April 10 Leadership Seminar

April 10 Leadership Seminar, Exciting and Informative

By David Houck

On Saturday, April 10 at 10:00 a.m., the 2021 NFB of SC Leadership Seminar kicked off.  There were 24 participating in person at the Federation Center of the Blind and around 80 participating on ZOOM.  For those who preregistered by the specified deadline, their names were entered into the drawings for gift card door prizes, regardless of how they attended.  NFB of SC President Jennifer Bazer presided over the meeting for the first time in her presidency.  Shelley Coppel, NFB of SC Senior Division President gave the invocation.

The first presenter was Gary Wunder, Editor of the Braille Monitor, who spoke on “Live the Life You Want.”  It is the tag line from the NFB’s One-Minute Message, a quick elevator speech that explains the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.  Popular tag lines used in the past by the NFB included “It is respectable to be blind,” and “we are changing what it means to be blind.” They embodied the goals that the NFB was striving to achieve in the past.  “Live the life you want” is the current tag line and means if you dare to dream, the NFB will help you by working to break down socially constructed barriers.  This can be done through faith to dream and the strength to act on those dreams.  Mr. Wunder let the gathering know that if anyone has an article for submission to the Braille Monitor, those can be emailed to him at gwunder@nfb.org.  There are also several methods to access the Braille Monitor including at nfb.org, on NFB Newsline, in large print, in braille, and on flash drive.  He offered an alternate meaning of NFB, which is for “Never Felt Better!”

David DeNotaris with Skies the Limit Communication and Eileen Rivera Ley with Blind Savvy addressed the audience.  They often partner to conduct professional training together.  They spoke of their respective personal backgrounds and NFB experiences.  Some of the precepts they touted follow.

  • The NFB is a virtual playground of professional development.
  • Advocacy is taking a problem, matching it with a good idea, and using it as a skill of winning people over.
  • Networking is the art of connection.  When we meet someone we try to find common ground to pull people together.
  • Blindness is not the tragedy people think it is.

Fun and ear-catching sound effects were used throughout the presentation that entertained the audience.  They posed the question for NFB of SC members to ask themselves, “What’s a little thing I/we can do that will make a big difference in the NFB of SC?”  The duo listed the ABC’s of blindness.

  • A stands for Access which leads to success.
  • B stands for Braille, which leads to literacy, which   allows people to independently take notes.
  • C asks “Can you get from where you are now to where you want to go independently??  If not, brush up on Orientation and mobility skills, including proficiency at white cane travel.
  • D is Dress for success.
  • E is Education which unlocks doors to employment.
  • F is for Faith, family, friends, and the federation.

David and Eileen continued their philosophy with “Vitamin P stands for Being positive.”  “Being positive doesn’t guarantee you will be successful but being negative will guarantee you won’t.”  Don’t spend your time fixing the blame, fix the problem.  You don’t have to be brilliant to be resilient.

The seminar then journeyed south to hear NFB of Texas State President Norma Crosby. She spoke of traits a leader should have.  A leader does not have to be the one who comes up with all of the ideas.  Those come with a strong work ethic to turn plans into reality.  Leaders should cultivate leaders and bring new members to the organization.  A leader should also give new ideas a chance to succeed, and not say no right away.  Leaders cannot do everything alone; they need to delegate to others.  Finding those who step up will reveal future leaders.  Leaders just don’t command others to work but they do listen and become engaged.  Leadership does not require a title, just the effort to follow through on a project.  There comes a time people may relinquish their elected or appointed position, but they still lead.  Mrs. Crosby said that her favorite title is not Leader but Member in the Federation.

The Successful Transitions staff graciously prepared and served a delicious lunch for those who attended in person.

During the lunch break, the Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind and NFB of SC board meetings were held.   Thom Spittle, Chairman of the Rocky Bottom board presided.  Shelley Coppel, Co-Director of South Carolina Senior Camp stated that there was a virtual senior camp day last year. On May 21, 2021 there will be another session. The fall session of South Carolina Senior Camp is expected to be in person, at this point.  Children’s Camp Director Jennifer Bazer reported that Children’s Camp will be held for children 12 and under from June 26 to July 1 and for teens and young adults 13 to 21 from July 24 to 30.  A Porsche rally raised several hundred dollars for the camp, and a religious group raised another $3000.  Two significant grants were also awarded, which totaled over $30,000.  There are now four separate phone lines and wireless internet, one set in each building.  A long-time cook for Rocky Bottom’s activities, Ellen Taylor very suddenly passed away at the end of March.  To help honor her memory, memorials can be sent to RBRCCB.  Please be sure to note that the amount is in memory of Ellen Taylor, so her mother and family can be notified of the thoughtful gesture.  As has happened in the past when members pass away, Chairman Spittle proposed having a one-time $500 RBRCCB scholarship named for Ellen Taylor.  This motion was passed by the board.  Camp infrastructure concerns include the eroding overflow pipe at the pond, Ellenburg Lodge leaks water from outside, and the Conference Center’s men’s public restroom, has a compormised floor.  Rentals are looking good this year.  Mr. Spittle encouraged everyone to give to Midlands Gives for Rocky Bottom, and to support the October Fall Festival drawing and auction.  The Federation Center has received the tickets, which will be sent out in May.  Auction items can be donated anytime from now until the auction.

Jennifer Bazer presided over the NFB of SC board meeting.  PayPal is now a contribution or payment option; so, when using PayPal, add 3% to cover PayPal fees.  The NFB of SC board will discuss the state convention at the April 29 meeting at 7:00 p.m. Issues to be decided relate to the hybrid nature of the convention.  There must be 50 or more in attendance in Charleston and on Zoom to be able to hold elections, according to the state constitution.  There are 150 room nights that need to be occupied to keep the state affiliate from having to pay extremely high fees.  Midlands Gives places The NFB of SC in the large category, based on number of employees.    Rocky Bottom is in the medium category.  Midlands Gives is being held May 4, 2021.  Mrs. Bazer encouraged everyone to donate during the day if they can.  This has been a successful funding project in the past years.  The board voted that NFB of SC’s annual giving to the NFB, during the national convention, will be $500 to the Jernigan Fund, $500 for the tenBroek Fund, $500 for the White Cane Fund, and $300 for door prizes in increments of $25.  .  Members were reminded to send in their door prizes for the NFB of SC state Convention.   Others can give separate gift card door prizes as well.  Jennifer Bazer was elected to be the delegate to the national convention.  Shannon Cook was elected as alternate delegate.  The NFB of Maryland will host this year’s virtual national convention.

In the afternoon session, Nina Saini addressed the topic of employment and disability awareness.  Protection and Advocacy has changed their name and is now Disability Rights South Carolina.  Disability Rights SC is working hard to move sheltered workshop participants into competitive employment.  The Client Assistance Program (CAP) can assist people who have been denied services or not received the service they were promised.  They can help with assistive technology needs.  They also address voting participation.  Social Security, access to transportation, fair housing, and education access are more of the issues that Disability Rights helps people navigate.  Contact Disability Rights SC by email at info@disabilityrightssc.org or call the helpline for Information at 866-275-7273.  Anyone with more questions can email Nina Saini at saini@disabilityrightssc.org.

The next speaker was Katie Keim, Second Vice President of the NFB of Hawaii.  She spoke on designing freedom and flexibility.  What are the primary characteristics that make you who you are?  What are your goals?  If you are happy, how can you build on that?  How can you use what you know to assist someone else?

Adelmo Vigil, President, NFB of New Mexico, was our final presenter. He was a blind school teacher, and worked his way up to Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.  In his early teens, he struggled to read print then, and the schools forced him to read print.  He learned braille at age 15.   The NFB centers are not the only resource, but they reflect our organization’s philosophy as members.  We must share this organization with others.  Rock climbing made him apprehensive but afterward it gave him more confidence and changed him in a positive way.  Each speaker took several questions from the audience in person and from Zoom.

Mrs. Bazer’s takeaway question for thought was, “How do we want to design what we want the NFB of SC to be?”  She reminded the attendees not to forget the April 29 NFB of SC board meeting.

President Bazer thanked everyone for their participation in the seminar.  She encouraged everyone to continue to build the Federation.