NFBC 2004 Convention Report

By Pat Munson, Associate Editor

National representative Ramona Walhoff delivering the banquet address.
National representative Ramona Walhoff
delivering the banquet address.

The 64th annual convention of the NFBC was held at the beautiful Crowne Plaza Hotel in Irvine from Oct. 21-24, 2004. The theme of this convention was “Equal Rights and Equal Responsibilities.”

The first activity was a wonderful seminar during which Juliet Cody and Kevin Smalley interacted with the audience concerning the topic “Five Facets of Success.” Personal appearance and good blindness skills learned in NFB are paramount in this process.

The annual board meeting was well attended. President Burns welcomed Ramona Walhoff, the NFB national representative to this convention. Business commenced with second vice president Caroline Rounds reading a letter she had prepared. She stated that she would not seek re-election for she was moving out of state. None wanted to see her leave because she has been a gigantic asset to this affiliate, but the board accepted her letter with a heavy heart. Turning to fundraising, the board decided to have another Bon Appetit event and yet another Great Whozit Race. Both are statewide events that have been conducted in the past. Tickets for the next Great Whozit Race will sell for the bargain price of $5. Finally, 2004 was a busy and successful year in the legislature for the NFBC. It was announced that Ryan Spencer would be honored for all his work on our bill to make point-of-sale machines accessible to the blind. Don Burns and Chad Allen were thanked for being the muscle behind the NFBC’s 2004 legislative agenda.

The annual state convention is the time during which many special chapters of the NFBC hold their annual meeting. The Chapter on Aging, California Association of Blind Students (CABS), Parents of Blind Children, Diabetes Action Network, California Association of Guide Dog Users (CAGDU), and the OCB Alumni all met in their own sessions. The typical business of elections, the reading of minutes and fundraising are all common topics at special chapter meetings. However, not all NFBC meetings consist of your typical, structured business affairs. Don Burns, president of the Chapter on Aging, challenged everyone in attendance to a rousing game of “atomic ball.” The energy generated in this game proved that the aging population in this group is anything but sedentary.

New to the convention agenda this year was a fundraising seminar entitled “Treasure in the Golden State.” The importance of ongoing fundraising was discussed for both the local and state levels at this workshop. Chapters were challenged to conceive new fundraising activities for their membership. The ideas of community involvement, positive public relations, and membership growth were explored through live fundraising events. Nathanael Wales and Ramona Walhoff discussed the new “Imagination Fund” for the Jernigan Institute. New annual revenues must be enacted to fund the numerous, innovative programs being born at the Jernigan Institute in Baltimore. Nathanael Wales was appointed to serve as the Imagination Fund coordinator in Northern California and Robert Stigile will serve in the south. These two coordinators will work closely with the administration in Baltimore to help ensure that the NFB can meet the demands of future funding for our new facilities and programs.

Caroline Rounds reluctantly resigned from the board of directors because of relocating.
Caroline Rounds reluctantly resigned from
the board of directors because of relocating.

Saturday morning, President Burns gaveled the convention to order. Door prize chairs Juliet Cody and Tiffany Manosh wasted no time making conventioneers happy with countless door prizes. President Burns was soon interrupted in true Federation style as Chad Allen and Shannon Williams broke in with a foot-stomping, hand-clapping rendition of “Glory, Glory Federation” on the drums and timbales. They set the tone for an upbeat and empowering convention agenda. NFBC legislative representatives Don Burns and Chad Allen kept the momentum going as they presented an award to Ryan Spencer, Principal Consultant to Assemblymember John Dutra, for all his tireless work in making our point-of-sale bill become law.

We were most fortunate to have Ramona Walhoff again in California as our national representative. She reminded us why we come to conventions, for this is where the blind chart their progress to achieving total integration into society. She talked about Newsline and its expansion including the recent addition of the AARP magazine. This service grants timely access to magazines and newspapers from both local communities and national publications.

B.J. Sexton, one of our students, told why he is a Federationist. Although he is still young, he has learned so many NFB blindness skills he is now in a position to teach others. If anyone questions why we have the Federation, B.J. is one of our fine examples. Three cheers to B.J. and NFB!

Caroline Rounds, NFBC board member and blind schoolteacher, told of her teaching experience at the new Jernigan Institute science camp for blind youth. Once again, NFB is proving that blind youth can participate actively in all aspects of science. Over the course of a very busy week, the students worked on a boat, dissected a shark, inspected soil and learned how to take precise measurements. Nathanael Wales, a blind civil engineer, volunteered on another new Jernigan science camp project. The fascinating, cutting-edge camp session taught all aspects of building, launching and retrieving a rocket from a NASA facility in Virginia. These exciting new projects were possible only because of the new NFB Jernigan Institute.

Braille is imperative for blind students. Dr. Sharon Sacks and Caroline Rounds discussed Braille standards for blind students in California. Traditionally, standards of learning are required in all public school subjects taught from grades K-12. Until recently there were no standards for Braille instruction.

Longtime NFB member Dr. Ed Vaughan, a professor of sociology, discussed testing the Federation philosophy. Along with the skills of Braille and the use of a long white cane, a positive attitude is mandatory.

No NFB convention would be complete without discussion of the Department of Rehabilitation. Bryan Bashin, recently employed as Program Specialist RSA region 9, talked about imagining our future. Dr. Catherine Campisi gave us some idea as to what we can expect from Rehab in California. The last subject discussed on the Saturday agenda was the California Performance Review.

Pat Munson danced to the rhythm of the drums played by Chad Allen and <br>
Shannon Williams
during a rousing rendition of 'Glory, Glory Federation.'
Pat Munson danced to the rhythm of the drums played by Chad Allen and Shannon Williams
during a rousing rendition of “Glory, Glory Federation.”

The highlight of this year’s banquet was Ramona Walhoff’s banquet address. She talked about the progress NFB has made in working with the deaf-blind.

Two charters were presented: one to Juliet Cody, president of the newly created California Association of Guide Dog Users, and Therese McCabe, president of the West Los Angeles chapter.

Paramount to running an NFB affiliate is elections. The elected officers and board members are: President, Nancy Burns; First Vice President, Nick Medina; Second Vice President, Nathanael Wales; Secretary, Tiffany Manosh; and Treasurer, Maurine Barcelo. Board members are Brian Bashin, Robert Stigile, Jim Willows, Geraldine Croom and Juliet Cody. The other board positions will be up for election next year.

Note: Resolutions and the presidential and legislative reports will appear elsewhere in this issue.

Before concluding this convention report, I know we all want to give President Nancy Burns and all her assistants a huge thanks for finding such a fantastic hotel, putting together such an informative agenda and creating the wonderful fajita party. This gathering gave all who attended a great opportunity to meet old friends and make many new ones. Oh yes, a big thanks to those drummers who awakened us before the sessions. Some of us young ones got up and did a bit of dancing! I do not know how we can top this convention next year, but together we are always changing what it means to be blind.