. His help to RBRCCB also includes the use of his beautiful Beach Cottage in Litchfield Beach which he makes available for a one week’s stay in June to the individual making the highest bid. Mr. Ellenburg thinks nothing of the round trips from his residence to RBRCCB and back, a trip of more than 50 miles. He has been tremendously successful and the name of his business is, “Ellenburg Enterprises” which is very applicable as he does possess and largely manage his many enterprises including shopping malls and maintains houses to mention a few. Mr. Ellenburg will tell you that he didn’t finish high school but I can tell you of his tremendous service to others for six decades or more is based on his goodness and common sense, while having been blessed with a keen mind and desire to serve others. We, the blind across the state, appreciate and love Mr. Ellenburg. During this Thanksgiving season we extend our heartfelt thanks to a wonderful man, Mr. Ralph M. Ellenburg, Sr. whose service has touched the lives of many blind South Carolinians. We look forward to having Mr. and Mrs. Ellenburg at our Christmas Board Retreat. Don’t let me forget, he’s a federationist being a member of the Easley Chapter. God bless Mr. Ellenburg for many more years of service to the blind as possible. You will agree that Mr. Ellenburg deserves to be in the spotlight.”


63rd Annual NFB of SC Convention Celebrates

75 Years of NFB of SC History

By David Houck (Photos by Dondra Bible & David Houck)


Picture Captions:

Darlene Houck, left, and Dorothy Barksdale, right, at Registration table


SC Assistive Technology

SC Talking Book Services


ADA Wellness exhibit

Jehovah’s Witness

NFB of SC Board Meeting

Some of the silent auction items

Sight Unseen Band

Reception Gathering

Isaiah Nelson gives invocation

Columbia Chapter President Tiffiny Mtchell

President Frank Coppel presides

NFB Rep. James Gashel

Michael Edmonds, The Blind Hunter

Lefford Fate

Midlands Gives Trophy winners

Interim Commissioner Elaine Robertson

SCCB VR Director Zinera Wassif

Talking Book Director Kristin White

Jeff Bazer

Shannon Cook introduces 2019 Scholarship Class – Left to Right, Michael Duffell-Hoffman, Casey Eubanks and Sarah Massengale with President Coppel seated in the foreground

Marty McKenzie

Ed Bible

Jennifer Bazer

Banquet Audience

James Gashel Keynote Speaker

Tamra Brown Educator of the Year

Henry Green, Associate Member of the Year Award

Lenora Robertson accepting Donald C. Capps Award for Lynn Hornsby

Dorothy Barksdale


On Thursday, August 8 through Friday, August 9 people began to converge on the Columbia Marriott Hotel to attend this historic 75th anniversary event of the founding of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina. Beginning at 10:00 a.m. 150 delegates and others began picking up their agendas and name tags at the Registration Table headed up by Darlene Houck and delegates browsed the exhibits in the Atrium.

Our proud convention sponsors included Gold Sponsors Sprint Vision Accessibility and Vispero (formerly Freedom Scientific). Silver sponsors include Humanware, Orcam, Farmer’s Telephone Cooperative of Sumter and the Blue Marlin Restaurant and Catering. These were included in the agendas as well as on a poster board for all to see. Other exhibitors present were South Carolina Talking Book Services, the USC Assistive Technology Program, Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind and NFB of SC table, Student Division, Senior Division and Computer Science and Technology Division, Lee County Chapter, ADA Wellness and Jehovah Witness.

At 3:30 p.m. the NFB of SC Board of Directors met and the room was filled to capacity. Among other things discussed was the possibility of chartering a bus to Houston, Texas for the 2020 NFB convention and looking into a cruise to the Bahamas during November 14-19. 2020. We were honored to have James and Susan Gashel from Honolulu, Hawaii and Judge Parnell and Kim Diggs at our convention, not to mention two NFB of Georgia representatives. James Gashel was our National NFB Representative and is Secretary of the NFB Board of Directors.

Friday evening the NFB of SC Senior Division, Computer Science and Technology Division, and Student Division held their meetings. Valerie Warrington headed up the Resolutions Committee meeting. But the highlight of the evening was the Reception and Hospitality which included a live band, “Sight Unseen” led by Jim Jackson, heavy hour divers and a silent auction of dozens of high quality items and trips donated to raise funds for Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind. This auction raised $1,400.

Saturday morning, August 10 convened our opening General Session at 9:00 a.m. sharp with a few new twists incorporating out 75th anniversary of the NFB of SC. For instance, Shannon Cook, throughout the convention gave “tid-bits” of how things were in 1944. Also, there was “bumper music” played by Larry Warrington for many of the agenda items. Larry Warrington did a superb job with both live streaming the convention as well as taking care of much of the audio using the Federation Center’s mikes and receiver. Of course, Lenora Robertson and Ellen Taylor were loaded down with door prizes to distribute throughout the weekend.

NFB of SC board member Isaiah Nelson gave the invocation and Successful Transitions Director Jennifer Bazer welcomed the convention audience. Columbia Chapter President Tiffiny Mitchell welcomed everyone to Columbia for the convention and the Columbia Chapter had grab bags made ahead of time for all the delegates. During convention arrangements and announcements by President Coppel, a constitutional amendment allowing sighted Associate members to vote and hold office except for President and Vice President was read and passed by the delegates. The amendment did also state a majority of the membership should be blind. The afternoon session would reread the amendment for adoption as required by the constitution. James Gashel, NFB representative, gave the National Report, catching everyone up on the many accomplishments of the NFB nationally. He recognized the many accomplishments of both Donald and Betty Capps both in South Carolina, nationally and around the world.

Mr. Gashel stated that the Las Vegas convention was his 54th national convention. He reviewed the convention highlights as well. All were encouraged to do their part with October’s Meet the Blind Month and share these events with the NFB nationally. The 2020 Washington Seminar is slated for February 10 to 14. Students present were encouraged to apply for the 39 NFB national scholarships available. The new NFB database was also discussed. Items like the one minute message are great branding methods for both the blind and sighted alike.

A 75 year history of the NFB of SC included a recorded message from Marshall and Lois Tucker on the founding by Dr. Samuel Miller Lawton and beginning growth of the organization by Dr. Donald and Betty Capps. David Houck spoke concerning the 59 year history of the Federation Center of the Blind including facilities growth and renovations, staff development, program development and technology changes throughout the years. Dorothy Barksdale spoke about being the first black member in the NFB of SC and she recounted the diversity of the NFB of SC as time went on. Also, Dorothy has reached out to other states in the southeast to assist wherever she can. 2019 represents her 43rd state convention and 33rd national convention. She stated that if someone steps in your way, you step over it and just keep on going. President Coppel recounted the history of Rocky bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind from Dr. Capps first visit to the area in 1958 to its founding for use by the blind in 1979, to the growth and development of the facilities and grounds to our 40th anniversary celebration this year. He recounted Suzanne Bridges historic helicopter ride with the National Guard, locating the camp before the Guard members could find it! ALJ Parnell Diggs stated he was glad to be back in South Carolina. He recounted where we have come from in this state, the succession of the presidency over the years, the importance of the SC Association of Blind Students, he recounted the jury bill battle and how Dr. Capps won over the opposing legislator by bringing his blind school teacher to the meeting.

Tracy Spittle recounted the recent two week long NFB of SC BELL Academy hosted at the Federation Center of the Blind. These five hard working young blind students ages 6 to 8 accomplished much in Braille Literacy and even recited the One Minute Message which was played for everyone to hear. She thanked all her volunteer staff members who pitched in, creating a great learning environment.

Michael Edmonds lost his vision but not his sight as he recounted how he became a blind fisherman and hunter, even making competitive status in the para-Olympics where he wants to compete in Tokyo, Japan. He is a member of the North American Association of Blind Huntsmen. He truly turned his dreams into reality.

President Coppel rounded up the morning session by giving the NFB of SC Presidential Report. In 1944 there was little hope for the blind in employment, security, opportunity or in making any kind of living. He recounted the founding of the Aurora Club by Dr. Lawton in Spartanburg in 1944 to the growth and development of local chapters, divisions and facilities by Dr. Capps beginning in 1953 and beyond. In 1975 the Aurora Club became the NFB of SC, showing its affiliation with the NFB. Since last year’s convention we hosted the first NFB Senior Retreat with the second one coming in September, 160 attended the Statewide Seminar, 14 attended the Washington Seminar including Successful Transitions students and staff, the well-attended Leadership Seminar, 5th annual Sweetheart Dance, placing 8th in attendance at the NFB Las Vegas Convention and the successful NFB of SC BELL Academy. Funding through the Commission for the Blind is demonstrated through the Center’s computer training and the Successful Transitions program. We are continuing a friendly relationship with the new Talking Book Services Director, Kristin White. We have developed a relationship with Clemson University’s Department of Engineering in developing cars the blind can drive. President Coppel visited 12 chapters this year and Parnell Diggs is working in the selection process for a new Commissioner for the Commission for the Blind. In 2020 President Coppel plans to step down as President but not to step away.

The Luncheon got underway with David Houck giving the invocation. Our keynote speaker dealt with leadership development and growth, given by Lefford Fate, a motivational speaker from Sumter. He recounted how a blind man had more vision for his own family and himself than his own sighted parents did. His neighbor Mr. Tootle said, “The biggest barrier to what we want in life is ourselves.”

Following the guest speaker, the Midlands Gives trophy was awarded to District 5 for the most unique donors and to Successful Transitions for the most money raised. $6,300 was raised for RBRCCB through Midlands Gives. Everyone did a fine job tripling last year’s total.

The Saturday afternoon session got underway at 2:00 p.m. The SC School for the Deaf and Blind were prevented from attending as the School’s Board Chairman, Mr. Bobby Dobson, passed away the previous evening. We look forward to hearing their update at the annual Statewide Seminar in January. The Constitutional Amendment was read a second time and passed unanimously. President Coppel spoke of the cruise on Carnival out of Charleston slated for November 14-19, 2020 and chartering a bus to Houston, Texas for the 2020 NFB Convention leaving June 29 and returning July 6, 2020. The cost will be $100 to $150 per person.

Elaine Robertson, Interim Director of the SC Commission for the Blind. She stated the staff would require credentials and the Commission would assist in this. The Commission will be working with Stout University where Kyle Walker went to and the Career BOOST program will continue to be developed. Computer training for the older blind will continue as well. The new VR Director, Zinera Wassif , who was a 2013 NFB scholarship winner, addressed the delegates. She wants the SC Commission for the Blind to be a leader in the blindness field.

Our next speaker was Kristin White, the new Director of Talking Book Services.   She is honored to walk in the footsteps of former TBS Directors Pam Davenport and Sandy Knowles. The motto of Talking Book Services is “That all may read.” Katlyn Hodges is now working with the American Library Association. The focus on talking books in the future will be away from sending out books on a regular basis to having books on demand when you want them – a one patron, one cartridge model. Statistically in the last fiscal year there were almost 5,300 patrons, over 14,500 TBS contacts, over 180,000 book cartridges distributed, over 1,100 talking book machines, and 650 BARD users using 42,000 BARD items.

Jeff Bazer, representing Vispero updated the delegates on increases in technologies like the 5th Generation Focus Braille display, offering rugged construction and is very mobile, great for school or work. The next JAWS 2020 upgrades will be available for JAWS users and he discussed other adaptive technologies as well as low cost deals. Humanware was represented by Samuel Adler who addressed the Braille Touch Plus Notetaker and a variety of Braille Embossers and CCTV units. The Victor Reader Stream was also presented.

Shannon Cook presented the 2019 NFB of SC Scholarship Class before the convention audience including Matthew Duffell-Hoffman who will be attending USC Honors College majoring in Electrical Engineering, Sarah Massengale who will also be attending USC majoring in Public Relations, and Casey Eubanks who will USC majoring in Rehabilitation and Counseling.

Marty McKenzie represented the SC Department of Education Office of Special Education. He spoke of the importance of the SC Vision Partnership which was initiated by Donald Capps 20 years ago. TVI or Teachers of the Visually Impaired, Program at USC Spartanburg has 10 TVI’s enrolled. Marty also spoke of Project Magnify which provides magnification to visually impaired students.   South Carolina is in crisis as it needs more Orientation and Mobility Instructors. Kindra Flores of the National NFB Student Division spoke briefly concerning her growth and development as a blind person.

Ed Bible, Vice Chairman of the Rocky Bottom Board of Directors reported that Linda Bible, Resident Manager, is recuperating nicely from her recent stroke. He stated the need for more fundraising to meet the needs of the camp. Much needs to be accomplished and we thank all those who volunteer like the Lions Club and church groups to meet our needs as we celebrate our 40th anniversary. However, the to-do list is long and we could use all the help we can get. For instance, the Chapel needs a new roof and the pool needs to be pressure washed and repainted. Our service to Children’s Camp, Senior Blind Camps and the National Senior Blind Retreat continue. Fun Day is coming up the Labor Day weekend with all the festivities on Saturday, August 31. Come and spend the weekend or come for the day, and don’t forget to sell your Fun Day tickets! Jennifer Bazer, Director of the Successful Transitions program, now in its fourth year, stated that it is the only entity in the nation performing all five components of the grant. Seven of these students attended the Washington Seminar, eight attended the NFB Las Vegas convention where Derique Simon was a national Scholarship winner. Several Successful Transition students and staff attended the NFB of SC 75th anniversary convention as well.

Ed Bible gave the Federation Center report speaking of the continuing renovations, how Zoom can provide easy conference access for all using a phone, cell phone, laptop or desktop computer access. David Houck followed up with more details concerning training and other improvements.

The Saturday evening Banquet was the highlight of the convention as the room as well as the head table was packed with anxious delegates and guests. The invocation was made by Debra Canty, NFB of SC 2nd Vice President. The Master of Ceremonies, President Coppel, introduced the head table and our keynote speaker, NFB Secretary of the national Board of Directors, Jim Gashel. Mr. Gashel is noted for his decades of service as Director of Governmental Affairs for the NFB and in other areas of service. Mr. Gashel spoke of tag lines which put into a nutshell what we are all about like “It’s respectable to be blind,” “security, equality and opportunity,” or the “One Minute Speech.” He was stunned when he heard the question, “Why should anyone hire you?” As he developed his blindness skills and philosophy about blindness, he came to realize that it is respectable to be blind, so live the life you want.

Awards distributed included Marty McKenzie presenting the Educator of the Year Award to Tamara B. Brown, Valerie Warrington presented the Associate Member of the Year Award to Henry Green and David Houck presented the Donald C. Capps Award to Lynn Hornsby. Scholarship winners received the following awards: Sarah Massengale $675, ($125 Belvedere, $250 Sumter, $300 Breitweiser. Matthew Duffell-Hoffman $1,125, ($125 Belvedere, $500 Kline, $500 Ruth Jordan/Greenville). Casey Eubanks $1,725, ($100 Chesterfield, $125 Belvedere, $500 Columbia/John Fling, $1000 Grand Strand/Parnell Diggs). The Banquet fundraiser for the NFB of SC gathered $7,800 in donations and $3,395 in pledges, totaling $11,795. Those making pledges are encouraged to get them in by the end of 2019. Following the Banquet the South Carolina Association of Blind Students held a Trivia Night fundraiser.

On Sunday morning Dorothy Barksdale, Columbia Chapter Secretary and former Secretary of the NFB of SC Board of Directors conducted the Devotional and Memorial Service. James Nelson of Georgetown sang beautifully. Dorothy read from Our Daily Bread and recited the names of NFB of SC members who passed away since our last state convention. A highlight of each convention are the reports from chapters and divisions of the NFB of SC. Sharing their accomplishments and challenges creates a wealth of knowledge beneficial to all chapters and divisions. Following these reports chapter and division drawings were made. SUN Shares act as a “rainy day fund” for the NFB and a total of 48 $10 SUN Shares were collected and pledged. The PAC or Pre-Authorized Contributions in the NFB allow individuals or chapters to have funds withdrawn each month in support of the NFB nationally which does not require dues. Several PAC forms were distributed during the presentation. Valerie Warrington read two resolutions which are presented elsewhere in this publication which the convention adopted unanimously. Elections were held and board members were elected for the following two year terms. All members, blind and sighted voted for the first time. Those elected were Loretta Green from District One, Derique Simon from District Three, Linda Dizzley from District Five, and Isaiah Nelson and Ed Bible for the two At Large positions. A few parting comments by President Frank Coppel and a couple of ending door prizes later, the 75th anniversary of the NFB of SC convention was adjourned and everyone departed for home anxious to share what they had learned with their fellow blind.


2019 NFB of SC Convention Resolutions Adopted

By Valerie Warrington


Resolution 2019-01


Whereas, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was the enabling legislation to require a means of private and independent voting for all Americans, including the blind;

And whereas, this legislation was first implemented in South Carolina in the general election of 2006;

And whereas, (while many blind South Carolinians have used this accessible voting technology) accessibility barriers continue to due to lack of training for poll workers and poor design of the technology itself;

And whereas, absentee voting still remains inaccessible to blind South Carolinians;

Now therefore, be it resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in Convention assembled in the City of Columbia, South Carolina, on August 11, 2019, that the South Carolina State Election Commission as it deploys new technology for use in the 2020 election and beyond must ensure full accessibility for non-visual use and proper training of poll workers;

And be it further resolved that this organization call upon the South Carolina State Election Commission to work with the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina to devise and implement an accessible process for absentee voting with the passage of state legislation, if necessary.




Resolution 2019-02


Whereas, since 1966 state law established the South Carolina Commission for the blind to provide vocational rehabilitation and other vital services to blind people in our state;

And whereas, the Commission is comprised of 7 members representing the seven congressional districts;

And whereas, there continues to be three vacancies on the Commission board despite repeated requests to the Governor;

And whereas, leaving these positions vacant shows disrespect of blind citizens of South Carolina by failing to support the vital programs of the Commission; a situation which the blind finds to be deplorable;

Now therefore, be it resolved by the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina in Convention assembled in the City of Columbia, South Carolina, on August 11, 2019, that, we call upon the Governor to fill these positions immediately and bring to the Commission sufficient experience to ensure the Commission’s viability.



Picture Caption: Suzanne Bridges

(From the February 1977 Greater Columbia Magazine By Joseph Cauhan, Editor/Publisher)

Suzanne Bridges, Executive Director, Federation Center of the Blind

(Editor’s Note: Before David Houck became Center Executive Director in 1983, Suzanne Bridges was the first Executive Director from 1977 to 1983. In those days the Center used a Mimeograph machine, rotary dial phones, there were no computers and the technology of the day was an Optacon, an individual character recognition device.)

“Since June 1977, the Federation Center of the Blind has a new Executive Director, Suzanne Bridges, an attractive and talented young lady. In her spare time, Suzanne, who is legally blind with only ten percent sight, is finishing her PhD degree in Clinical Psychology. She has been a brilliant student, graduating from AC Flora High School in 1971 with honors and the University of South Carolina with a BA degree in 1974, once again with honors. She was an organizing chairman and past president of the National Federation of the Blind Student Division. She is also a Phi Beta Kappa.

Perhaps very few people know that Suzanne is part of a new and fast growing militancy among America’s over half a million blind people who are seeking equal rights in the area of employment, housing and transportation. They want to create a new image of themselves and help open new doors for themselves along with determining their own destiny. The prejudice they face is, “all the worse because it is not based on fear or hatred but on pity.” They are tired of the “over-protection” of the society which “prevents them from ever reaching adulthood.”

On the national and state levels, highly intelligent activists like Suzanne have worked to remove these human barriers in order to feel equal partners and productive towards a better society for all of us. The blind have picketed in New York, Washington, Arkansas, Chicago and Cincinnati. They have filed lawsuits dealing with equal rights in Ohio, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and Michigan. In 1973 the national Rehabilitation Act mandated state agencies to establish advisory groups to guide programs for the blind. In 1974 in California, the blind were brought under the jurisdiction of the State Fair Employment Practices Commission, which prohibits job discrimination on the basis of physical handicap. However, as a matter of record, 70% of this country’s employable blind are out of work, and they still confront hiring resistance in private business and industry.

Insurance is another front the blind are beginning to attack because certain companies refuse to give them either double-indemnity or any insurance at all. “We are a proud bunch of people who ask for an equal opportunity and equal consideration,” pleads Suzanne Bridges, “We are not asking for special privileges. Our biggest problem is not our own blindness, but the attitude of the people towards our blindness.” Due to this courageous stand of the blind, the National Federation of the Blind has gained over ten thousand new members in the past five years and is continuing to gain strength in money and manpower.   Suzanne sums up the present thinking and feeling of the blind this way: “The day the blind can adopt children without a court fight, serve on a jury or acquire such a simple luxury as a safe deposit box, will be the day we know we are on our way. We’re no less intelligent or less capable than the next person.”

In the second half of the twentieth century our attitudes have changed towards many aspects of everyday living and conditions of living. We must now change our attitudes about blindness which is a physical handicap like many other physical handicaps. Let us therefore open up our hearts and our minds towards this very vital and vibrant component of our community to work with them and not against them. They simply ask for equal treatment, a chance to grow and fulfill their potential in order to be proud and productive citizens of this great nation.”


Erica Powell – Making Her Dreams a Reality


Picture Caption: Erica Powell


At the young age of 6 months old Erica Powell was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Retinoblastoma- 14 bilateral cancerous tumors in her eyes. With the help of the country’s best doctors, a loving family, and a community of support Erica was treated and has been cancer free for over 20 years now! As a result of Erica’s radiation treatment, she now experiences progressive vision loss. She is totally blind in her left eye and can see only large shapes and colors from her right eye. Thankfully though, Erica was raised to focus on all of the things she could do, achieve, and be instead of dwelling on her vision loss. Because of her tenacious mindset Erica has always worked to break the barriers that are often experienced by people with disabilities.

Erica grew up as a high-level competition gymnast which led her to receive a scholarship to Clemson as a Clemson Cheerleader. Upon graduating college Erica knew she was not finished competing athletically! Erica began running track and field in March of 2019. She was performing at a competitive level and hitting “emerging athlete standards” in her practices which caught the interested of the USA Paralympic National Team. Thanks to support from generous organizations like the Salem Lions Club and the SC National Federation of the Blind Erica was able to travel to international competitions in hopes to continue to improve.

Since beginning her journey with her first meet in May of 2019 Erica has been invited to the Elite Athlete Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA on several accessions. Her performance in her 100m sprint has earned her the ability to receive daily training, strength and conditioning, and meal plans from Olympic Coaches. Her goal is to compete on Team USA at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo Summer 2020!

Erica would not have the opportunity to pursue this prestigious goal without the continuous support from the SC National Federation of the Blind and Salem Lions Club. Their sponsorship has helped Erica progress as a sprinter and has given her the ability to rise to the level of a potential Paralympian.

Today Erica is hard at work training twice a day in Greenville, SC with the remote support from her Olympic caches. She plans to travel to the Olympic Training Center multiple times this year in preparation for meet season starting in March of 2020. Erica hopes to meet the team standard in her 100m, 400m, and/or Javelin throw and become an official member of Team USA before June 2020. However, if she does not, she will still have an opportunity to make the team by competing in the Paralympic Trials at the end of June. When you ask Erica what her main goals are, she will tell you this. 1. Competing for Team USA in Tokyo Games 2020 and 2. To break down negative stereotypes and barriers for people who are blind and visually impaired. Erica is so thankful for the chance to work towards these two goals with organizations like the SC National Federation of the Blind behind her.


Governor’s Proclamation of NFB of SC’s 75th Anniversary


State of South Carolina

Governor’s Proclamation


Whereas, established in 1944, the South Carolina Aurora Club of the Blind became a vehicle for collective action to promote the economic, social and spiritual well-being of blind South Carolinians; and


Whereas, in its charter as a statewide organization with chapters in Spartanburg, Columbia and Charleston, the Aurora Club became an affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind in 1956 and began doing business as the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina; and


Whereas, over the past 75 years, the Federation’s advocacy has led to the enactment of over 40 pieces of legislation, including the vreation of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, the adoption of the Model White Cane Law guaranteeing blind South Carolinians the right to access public roads and facilities in the state, the adoption of the South Carolina Blind Persons Right to Parent Act, and has improved the quality of life for blind South Carolinians; and


Whereas, through its local chapters and statewide divisions, the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina has provided economic, social and spiritual enrichment to blind South Carolinians on an individual basis; and


Whereas, the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina is holding its Diamond Anniversary Convention during the weekend of August 9-11in the city of Columbia, South Carolina.


Now, therefore, I Henry McMaster, Governor of the Great State of South Carolina, do hereby proclaim August 9-11as





Throughout the state and encourage all South Carolinians to congratulate the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolinaand its members on the 75 years of work, both individually and collectively, to improve the quality of life of blind individuals in the Palmetto State.

(State seal)

Henry McMaster


State of South Carolina



Live the life you want’ Duffell-Hoffman Doesn’t let Disability Define Him

By Stephanie Jadrnicek


(Editor’s Note: Printed in the Lancaster High School news, May 29, 2019)


Picture Caption: Matthew Duffell-Hoffman, Photo by STEPHANIE JADRNICEK

Picture Caption: Matthew Duffell-Hoffman wrestling an opponent, photo by ROBERT HOWEY


After graduating with highest honors from Lancaster High School, Matthew Duffell-Hoffman will attend USC Honors College this fall. Below, Duffell-Hoffman goes for a pin in the Bruins’ home match with Camden Military Academy on Dec. 3, 2018.

In first grade, Matthew Duffell-Hoffman used magnification and large print to read. By the age of 6, he was blind. But he never let blindness define him.

On May 31, he will graduate with highest honors from Lancaster High School, where he competed as a Bruin for the school’s wrestling and cross country teams. This fall, he will attend USC Honors College.

Duffell-Hoffman had perfect vision when he was diagnosed with a genetic disease that causes blindness. His parents had him tested after doctors discovered the reason for his older brother’s vision problems.

“It’s a recessive trait,” Duffell-Hoffman said. “They caught it by looking at my retinas before I noticed any changes.”

For most of his classes, he has used JAWS – a computer screen reader that provides text-to-speech output or a refreshable Braille display. But his precalculus class required a different approach.

“There were a lot of graphs, so my teacher made tactile graphic versions so I could feel the shape of the graphs,” he said. “Almost everything I do I have to do a little bit differently than my peers, but just because there is a difference doesn’t necessarily mean it’s harder or impossible.”

In some ways, Duffell-Hoffman’s blindness has given him an advantage over his peers. He uses problem-solving skills often to navigate new situations and he’s learned the importance of flexibility.

“I’ve learned to go with the flow,” he said. “There’s a lot of times when I go into a situation, I’ve got no idea how something’s going to work, and I have to figure it out on the fly.”

To be successful, he’s had to hone the skill of self-advocacy.

His mother, Jennifer Duffell-Hoffman, said Matthew doesn’t overcome being blind, he doesn’t overcome being disabled, but he does frequently have to push past systemic barriers.

“Matthew wrote a precise letter to disabilities services at the College Board explaining the difference in taking the AP (Advanced Placement) exam with a screen reader versus taking it listening to a human being,” Jennifer said. “Now they provide a screen-reader accessible AP exam.”

Lancaster High School history teacher Josh Pauling was Matthew’s AP U.S. History teacher and his cross-country coach. Pauling said Matthew has an outstanding well-rounded knowledge across all subject areas.

“This well-roundedness is vital for all of us as it better prepares us for whatever may be ahead,” Pauling said. “Perhaps what is most impressive with Matthew is his ability to share his ideas and engage with the ideas of others with a depth and insight well beyond his years.”

In cross country, Pauling acted as Matthew’s guide, running by his side and alerting him to upcoming bumps or turns in the trail. “As an athlete, Matthew has been a great leader and model for younger athletes as his work ethic and drive to compete are second to none,” Pauling said. “I especially will miss being able to get his input on everything from workouts at practice, to modifying our course and my favorite – getting to run with him.”

A skilled problem-solver, Duffell-Hoffman wants to study engineering. He said although most people would think he’s an auditory learner, he’s actually a visual learner.

“My visual is through tactile and other ways of processing the same information, things like holding 3D objects in my mind,” he said. “I’m really good about spacing and positioning, which is great for engineering, being able to design a part in my head and think about how it’s going to work.”

Duffell-Hoffman has met engineers, chemists and other successful blind professionals through his involvement with the National Federation of the Blind. And he lives by the organization’s two major philosophies.

“One philosophy is, ‘blindness is not the character that defines you.’ Meaning that it’s just another one on the list – I’m a white male, brown hair, blind and blue eyes,” he said. “The other philosophy is ‘live the life you want.’”





Aspire, Believe, Conquer!!!

By Jennifer Bazer


Children’s Camp at Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind was held June 9-15, 2019. 32 blind campers, ages 5-17 enjoyed activities held annually including: kayaking at Table Rock, roasting marshmallows and singing camp songs by the fire, a hands-on experience with the Department of Natural Resources holding snakes and alligators, and the always entertaining, talent show. This year, campers experienced yummy treats at The Scoop Ice Cream shop, including huge bowls layered with ice cream and various items like donuts and candy bars. Jennifer and her staff were extremely welcoming and helpful during the visit. Talking Book Services also visited from Columbia to give out a Braille book to each camper, have that same book read aloud, and to make a hands-on art project.

During the week, blind counselors in training, junior counselors and volunteers assisted in leading activities in each group of campers and by being positive role models. The positive role modeling comes from the top, with the director of the camp being blind. She was a camper over thirty years ago at Rocky Bottom and is blessed to lead a dedicated team of volunteers to encourage blind campers during the week with hope, love, and determination.

Children’s Camp would not be possible without lifeguards, nurses, and other volunteers who provide food, prepare meals, transport campers to fun activities, provide a safe environment in the pool and assist with bandaging wounds and giving medications. The cost to hold a successful camp for a week each year is about $7,500, which includes food, transportation, activities, accessible equipment, and van rentals. To help defray the cost, Lions Club Members purchased and prepared meals, churches cooked and froze items so they could be thawed and baked as needed, families and friends of Children’s camp donated items including: snacks, bottled water, sunscreen, paper products, and cleaning supplies to cut down on the expense, and others gave a monetary donation to purchase what remaining items were needed.

Located in Pickens County, Rocky Bottom Children’s Camp of the Blind is free to all blind children ages 5-17, in South Carolina. Camp will be held June 6-13, 2020. Online applications will be available by 2-1-2020 and is on a first come, first served basis. For any questions about Children’s Camp, to receive an application, or to make an in-kind or monetary donation, please contact Jennifer Bazer, Children’s Camp Director at 803-960-9977 or


Picture Captions:


Sassafras Mountain Walk

Communing with nature

Group discussions



He’s thrived despite the loss of his vision.

He credits his blind mother for his success.

By Conor Hughes, Spartanburg Herald Journal, May 12, 2019

Picture Caption: Derique Simon at graduation, Photo By: Tim Kinzey, Spartanburg Herald Journal

After going blind five years ago, Derique Simon lost hope for the future. Now thanks largely to the support of his mother who is also blind, he has learned to function independently and he graduated from Spartanburg Community College, Spartanburg School District 7 Viking’s Early College Program this past week.

When Derique Simon went to bed one night about five years ago, he could see.

When he woke up, he was blind.

Simon had impaired vision from the day he was born until he was in seventh grade. But when he woke up for school that day, he was in complete darkness.

“It was absolutely terrifying,” he said.

In the months leading up to Simon losing his vision, his stepfather Terrill Banks said he’d noticed signs the teenager’s eyes might be failing him — certain gestures, almost running into furniture, holding books closer to his face. His teachers also noticed the bright student’s work began to slip.

“Even his elementary school teachers would think that Derique didn’t want to do his work and he was lying about things he couldn’t see,” said Belinda Simon, Derique’s mother.

For years, doctors had assured Simon and his parents that he wouldn’t go blind. When he did, they couldn’t tell him why.

“They have no earthly idea,” Derique Simon said.

In the months and years that followed, Simon slipped into despair. Simple tasks like cooking, cleaning and dressing himself seemed insurmountable. He couldn’t read braille or navigate technology, and school became a constant uphill battle.

But Simon had the support of his friends, family and a team at Spartanburg School District 7.

His greatest asset: a mother who knew exactly what he was going through.

Belinda Simon also lost her vision when she was 14 to glaucoma. Being blind was new to Derique, but Belinda has lived without her sight for decades.

“She’s the one who’s always been there,” Derique said. “She’s the one who taught me how to do all the stuff that everyone needs to know how to do.”

It took time, but Derique Simon learned to live and thrive in spite of his disability. Thursday, the 18-year-old walked across the stage at Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium to accept an associate’s degree in arts after graduating from Viking Early College, a partnership between Spartanburg Community College and Spartanburg School District 7. He will also receive his high school diploma this year.

“It’s been quite the learning experience and life experience,” he said. “It’s been awesome.”

In the wake of losing his vision, Simon said the possibility of graduating from high school seemed remote, let alone receiving a college degree simultaneously.

“If you looked at me four years ago and told me I’d be sitting here about to graduate from college and high school within a few weeks of each other, I would have laughed at you in the face and would have called you an idiot,” he said.

It wasn’t just the obvious barriers losing his vision presented on a daily basis, but the mental state it put him in that made it difficult for Simon to continue to succeed. He was ashamed to be blind.

“I didn’t want people to know that I was blind,” Simon said. ”… Several of my friends and staff will tell you that they were always worried about me, because I would never walk around with a cane.”

He had no confidence in himself, and any improvement seemed hopeless.

But when Simon was at his lowest, he could look to his mother for inspiration.

“She’s not the type to sit down and say, ‘You can do it, yes you can,’” he said. “She’s the type that leads in silence, and that’s the most beautiful thing in the world for me.”

Being blind hasn’t stopped Belinda Simon from living a full life. She’s the mother of two and runs her own business operating vending machines throughout the Upstate. Through his mother’s example, Derique Simon learned being blind didn’t mean he couldn’t be happy.

“She inspires people without even realizing that she does sometimes,” he said. “She’s so friendly and inviting to everyone she meets. And she never minds telling her story, telling what she’s done, and all the things that she’s achieved. ”

Last summer, Derique enrolled at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, an institution run by blind people for blind people. The center offers training, support and services to help blind adults work around their disability. Derique was there, on his own, for two months.

He said he not only learned the skills to function independently as a blind person, but he also started to think differently about his disability. Being around a diverse group of people who all face the same challenges he did helped change the way he saw himself.

“It was the biggest thing in the world,” he said. “It builds confidence of ‘If I can do this, nothing can stop me.’”

After losing his vision, Derique Simon also became an active member of the National Federation of the Blind, and he recently received a prestigious college scholarship from the organization. Through the federation, Simon had the opportunity to go to Washington, where he testified in front of Congress, advocating for people who are blind and visually impaired.

“It was very surreal,” he said. “It was the moment when I realized this is the path that I’m on and I’m OK with it. It was the moment I realized I want to fight for the people who come after me.”

Simon recently finished an internship with the Burts, Turner & Rhodes law firm in Spartanburg that he said was as rewarding as it was challenging.

In the fall, he starts at Lander University, where he said he plans to study political science. He hasn’t ruled out going to law school after he graduates, and he said he has a particular interest in specializing in victims’ rights and disability advocacy.

Belinda and Terrill said they’re nervous to see their son strike out on his own, but they know he’ll continue to thrive.

“It’s been a challenge because we’ve all had to work together as a team for Derique to be successful,” Belinda Simon said. “To have that many people on board to make sure all of his needs are covered has been very interesting.




Carey Burriss – From the Heart


Picture Caption: Carey Burriss


Carey Burriss has successfully completed his Cardiac Rehabilitation. Carey would like to encourage anyone that has cardiac issues that if the doctor suggests Cardiac Rehab it is an excellent program. Beginning in May, due to illness Carey was unable to participate and be actively involved with the NFBSC, However the wait is over! He will be resuming his duties in October 2019.



Fun Day at Rocky Bottom

By Frank Coppel


I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who attended and volunteered their services at the Fun Day Festival held at Rocky Bottom this past Labor Day weekend. The turnout for this event was good as approximately 55 federationists attended the festivities on Saturday, August 31. All of us need to work harder to attract more of the public to attend as well as to encourage more of our members to sell their Fun Day tickets and to attend the Fun Day festivities. The weather this weekend was spectacular and everyone appeared to have a great time enjoying each other’s company and raising money for Rocky Bottom. Many thanks go to Lenora Robertson, Ellen Taylor, Glenda Culick and the rest of the “Food Crew” for preparing four outstanding meals Saturday and Sunday morning. I would like to especially thank Valerie and Larry Warrington, their niece, Haily, and Libby Farr for helping where ever needed. I would also like to recognize David and Darlene Houck, Isaiah and John Nelson, Linda Bible, and Jennifer Bazer for their assistance on Saturday as well as Jeff Baser who did a great job handling the duties of auctioneer.

I would like to share with you numbers regarding the Fun Day which occurred at Rocky Bottom on August 31. We were able to raise $5,034.69 in gross proceeds. Fun Day Lunch $290.00, Fun Day food for weekend $750.00, Fun Day Tickets $2,555.00, T-shirts $92.00, Fun Day Yard Sale 82.69.00, Fun Day Auction $1,265.00.

RBRCCB is an extremely important and vital program of the NFB of SC and all of us as members need to work diligently and creatively in the years to come to increase the amount of monies raised during the Fun Day Festival. As I have stated many times, Rocky Bottom belongs to all of us. We need to work “as one team with one goal” and be proud we have such a unique facility in South Carolina.


Governor Proclaims October 15, 2019 as White Cane Safety Day

in South Carolina


State of South Carolina Governor’s Proclamation


Whereas, the white cane is a simple yet effective tool of independence that contributes to the self-sufficiency of individuals who are blind and visually impaired and symbolizes their ability to achieve a full and independent life and their capacity to work productively in competitive employment; and

Whereas, the white cane is a symbol of dignity and determination as well as a tangible reminder that individuals with impaired eyesight are able to go, to move, to be, to compete and to contribute with all others in society and to lead full, independent and productive lives; and

Whereas, established by the National Federation of the Blind, the annual observance of “White Cane Safety Day” emphasizes the need for all Americans to be aware of the presence of persons with disabilities in our communities and to work together to keep the streets, highways, sidewalks, walkways, public buildings and facilities, and places of public accommodation, amusement, and resort safe and functional to the disability community; and

Whereas, the 2019 observance of “White Cane Safety Day” provides an opportunity for people across the Palmetto State and the nation to renew their dedication to eliminating barriers for persons who are blind and visually impaired and to recognize their value as individuals, employees, and productive members of our communities.

Now, therefore, I, Henry McMaster, Governor of the Great State of South Carolina, do hereby proclaim October 15, 2019 as


Throughout the state and encourage all South Carolinians to show respect for those who carry the white cane, to honor their many achievements, and to reaffirm our commitment to improving access to basic services and opportunities for persons who are blind and visually impaired.

Seal of the state of South Carolina

Henry McMaster, Governor

State of South Carolina


Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind

Hosts NFB Senior Blind Retreat

By Ted Brewer


Picture Captions:

Lion Mike with campers.

Lion Mia with Scott, Shelly, and Roxie, Carol, and Kattie Wayne


Approximately twenty members of the National Federation of the Blind gathered at Rocky Bottom on September 15th for a week of fun, learning, and fellowship. Most of them flew to Greenville Spartanburg Airport and needed transportation to get to the camp. Frank Coppel, President of the South Carolina Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and a member of the Rocky Bottom Board of Directors, and his wife Shelley coordinated most of the activities for the week. They requested help from the Upstate Lions Clubs to provide the ground transportation for these campers and we were glad to provide our services for this event.

The Lions answering the call to help were Gene and Rita Spiess of Spartanburg; Kathy Carroll and Ron White of Seneca; Mike Caranci, Ted Brewer, and Ken and Donna Luce of Salem; Bill Whitlock, Don and Mary Van Meter, and Phil Smith of Easley; Gennie Siwicki of Pickens; and Mia Wade, and Keith Taylor of Greer. Pictured below are some of the Lions and their passengers.






Sumter Chapter Christmas Gala

By Debra Canty


The Sumter Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina hosted its 46th Annual Fundraiser Christmas Gala on the evening of Tuesday, December 10, 2019 at the Trinity Missionary Baptist Church with temperatures in the upper seventies that ended with rain after the program. Dr. Tremain Singleton and his lovely wife, (LaKia) greeted and welcomed almost 400 super excited attendees. The evening began with soft music as guests engaged in building new relationships with the sighted and blind together in the beautifully decorated banquet hall of elegance.

Rhonda of Dazzling Décor designed with a glitz of elegance which captured the gorgeous room with a twilight of silver, soft white and a beautiful shade of green arrayed the atmosphere with beauty galore.

The program participants glorified God as; we continued with raising blind awareness throughout the evening. Debra Canty was the Mistress of Ceremonies and a gorgeous live arrangement was the on-time giveaway donated by LaRisha and Ray Porter of the UK. Frances Strong began the program with scripture and Michael Choice rendered an opening prayer,   Perry Pringle played “Silent Night” on his Harmonica, DaRena Weldon and Eric Hilton gave their testimonies, Edna Wiley and Doug Hudson blessed us with inspirational singing, Petrina Wiley spoke about being the daughter of a mother who happens to be blind, Judy L. Simon acknowledged, Charbrenna Davis as, “Queen of the Year” for the Sumter Chapter for 2019 before she sang, “Happy Birthday” to chapter members celebrating birthdays in December, and President Frank Copple introduced, Jennifer Bazer, the keynote speaker with the theme, “When the world does not give you a vision, then create one for yourself”.

Green and Green caterers provided a delicious dinner which was blessed by Ruthie Walker and served by Coach Medlin and the Fire Ants Baseball Program of the University of South Carolina-Sumter Campus.

Earl and Carolyn Klaege presented each table with a hidden giveaway gift and the 4 final gifts drawn at the end of the evening were a 12 inch Cuisinart Skillet donated by Lee and Laura James of the NFB Sumter Chapter, Air Fryer donated by NFB Lee County Chapter, President Linda Dizzley, 2 gorgeous paintings donated by Stacey Gadson Fulwood and Joreatha Gadson of the Sumter Chapter and the Grand Prize was a comfortable recliner won by Annie Mae Green at Table 33 and donated by Hines Furniture.

We appreciate Mathis Studios for frozen moments of time captured through photography. Thank you to all who volunteered, hosted or sponsored a table and contributed over 60 giveaways that was won at the Gala!!! SAVE the DATE for the 47th Annual Christmas Gala, Tuesday, December 08, 2020 same-time and the same-place. Please reserve your table in advance by May 31, 2020 for continuous planning.


From the President’s Desk

By Frank Coppel


As I write this article for the Palmetto Blind on December 16, 2019, the spirit of the holiday season is very apparent throughout the NFB of SC. Many chapters are holding their Christmas parties during the month of December. Chapter Christmas parties play an important role as it provides an excellent opportunity for chapter leaders to invite perspective members and visitors to their Christmas festivities and introduce them to the NFB of SC.

2019 has been a good year for the NFB of SC. I was very proud of the 102 delegates from South Carolina who attended the 2019 NFB National Convention in Las Vegas. This was a great turnout and many thanks goes to Tiffiny Mitchell for coordinating air and ground transportation for most of our members who attended the national convention.

For the second consecutive year, the NFB of SC state convention was held at the Columbia Marriott Hotel the weekend of August 9-11. The convention was well attended as we celebrated our 75th anniversary as an organization throughout the weekend. We were very honored to have James Gashel, NFB Secretary, as our national representative. .

The Federation Center of the Blind is continuing to make much needed renovations as funding becomes available. The Federation Center is also continuing to look at various ways to expand its assistive technology training programs. From July 22, to August 2, the NFB of SC for the first time held its Braille Enrichment Learning and Literacy (BELL) Academy at the Federation Center of the blind. Five children participated in this year’s “BELL” Academy and much thanks goes to Tracy Spittle, Coordinator, and her staff for doing an outstanding job throughout this very important program.

2019 marks the fourth year the NFB of SC’s Successful Transitions program has been in existence. Successful Transitions is no longer a pilot program, but is now an established program providing pre-employment services to youth with disabilities ages 13-21.

As for Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind, the Spring and Fall editions of Senior Camp were very successful. From September 15-21, Rocky Bottom hosted the second annual national seniors retreat sponsored by the National Federation of the blind seniors division. Thirteen seniors representing nine states (Michigan, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, and Tennessee) learned blindness skills such as; cane travel, Braille, home management, organizational skills, and assistive technology. These seniors wore learning shades while learning these skills and they participated in daily group discussions which were designed to reinforce appropriate choices when encountering a variety of blindness issues.

The 2019 Children’s camp which was held the second week in June was extremely successful as more than thirty campers from ages 5-17 enjoyed a variety of camp activities. The summer months at Rocky Bottom were also very busy as we were able to rent our facilities to a variety of churches, youth groups and other organizations.

Although during 2019 Rocky Bottom has had to face many challenges in the areas of maintenance and the lack of finances, we have also been the recipient of much generosity and hard work from churches, civic groups, chapters and some of our members. We appreciate all of these acts of kindness and it is my sincere hope more individuals, chapters and organizations will “step up” and donate supplies or their time for the betterment of Rocky Bottom.

Looking ahead to next year, 2020 promises to be very busy and exciting as we continue to build and strengthen our Federation Family in South Carolina. By all of us working hard and working together, we can continue to transform our dreams into reality so the blind in this state can live the lives we want!


From the Editor’s Desk

By David Houck


This edition of the Palmetto Blind is reflective on the value of the Federation to blind South Carolinians. The loss of Dr. Capps would require a book to reflect on the contributions he made throughout his lifetime. The passing of Doris Bell of Laurens reveals her support of her husband Bob, a Federation leader in his own right, the Bell Center in Laurens, the local Laurens Chapter of the NFB of SC, her love of Rocky Bottom and her love for children. Dr. Marvin Efron did much for the blind in South Carolina, the Federation Center of the Blind and his assistance to the blind of Central and South America is also well known.

Then, most recently, we lost Ralph Ellenburg, Sr. at age 97.  Ralph Ellrnburg worked closely with Dr. Capps in the building and strengthening of Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind. He gave $25,000 to establish an endowment fund and the Ellenburg Lodge was named in his honor. This past generation of leadership was truly known as those who were the builders and organizers of the NFB of SC. We are the generation who is entrusted to keep it, fund it and to grow it further.

Cassell Brothers, LLC was generous to the Federation Center in December by replacing two old HVAC units with two new ones at no cost. Mike Sutton and Justin were instrumental in getting this project off the ground. Many thanks to the Cassells Brothers for their service to the blind for now and years to come!

The future of the Federation is bright as shown by the accomplishments of blind individuals like Derique Simon and Matthew Duffell-Hoffman. Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind continues with longstanding programs like Children’s Camps, developing future blind leaders and Senior Blind Retreats which provide independence to our ever growing older blind population.

From my perspective of being involved in the NFB of SC in the Greenville Chapter beginning in 1974 when Patricia Tuck was its President (and still a member) to my working with Donald Capps, Bob Bell, Parnell Diggs, Frank Coppel and many other federation leaders since 1983 as the Center Executive Director, I believe we have passed the torch of leadership and the future of the NFB of SC looks bright. If we grow each local chapter, find ways to bring in younger blind persons and open doors of leadership, I believe what the late NFB President Dr. Kenneth Jernigan once said will be true for us which is, “The number one thing in the survival of a local chapter, a state affiliate or even the national organization is the succession of the Presidency.” With increased membership comes increased opportunity for service and leadership development. Let’s get out there and search out new members, recruit them, give them a leadership role and grow the Federation!


Final Thought


Transforming your dreams into reality:


“The secret to change is one step at a time.” —Mark Twain


How to Turn Your Dreams into Reality in 5 Steps by Tanaaz

Dreams without action is a world of make believe.

Step 1: Define Your Dream

Step 2: Work out the Steps

Step 3: Believe in Yourself

Step 4: Just Start

Step 5: Wave Your Wand – Just try – do not fear failure, learn from it.