January 9, 2021 Fifty-First Statewide Seminar Successful

By David Houck

Saturday, January 9, 2021 was a cool and crisp day as winter days go and the Sun shone brightly.  By 10:00 a.m. some 100 federationists had gathered at the Federation Center of the Blind or on the ZOOM platform, ready to get started.  Successful Transitions staff and others had decorated the Center beforehand and stayed around for an hour afterward cleaning the Center.  We thank them all for their kind volunteerism.  We must also thank Steve Cook and Thom Spittle for arranging to set up and monitor ZOOM during the day.

The meeting got underway with the song, “Live the Life You Want.”  Pam Allen, First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors, greeted the seminar participants and introduced President Jennifer Bazer.  Frank Coppel recited the NFB pledge and one minute message. David Houck led the pledge of allegiance.  Demetrius Williford, Anderson Chapter President, gave the invocation.  Throughout the seminar there were gift card drawings; some for being in attendance and others for correct answers to trivia questions.

President Bazer spoke of using one word to define the focus for the NFB of SC for 2021.  Suggestions were taken from the participants and they were voted on.  The word suggestions were:  Synergy, Limitless, Success, Focus, Caring or Love, Betterment, Believe, Kind, Unity, Together, Growth, Consistency and Build.  The winning word for 2021 was “Unity.”

Steve Cook, Director of the NFB of SC’s Newsline, spoke on Newsline, a free service to blind citizens of our state.  It contains Federation publications and issues. Other topics Mr. Cook discussed were the newly-introduced Google appointment calendars for committee, chapter, and division meetings, and social media postings to get the word out about the NFB of SC activities, programs, and events.  The Positive Note and Palmetto Blind are available as well on Newsline as are NFB publications and issues.  This includes public newspapers from all 50 states, national newspapers, magazines, job postings, and some weekly ads.  To sign up contact Steve Cook at 803-254-0222.  Don’t forget to visit our nfbofsc.org and nfb.org web sites as well.  Please leave phone messages listing your contact information and details on your local events, etc.

Jennifer Bazer introduced our newest NFB of SC Division, the Sports and Recreation Division. David Rebocho, NFB of SC Sports and Rec Division President, reported on the plans for the division for 2021.  Matthew Duffell-Hoffman and Cheri Euton serve as officers.  Everyone is welcome, regardless of their sports interests.  Mr. Rebocho also includes crafts, games, gardening, and other leisure activities in the scope of what the division will cover.   NFB of SC Recreation Division is holding their first meeting on January 13.  Please attend and get active!

Zunera Wasif spoke concerning unity and diversity.  She is a Muslim from Dubai with parents from India and Bangladesh.  Her family moved to the United States for freedom and opportunity.  She spoke about adjusting to this new country.  Adjusting to blindness was the best thing as it made one more confident.  She learned English quickly.  She knew more about homemaking skills than her adjustment to blindness instructors thought she knew.  She lived in Greenville and then moved to Florida.  Medical training was not easy.  It went better being more hands on.  Being a minority, many people have misconceptions about you.  She believes in tolerance and acceptance and found that to be the case among other minority groups.  We must work together and have unity.

NFB of SC President Jennifer Bazer announced that the Palmetto Blind (published semi-annually) and the Positive Notes (published each Monday) are the two publications of the NFB of SC.  We need a diverse number of articles such as recipes, member & chapter highlights, adaptive technology information, etc. added to our publications.  Please feel free to submit articles to David Houck, Jennifer Bazer or Shannon Cook.

Dorothy Barksdale, Chair of the We Care Committee, reported on how to get information to the We Care Committee.  The goal is to have everyone join us on ZOOM.  There will also be a monthly prayer time to remember those in need.  A variety of greeting, birthday and get-well cards are sent out for different occasions. If you have something to submit, please contact Dorothy Barksdale at 803-765-1622.  We Care has been assisting a homeless blind man, as well as planning to assist blind children at Christmas.  We Care committee members contribute $30 a year to use as an operating budget.

David Houck, Executive Director of the Federation Center of the Blind, reviewed the progress of the Center during 2020.  Many programs went on as usual before the COVID-19 virus restrictions were enacted in March.  Social distancing, masks and ZOOM became the order of the day.  During this time all computer instruction went virtual.  We still trained 42 blind students in 2020.  The Center applied for a Payroll Protection Loan as we lost over $20,000 in funding due to the virus restrictions.  After intensive work and documentation, the Federation Center received loan forgiveness on December 18, 2020, for the $11,840 loan.  This loan forgiveness helped to recoup much of the lost funding.  Renovations in the Conference Room, Office Hallway, Kitchen and meeting hall took place in 2020.  Computer and server software and hardware upgrades were made and Wi-Fi connections were improved.  We can’t wait to show it off to everyone!  Successful Transitions was very helpful in this regard and by the end of 2020 the Federation Center had no outstanding debts to pay other than on the copier.  The new copier makes it possible to do the Palmetto Blind in-house, avoiding print shop costs.

The luncheon was provided by Ike Nelson who always does a great job.  I am certain those on ZOOM had a great luncheon as well.  The Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind (RBRCCB) and NFB of SC board meetings were held, both deferring the reading of the minutes and treasurer’s reports until the next meeting on April 10 at the Leadership Seminar.

Thom Spittle, RBRCCB Board Chairman reported that Linda Bible resigned effective at the end of December. Her position as resident manager has been filled by Suzanne Bryant.  Some renovations need to be made throughout the various facilities.  There were three grants to RBRCCB totaling over $20,000!  Internet access is being expanded to each building.  Rocky Bottom raised over $8,000 on the Fall Festival online auction and drawing.  The application for the Cares SC Grant was successful and raised $22,000 to go toward expenses on utilities.  A water pipe leak has to be taken care of in the pond area.  Two buildings need to be roofed.  RBRCCB board meetings will be on ZOOM and available to the public.  The floor was then opened for questions.

President Bazer, President of the NFB of SC Board of Directors requested everyone sign up for the April 10 Leadership Seminar by contacting David Houck.  The Code of Conduct is on the website.  We must abide by the Code of Conduct.  All Chapters and Divisions need to review and sign it as well as RBRCCB, Federation Center and NFB of SC board members.  We must review the SC State Constitution each year to ensure it is current and accurate.  State dues should be paid ASAP.  We need to identify chapters which need help and find those who can assist.  State board meetings are open to all.  We are all a team and need to work together.  President Bazer took questions from the floor.  We are having a virtual Washington Seminar this year from February 8 to 11

Debra Canty spoke concerning how every little bit helps.  She promoted the March 20 virtual talent show which will be hosted on ZOOM at 4:00 p.m.  Sign up to show your talent!  In October there will be a Luau by the Charleston Chapter and the cost will be $60 per person.

Dominic Calabrese, the Federation Center’s Special Projects Consultant, detailed the plans for the October 15, 2021 sixtieth anniversary reception at the Federation Center of the Blind, highlighting our work and history over six decades.  We will feature a video, refreshments, and open house.   We will get the media and community involved.  It is also the day of the Governor’s White Cane Awareness proclamation.  There will be a focus on public relations and even opportunities for sixtieth anniversary donations to the Center.  We are working on letters to the Editor for greater media exposure.  We can use your suggestions as well.  Jennifer Bazer suggested we reach out to the Independent Living blind residents as some of our foundation funding focuses on medical devices for the blind.

Successful Transitions (ST) may be doing the Summer Teen program for the second year in a row.  ST has a strong partnership with the SC Commission for the Blind (SCCB) and SCAER.  ST is now a vendor for Orientation and Mobility services with SCCB.  ST is still providing services even with COVID-19 restrictions using social distancing, masks and ZOOM.  ST is located at 104 Corporate Blvd., Suite. 316 in W. Columbia.  Come see us.  We offer the five services that the law outlines for working with high school teens transitioning to college and work.

Thom Spittle reported again on RBRCCB, its history and property, from Cherokee Indians as residents to a 4-H camp, political stumping, and how Dr. Capps negotiated the property for the blind to use as a camp.  He expounded on our property development, the five facilities, pond, swimming pool, basketball court and mini golf course. Primary use of our facilities is for the blind; otherwise it is rented out to the public.  Thom spoke about the use of the camp and fee schedules.  Opportunities include Chapter visits, blind children’s camps, senior blind camps, blind fishing trips, etc.  We could always use volunteers to perform work at RBRCCB.

Ed Bible, At Large Chapter President has implemented a gift card fundraiser.  Shop with “Script.”  You can get all kinds of gift cards and avoid activation fees.  Please contact Ed Bible, Melanie Torrance or Mike Seats to order gift cards.

The NFB of SC Legislative Committee is developing our NFB of SC legislative wish list.  Every legislator already gets a Palmetto Blind and is informed about our issues and progress.

Frank Coppel reported the NFB of SC is ranked 13 on PAC (Pre Authorized Contribution Program) which goes to our national organization’s general fund.   We are having two drawings for a $100 gift card each.  If you increase your PAC plan between December 5, 2020 and May 31, 2021 or if you sign up for the PAC plan between December 5, 2020 and May 31, 2021, you will be entered into the drawings for that category. Let’s put SC back in the top 10 for PAC!

We also raised with donations and pledges $690 for the SUN (Shares Unlimited NFB) fund. All pledges must be turned in by February 1, 2021 by mailing your payment to the Center, 119 S. Kilbourne Road, Columbia, SC 29205. You can also pay through Pay Pal at nfbofsc.org and go to donate. Each share is $10. How many shares will you contribute? Let’s put SC back in the top 10 for SUN! Please remember if you use Pay Pal on our site to add a little extra to cover the 3% administrative costs associated so with $10, place add .30. $20, would be an extra .60 and so on. Successful Transitions will match dollar for dollar what we receive in SUN shares by February 1. Go to nfb.org or nfbofsc.org to sign up on the PAC link or call 410-659-9314 to sign up.

President Bazer emphasized it takes all of us to move forward together to build the federation.  Finally, the time came to dismiss and everyone was eager to share with their chapter and division members and other blind South Carolinians all the progress we have in store for 2021!


Photo Captions:

NFB of SC President Jennifer Bazer presides

Steve Cook moderates the Zoom Platform

Chairman Thom Spittle gives the Rocky Bottom Repor

Ed Bible, At Large Chapter President promotes the Script gift card program

Frank Coppel raises funds for NFB’s PAC and SUN programs

Statewide Seminar “in-person” audience