A publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois
Editor: Connie J. Davis
Co-Editor: Deborah Kent Stein
President: Cathy Randall
President: Cathy Randall: (217) 245-7722, firstname.lastname@example.org, Chicago telephone: (773) 583-4838
Editor: Connie Davis, (773) 338-6922, email@example.com
Print Subscriptions: Carmen Dennis, (773) 583-4838, firstname.lastname@example.org.
E-mail subscriptions: Connie Davis, email@example.com
Braille subscriptions: Bill Reif, firstname.lastname@example.org, (217) 522-9139
Tape subscriptions: Carolyn Nelson, (217) 528-3703
Dear Illinois Federationists,
Thursday afternoon, July 22, 2004, NFBI Legislation Committee Chairman, Steve Handschu, called to tell me the wonderful news that Governor Rod Blagojevich had just signed our Newsline Bill Number S.B. 2517 into law! I wish to thank Steve and his committee for their hard work in helping to achieve this milestone for blind citizens of Illinois. Just after talking with Steve, I phoned Jim Gashel, former Director of Governmental Affairs for the NFB, to thank him for his important guidance through this two-year legislative process.
I shall be sending thank you letters to Senator John Cullerton, Representative John Fritchey and Governor Blagoiveich for sponsoring this legislation. I shall also be writing to Senator Deanna Demuzio to thank her again on behalf of her late husband, Senator Vince Demuzio, for his essential leadership in helping to save funding for Newsline TWICE.
We must now roll up our sleeves and get to work to increase Newsline usage.
NFBI Chapter News
Ferris Wheel Chapter
By Cathy Randall
Ferris Wheel Chapter Members will be passing out literature at both Springfield and Jacksonville Wal-Mart stores on September 18th and 25th as part of the NFB "Meet the Blind Month" campaign.
In addition to our monthly meetings, we are holding additional meetings with students from the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI), enrolled in the Transitions Living Center program.
NEWS FROM BLACKHAWK CHAPTER
By Lois Montgomery
The NFBI Blackhawk Chapter serves blind individuals throughout the Quad Cities and outlying areas. Meetings are held the second Saturday of each month at 1:30 p.m. in the South Moline Township Center located at 637-17th Avenue, East Moline.
Efforts are being made to educate the public about blindness. We make visits to retirement facilities regularly to address issues related to senior vision loss. We also make presentations at local schools, churches, and nonprofit organizations, through the aid of the Braille is Beautiful program.
Recognizing the importance of Braille literacy, the Blackhawk Chapter continues
to offer instructional classes to those interested in learning to read and write
Promotion of Newsline has been in the spotlight.
Chapter members occasionally gather at Circa ‘21 (a local dinner/theater) in which they not only enjoy a delicious meal but also an “audio descriptive” performance, the next being "Who's Under Where" Saturday, September 4.
Several Chapter members attended the National Convention in Atlanta held June 29 - July 5 at the Marriott Marquis. First-time conventioneers included Joyce and Jana Hergert. If you get the chance, ask them their thoughts on the convention – just make sure you have the time!
The Chapter hosted a swim/pizza party Saturday, July 10, at the Montgomery home. Forty-two guests enjoyed an afternoon of fun in the sun. And the weather cooperated, too!
The Chapter will gather at noon on Saturday, August 14, at Millennium Park located at the corner of 34th Avenue and Archer Drive in Moline for our annual picnic. Members of The Affiliate are invited to this event for fun, fellowship, and tasty foods prepared by Blackhawk Chapter members.
The Chapter will once again participate in Younkers Community Day Event to be
held Friday evening and Saturday, November 19 - 20 at South Park Mall. Not only
is this a worthy fundraiser, but it also provides chapter members an opportunity
to educate the public about blindness-related issues and share the NFB
Saturday evening, December 11, we will have our annual Chapter Christmas Party. This party is always enjoyed by all who attend. Plans are underway for another fun-filled evening.
We, the NFBI Blackhawk Chapter, are the blind speaking for the blind and are changing what it means to be blind in the Quad Cities.
Smooth Sailing with the Four Rivers Chapter
By Annette Grove
The Four Rivers Chapter recently rearranged its crew and charted a new course as it heads upstream through the coming year. Newly elected board of directors include: Annette Grove, President; Alma Hinkle, Vice President; Tony Sikora, Secretary; Vivanne Stelzer, Treaurer and Member-at-Large, Michelle Mueller. Brian Sumner, Immediate Past President, will continue an active role with the board. Goals for the coming year include:
· Expand membership knowledge by planning an informational program for every meeting.
· Expand public education and awareness activities by conducting at least one public appearance, publications distribution or media event each month.
· Expand membership by at least 50% within the next twelve months.
· Encourage members to attend state convention, Washington Seminar and national convention by providing compelling information and financial support.
· Conduct creative fundraising activities throughout the year.
· Develop and adopt a budget to guide the chapter activities throughout the year.
President Grove has appointed the following committee chairs to guide the chapter on a swift and successful course to accomplish these goals:
Charts (programs) – Alma Hinkle
Crew (membership) – Brian Sumner and Michelle Mueller
Cargo (fundraising) – Vivanne and Bernard Stelzer
Boatswain (publicity) – Tony Sikora
The next meeting will be held at the Public Library in downtown Belleville at 123 East Washington Street. The meeting begins at 12:30 p.m., but anyone is welcome at the board meeting, which precedes the regular meeting at 11:45. This meeting will feature a visit by State Affiliate President, Cathy Randall who will present state convention agenda items and information.
Other business will complete the meeting. A tentative letterhead design will be revealed for discussion and the 2004-2005 budget will be presented for review and approval. Finally, members will be encouraged to share at least ONE tip he or she may have discovered to help on the job or in everyday life.
Our September meeting will digress from our usual place and time. We’ll be holding a picnic and White Elephant Auction on Saturday, September 18 from noon until whenever, at a beautiful park in Fairview Heights. We’ve invited members of the local Blind Veterans Association to join us. We’d love to have others as well, some portable picnic food and head to the rivers, the Four Rivers Chapter that is. For further information contact Annette Grove at email@example.com
By Bryan Turner
The Heartland Chapter will hold a fundraiser at the Bradley Wal-Mart, on September 25 and 26 from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We will be selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts, while distributing NFB literature and issues of the Voice of the Diabetic.
The constitution of the Heartland Chapter was ratified on Saturday, August 7 by the state board of directors.
The Heartland Chapter holds its monthly meetings on the first Saturday of every month, at the Bourbonais Municipal Center, 700 Main S.W. The meeting start at 10:00 and end at noon. If you need further details about our meetings, please contact President Bryan Turner by calling (815) 939-7386 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Patti Gregory-Chang
Our state convention this year is scheduled for October 15th, 16th, and 17th in
Springfield, Illinois. I want to share a few of our plans with you.
Our board is already working on the agenda.
Annette Grove, President of our NFBI Four Rivers Chapter, will speak about her participation in the 2004 Possibilities Fair for blind seniors held at our new NFB Jernigan Training Institute in May. We plan to have representatives from all three NFB training centers taking part in State Convention. Rob Kilbury will join us on Saturday afternoon. A How-To session will take place on Friday afternoon. We are also planning a Braille demonstration.
In addition, this is your opportunity to influence the direction of our organization. Cathy Randall announced that she will not run for President again so we will have the crucial task of selecting our next leader. In addition, we will decide through resolutions what the focus will be for the following year. Students will occupy center stage during Saturday's luncheon.
Of course lots of opportunities for fellowship will exist. Come and join us for serious business and lots of fun.
Our convention hotel is the Springfield Crowne Plaza/Holiday Inn Express located
at 3000 South Dirksen Parkway in Springfield. The Crowne Plaza is a topnotch
hotel where our meetings will be held. The Holiday Inn Express is where we have
our guest room block. The two hotels are right next door to one another.
Please make your room reservations for our state convention by calling (217) 529-7777. Room rates are $69 for up to four occupants in a room. Be sure to specify that our room block is located at the Holiday Inn Express for convention. Tell the operator that you want in-house reservations.
You should note that staying at the Holiday Inn for convention entitles you to
use the facilities at the Crowne, which include several restaurants, a gym, and
a pool. Meeting rooms at the Crowne, which we will be using, are spacious,
luxurious, and carry sound well. I think you all will be pleased.
Patti S. Gregory-Chang
The Adventurous Souls
By Catalina Martinez
I am a Pisces and I love water by nature, so this summer my trusty companion (guide dog) Tristan and I took to the lake.
I had sailing lessons for the first time and it was quite exciting learning how the boat navigated, especially the workings of the sails themselves. Tristan loved feeling the breeze on his sweet face but was a little frightened by the waves. On our first outing, Tristan spent most of the time on the instructor’s lap. The instructor was a good sport about it. There’s nothing like being out there on the lake with the sun and the breeze, working the sails and enjoying it all with my boy Tristan.
The rainbow Fleet/Judd Goldman Adaptive sailing program sailing Center at the Burnham Pier provides these lessons and races every summer for people with disabilities. The sailboats are modified, which makes it easier for the participants to manage them.
We also ventured into kayaking on the Chicago River and Fox Lake. Tristan handled it very well on his first try. He just laid in the kayak and wondered if he was going to go for a swim. He is a strange kind of lab who hates water but loves being around it. He thought that the Fox River was his water bowl, so he drank happily. It was a great feeling just paddling up and down the river, moving on my own power. The volunteers were great and very patient, especially with Tristan. I thought that he was going to have to sit this one out, but they didn’t miss a beat and into the boat he went. People just kept staring at the black dog in the kayak.
For a very long time, I always wanted to learn how to scuba dive. I got my chance back in June. It was an excellent feeling and I almost had tears in my eyes. The Dive Heart Institute provides diving lessons for persons with disabilities and they are wonderful. They strapped around 50 pounds of gear on me and into the pool I went. The most difficult thing I found was staying horizontal; because my legs kept touching the bottom of the poo,l while my torso wanted to surface. It is a magical feeling for me and scary at the same time. It certainly takes getting used to breathing through my mouth, but it was an experience I will never forget.
The next thing for me is skydiving and I’m pretty sure that Tristan is going to want to sit this one out. He probably thinks I’m a little crazy venturing into all of this but he tags along, nonetheless wagging his tail.
HOW THE NFB HAS ENRICHED MY LIFE
by Jana Hergert
NOTE: Jana Hergert has been a member of the NFBI Blackhawk Chapter for only a
year. For those of us who know Jana, there is no doubt of her love for life as
she lives each day to its fullest. She writes from her heart the following:
I have a diploma showing that I graduated from high school, but I was never really taught anything beyond the fifth or sixth grade level. When they asked me at school what I wanted to be in life, I replied that I wanted to be a special education teacher. They told me I would never do anything but recycle cans and paper. Through all my years of schooling no one ever tried to help me learn to cope with my blindness.
At home I was very dependent on my mom. My mom did the laundry, the dishes, the cooking, and a great deal of the cleaning. She drove me everywhere I needed to go and helped me with just about everything I did. Because of my blindness, I thought this was the way it would always be. Then I met Mrs. Montgomery from the NFB. She invited me to a meeting of the Blackhawk Chapter.
I put it off for a while, but finally I went to my first chapter meeting. I felt as though I really fit in there, so I started attending as often as I could. Because of the NFB, I am now taking college classes in math and English through the Hadley School for the Blind. I would never have known about Hadley if the NFB hadn't told me about it. I love learning new things. I am getting straight A's so far. I am trying so hard to learn as much as I can because now is my chance. The NFB taught me Braille! I worked extra hard to learn it. I now know Grade 1 and Grade 2 Braille. Braille is very helpful to me.
The NFB also showed me that if I tried, I could do a lot more on my own at home. With helpful tips from the NFB, I have learned to do laundry, dishes, and cleaning. I am in the process of learning to cook!
I am also learning cane travel because of the NFB. This way I won't always be running into people and things. I feel so embarrassed when that happens. But the NFB has shown me how helpful a cane really is! I can now take a bus to many places around my hometown. Instead of staying home all day while my mom is working, I can go out and do things myself.
Even more than all of these things, the NFB has helped me to be confident in myself. It has taught me to believe I am just as good as everyone else. I am learning that if I try I can do just about anything! As you can see, the NFB has made a great difference in my life! I would like a chance to thank the NFB for all it has taught me. The Federation is showing me that blindness is just a word. We can make of ourselves whatever we choose.
Meet A Federationist: Pam Gillmore
By Deborah Kent Stein
If you happen to call the Talking Book Center in Chicago, there's a good chance that the gracious, efficient woman who answers your questions will be Pam Gillmore. Pam has been with the center since the early 1990s. She started as a volunteer when the library was on Roosevelt Road, and joined the paid staff when the facility moved downtown in 1997. "In so many ways it's the perfect job for me," Pam muses. "I've always loved books and reading, and I really enjoy talking to blind people. Often the patrons are delighted to find out that the person helping them is blind too."
Pam reached her present job by a long and winding road. She was born Pamela Klein on the south side of Chicago in 1946. She and her twin sister Pat arrived two months prematurely. As a result Pam became blind from retrolental fibroplasia (RLF) - known today as ROP, or retinopathy of prematurity.
Determined to find the best school for their blind daughter, Pam's parents conducted extensive research. Most authorities assured them that the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, offered the best program in the world. It was essential, her parents were told, for a blind child to learn independence at an early age. Hard though it was, parents had to cut the apron strings. At last the Kleins reached an agonizing decision and sent Pam to Perkins, more than a thousand miles from home. She was only five years old. "In a lot of ways, Perkins gave me a wonderful foundation," Pam says, looking back. "I became a fluent Braille reader, and started using a cane when I was ten. The school was strong in academics and music." Yet there were drawbacks, too. The staff held deep-seated paternalistic attitudes toward the students. The daily schedule was almost military in its precision. Perkins taught blind children to be obedient, well-groomed, and well-mannered. Hemmed in by rules, Pam found endless ways to conduct small rebellions. She was always getting bumps and scrapes, and had a number of encounters with Massachusetts General Hospital.
In a sense, Perkins laid the groundwork for Pam's Federationism. One of Pam's best friends was Judy Miller - later to become Judy Sanders. Often she went to Judy's house on weekends and holidays. Judy led Pam into intense discussions about blindness-related issues. With Judy's encouragement she began to question the school's underlying premises about what it means to be blind.
From early childhood Pam excelled at singing. When she sang she was transported from Perkins and the day-to-day world to express the truest part of herself. She joined every chorus at Perkins. With the Perkins Glee Club, she toured all over Massachusetts. After graduation she enrolled at Christian College for Women (now Columbia College) in Missouri, which was noted for its music program.
At the start college life was daunting. After twelve years at a school for the blind, Pam suddenly found herself on a campus where everyone else was sighted. She huddled in her dorm room, afraid to explore her surroundings and meet new people. At first only hunger drove her out - she knew she would starve unless she learned to negotiate the cafeteria. Soon she discovered that the campus had a
network of pathways through fields and woodlands. The lure of the outdoors overcame her wariness. In a short time she learned the entire campus and made many wonderful friends.
The music program at the college offered rich opportunities. Pam studied voice, sang in several choirs, and even gained some experience with teaching and conducting. She learned to sing in French, German, and Italian as well as English. Her favorite opera was "The Ballad of Baby Doe" by Douglas Moore. The story is set in a mining town in Colorado. When "Baby Doe" was performed at Christian, Pam sang the title role.
During Pam's second year at Christian, one of her voice teachers urged her to audition at the renowned Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore. Pam had never dreamed of attending such an elite institution. She was thrilled when she was accepted.
Peabody provided no dormitories, so Pam shared an apartment with another music student. Her roommate was a flautist. When friends dropped in, they usually brought along instruments and sheet music. Any evening could turn into a spontaneous concert in which everyone took part.
After graduation from Peabody, Pam returned to Chicago. She loved music as much as ever, but she realized she was not good enough to perform professionally. She decided to look for another career while continuing to sing as an avocation. The Chicago Lighthouse offered a course on medical transcription. Pam completed the course, was certified as a transcriptionist, and obtained a job at Cook County Hospital. Over the years she also worked at two other hospitals, Gottlieb and Loretto.
One day in the early 1970s Pam spoke at a conference on employment opportunities for blind people. At the conference she met Rami Rabby, president of the Chicago Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. When Rami told her about Federation philosophy, Pam felt an instant sense of recognition. Everything fell into place. "Why haven't I heard about the Federation before?" she asked Rami in amazement. "You probably have," he said, "but you weren't paying attention."
Through the NFB Pam found a host of new friends with whom she
could share her hard times as well as her triumphs. She also met her
husband, Don Gillmore, at a Federation picnic in 1974. Don was
president of the Kankakee Prairie State Chapter. Pam and Don were
married in 1977. Don, who worked in purchasing and inventory with the Illinois
Department of Mental Health, obtained a job transfer to
Chicago's Reed Psychiatric Center.
Pam has served as secretary of the Chicago Chapter, has served on the Chicago Chapter board and has headed the Membership Committee since 1996. In countless other ways, she works behind the scenes to keep the chapter running smoothly. She has organized garage sales and rounds up auction items. Her nut confections, sold at the chapter's annual Christmas auction, are legendary.
Some of the people who call the Talking Book Center leave Pam
with a sense of sadness. Their whole lives revolve around reading;
they seldom leave the house. She loves to hear from patrons who say, "I don't
have as much time as I'd like for books - I'm just too
busy!" "It's easy for us to cocoon," she reflects. "We have a choice
- we can stay home where we feel safe, or we can go out and take our chances
with everyone else. We shouldn't be afraid of failure.
Sometimes we can learn more from failure than we do from success. We can learn
to pick ourselves up and move on to tackle the next
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