By Kathleen Warth
Once again, this year it is time for elections of officers in November. With that being said, as the out-going president of the Pinellas Council of the Blind, I have been thinking about all the things this chapter has been doing in our community to make life a little better for others, including people who may or may not have sight or a vision problem of any kind. The list is pretty long as it turns out: and most of the things PCB does and represents have very little to do with me as President.
November is a time when we count our many blessings and get ready for a new year of activity in our chapter. I would like to just say thank you to my officers and committee chairs for their strong support and understanding these past two years. You have made my job as president so easy and so gratifying. Each one of you has used your time, talents, and treasures to enrich the lives of others, and we are grateful for your service.
Our chapter was started in the 1980s with the help of Bertha Spinks and her chapter in St. Petersburg. Linda Faust and myself met there and realized we both wished we had a chapter to join that wasn’t an hour-long bus ride away. We started asking people we saw with a white cane or a guide dog if they would like to start a chapter of FCB. We hung out at the Channel Markers Center for the Blind when we had some free time in order to meet people. Sharon Youngs worked in the Low vision clinic there. She said she couldn’t help us out because it might appear that she supported one group of the blindness community over the other. After pestering her for about a year, she decided it was the best way to get rid of us, and she finally said she would help. The first few meetings were held at tables in the Sunshine Mall where we just talked about what we were told we had to do, and tried to figure out how to do it. We had five people who said they wanted to join, and three of us had to be officers. Then we drew up a constitution and took it to an FCB Board of Directors meeting in Tampa where we were chartered as the Upper Pinellas Council of the Blind – or UP-FCB (later changed to PCB). The only regret I have in helping to form our chapter is that over the years: our charter has been lost. But the spirit certainly has not been lost.
Today we meet on the second Saturday of each month (nine times during the year to conduct business). During the summer and Christmas, we have social gatherings. The Christmas party is our big event, of course, along with our summer picnic. We try to have two pizza party/auctions to raise money for these events at some point during the year. Some years, we just have regular meetings right through the summer if there is a lot to be done. We have an ice cream social at Strachan’s in Dunedin once a year as well. Our social committee makes all the arrangements for things such as these and even live performances and boat trips. Our members are active on issues like transportation, pedestrian safety, and voting issues. We work to promote Project Insight, White Cane Safety Day, Braille literacy, and the Randolph-Sheppard Act.
At every meeting, we ask our members to bring a “can for the community” or a $1 donation if they are able. These are taken to a local food bank. The cash is collected until we have about $100 and then is sent to Feeding America or whichever organization the chapter selects.
We also hold a 50/50 raffle at our meetings so that we have petty cash on hand to pay for our guest speakers’ lunches if they would like to stay for the business portion of the meeting.
We started a New Vision support group, which meets the second Thursday of each month at the Pinellas Talking Book Library from 10 a.m. to noon each month. The group has a speaker at each meeting, and it is primarily for families and individuals struggling with visual impairment and sight loss issues.
We even have an advocate at large who tackles issues for us on a state, county, and city level and keeps us informed on these matters. He lets us know when we need to get involved and when we do not.
This year, I am very excited about an event our chapter has taken up with regard to White Cane Safety Day on October 15th. I think the flyer pretty much covers the details concerning this undertaking – which you can read at the end of this article.
But what it doesn’t say is that this chapter of the Florida Council of the Blind is and has always been an active, moving force in Pinellas County. And it’s not because of any one person or group – and not because one person runs the whole show. It’s because of each and every one of our members who has stepped up to the plate and said they are willing to help, to do; to make, to call, to write a note, to give a ride, to welcome a new person, to make a motion, to second a motion, to debate pro and con and vote for what they want to see this chapter do. These are the ones who make our chapter of the Florida Council of the blind – the Pinellas Council of the Blind – special. I am incredibly proud to have been and always be a part of this tremendous group of people.
LOW VISION EXPO FLYER
Life doesn’t stop when you lose your vision. The Low Vision Expo is designed to educate blind or visually impaired individuals, their families, friends, potential employers and the community about the latest resources, aids, technology and services available in Pinellas County. There will be information and demonstrations for all ages.
The event kicks off with an introduction, followed by the White Cane Safety Day Walk and several speakers. Nearly 30 exhibitors will then showcase their products, services, and organizations.
Exhibitors will feature:
• Latest vision magnification equipment
• Latest access technology & demonstrations
• Services to enhance independence
• Talking Book demonstrations
• AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal demonstrations
• Guide Dogs
October 15, 2016
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Evans Hall – Chapel on the Hill
12601 Park Blvd.
Seminole, FL 33776