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GCB Digest Winter 2007 (Text Version)

The GCB Digest A publication of the Georgia Council of the Blind, An affiliate of the American Council of the Blind An organization promoting a hand up, not a hand out! WINTER, 2007 President: Alice Ritchhart 125 Willow Pond Way Brunswick, GA 31525 912-261-9833, Toll Free: 877-667-6815 E-Mail: alice.ritchhart@adelphia.net Editor: Ann Sims, 3361 Whitney Avenue Hapeville, GA 30354, 404-767-1792 E-Mail, teacherann@bellsouth.net Assistant Editor: Jerrie Ricks, 1307 Chester Place McDonough, GA 30252, 770-898-9036; E-Mail, jerrie_ricks@bellsouth.net TABLE OF CONTENTS Message from President Elect: by Alice Ritchhart 3 Misadventures of MARTA Paratransit: by Adam Shapiro 5 Georgia Blind Day at the Capitol: by Alice Ritchhart 8 Determination Pays Off For Barry University Law School Graduate: submitted by Judy Presley 9 The View from In Here: by Penny Zibula 13 Chapter News 21 Special Interest Affiliate News 27 Announcements 28 Funnies 29 Message from President Elect, Alice Ritchhart As president elect of the Georgia Council of the Blind, I would like to first thank the membership for your confidence in electing me to serve as your leader for the next two years. I want to also thank our out-going president, Marsha Farrow, who has worked hard and represented us well the past four years not only at the state level, but also at the national level. She has been a great mentor, and I am certain her shoes will be hard to fill. I know I will be able to rely on her support and guidance throughout the upcoming year. I am looking forward to working with all our newly elected officials and the entire membership in the next couple of years to make our organization’s next 50 years as successful as, and even stronger than, the past half century. In my first year I am sure we have many challenges before us, but with the work of all of us I am confident that we will be able to face them and to make a difference for all Georgians who are blind and visually impaired. Some of the goals I hope to see us work on include the following: we will be trying to find new ways to raise funds for our organization which will then allow us to better achieve other goals; we will be working very hard this year to establish a Commission for the Blind here in Georgia which I truly believe is the corner stone to improving independence and work opportunities for blind individuals in this state; I hope our organization will also take the lead to promote and improve braille literacy because being able to read braille is the first tool needed if our young people are going to be competitive in the workforce; it is also important that we, as an organization, make sure that, with the absence of Kay McGill from Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Georgia Coalition of and for the Blind does not disappear as this body has been a way for all blind and deaf-blind consumers and service providers to work together for the betterment of services. However, while we are working hard, I want to see us have fun and take time to do social events so that we can get to know each other a little better. With these few goals in mind I would like now to take the opportunity to ask for your help and involvement to volunteer to serve on one of our committees. I will be contacting some of you to take the lead on some of these tasks, and I hope that many of you will let me know where you would like to assist. Committees include fundraising, grant writing, convention, youth program, technology, membership, legislative, transportation, braille literacy, current events and history, and social affairs. In closing let me say that I will remain a strong advocate and take the lead in legislative and transportation issues as these are my strengths, but I will be there to guide and assist with whatever I can and will be relying on you all to use your talents to complement mine. Know that you can contact me at any time (well, not after midnight) to discuss anything that is on your mind. The Misadventures of MARTA Paratransit Submitted by Adam Shapiro At the end of every meeting of the MARTA Elderly and Disabled Access Advisory Committee (EDAAC) there is a time for public comment. Inevitably, the talk turns to paratransit. For the uninitiated, MARTA is the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. Paratransit provides door-to-door or curb-to-curb service to riders who cannot use the regular bus system. Users tell about late pickups and late arrivals. There are those who find that reaching dispatchers by phone can be an extremely difficult process. It is often reported that customer service representatives do not always follow up on complaints. Paratransit administrators have often acknowledged that the services that they offer are not what they should be. Their statements about how sensitive MARTA is to the needs of the ridership are often met with skepticism at best and cynicism at worst. One would have had to look hard to find serious service delivery problems when MARTA began to provide door-to-door trips for people with disabilities back during the early 1980's. However, ridership was limited then to those who went to training programs or work. They traveled in big buses that were filled to capacity. These vehicles operated only during morning and afternoon rush hour. The service was expanded in 1986. The new L-vans, as they are now called, operated between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. Riders could make reservations for the next day by phone if they were lucky enough to get through. Those who were using the service to go to work or school were not affected by the change. In 1987, the hours were expanded. The new hours were from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed. Accessible public transportation was now mandatory. Paratransit, the new official name, would expand again. Now users could travel on evenings and weekends. It was at this point that riders began to experience problems. Trips were being denied. There were drivers on the road who couldn't read maps and who apparently didn't know the city. The day-to-day running of the service had been contracted out to a California-based company known as Dave's Transportation. Things had deteriorated to the extent that MARTA decided to bring paratransit back under its control. The community was told that everything would get better. What no one realized was that improvements would be a long time coming. Reports were coming to EDAAC about scheduling problems. When asked why this was so, EDAAC members were told that poor scheduling had to do with the computer software that was being used. Recently, one paratransit official told EDAAC that bad scheduling is the fault of human beings and not the software. MARTA was in trouble when the new century began. It had been ten years since the ADA was passed and signed into law and Atlanta's public transportation provider was not yet in compliance. A group of disabled mass transit riders filed a class-action suit against MARTA and won. Exactly how much influence the court case had on paratransit will probably never be known. MARTA has never commented on the case in public. What can be said for certain is that soon after the case was decided, policies and procedures were implemented that made the system easier to use. Trips were no longer denied. It became easier to reach reservationists by phone. The same could not be said for reaching dispatchers. As this article is being written, plans are being made that, if successfully implemented, should finally bring the on-time performance level from 81 percent to almost 100 percent. Fifteen sedans have been leased to MARTA on a temporary basis. They are carrying riders who do not use wheelchairs. They may be in the fleet for as long as six months. These cars will provide a temporary solution to a severe van shortage. A more permanent solution will be the purchasing of 30 new vans. Paratransit will be bringing on new staff. One of these will be a technology specialist who is familiar with the software that is being used for scheduling. These initiatives have the support of MARTA's top leadership. It is worth noting that they are the result of input that MARTA has received from the community. Once they are put in place, MARTA, in general, and paratransit, in particular, may regain the credibility that had been lost over the years. This will only happen, however, when MARTA shows that it can deliver. Until then, the paratransit ridership can be forgiven if it chooses to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Mark Your Calendars! Georgia Blind Day at the Capitol By Alice Ritchhart We can boast that the Georgia Council of the Blind is the largest consumer group in Georgia, but now it is time to prove it. Mark your calendars, and plan to be at the Capitol on January 31, 2007 for Georgia Blind Day at the Capitol sponsored by the Georgia Coalition of and for the Blind. We will be meeting from 8:00-12:00 in Room 230 of the State Capitol (yes, the meeting place is under the Gold Dome). We hope to have a few words from Governor Perdue, and so your presence is needed. Invite your legislators to join us for a continental breakfast before they begin their day’s work. If they can’t join us for breakfast, plan to set up meetings with them to discuss this year’s legislative agenda that can help make a difference for blind citizens of Georgia. The legislation we hope to promote includes the Commission for the Blind bill, a bill to improve braille literacy, the electronic textbooks for secondary education, guide dog access legislation, and the deaf-blind bill for specialized services. So get your family and friends as well as all your affiliate members to join us. See you all on January 31, 2007. If you can’t make this day or even if you can, then also plan to attend the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities on their day at the Capitol on February 21, 2007. There will be a breakfast for the blind advocates of Georgia that day sponsored by Georgia Blind Voters for Change in Room 230 of the Capitol. For this event or the Blind Day at the Capitol, contact Alice Ritchhart at (912) 996-7223 or the GCB toll free number. See you on the Hill!!! Determination Pays Off For Barry University Law School Graduate Submitted by Judy Presley EDITOR’S NOTE: Ron Meeks is one of Greater Hall County Chapter charter members. Judy says, “We are all so proud of him!” Ron Meeks has finally achieved his goal of becoming a lawyer, but his journey through Barry University School of Law was far from easy. Many students encounter unforeseen challenges during law school, but the daunting odds that Meeks overcame make his success all the more remarkable and inspirational. When he earned his J.D. degree in August at age 59, he was justifiably proud. So were his wife of 41 years and their three grown children. Even his guide dog, Topaz, joined the celebration. A debilitating condition gradually eroded Ron Meeks's sight until he became totally blind in 1988. He retired in 1996 from his position as a negotiator for Southern Company Services, a utilities conglomerate. Meeks then spent several years actively preparing for law school, a goal he had always wanted to pursue. He enrolled in mobility training, obtained a guide dog, and learned to use assistive technology. When Meeks first enrolled at Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando in August 2002, his wife remained in Georgia to keep her post as a nurse administrator and to maintain the 7,000 square foot historic home that she and Ron had painstakingly renovated over 28 years. Ron and his then-new guide dog Topaz began navigating their way around Orlando alone, relying on the Lynx transit system and a few acquaintances. Quickly, however, Ron joined a study group and made friends in his law school class. During the course of Ron's enrollment, he encountered a series of personal setbacks. His home in Georgia was totally destroyed by a devastating fire. Ron's wife Mary, who narrowly escaped the fire, came to join him in Florida. Within months, Hurricane Charley blew the roof off their Orlando house. While staying in motels and trying to juggle everything after the hurricane, Ron reluctantly took a leave of absence from law school. He soon re-enrolled at Barry, but challenges continued to arise. During Ron's final semester, Mary was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery. The family friend who had come to Florida to aid Mary during her convalescence died unexpectedly while Ron was taking final examinations. Finally, in August 2006, Ron was elated to learn that he successfully passed every exam and qualified for graduation. His dream of being a practicing attorney will be complete once he passes the Bar Exam and becomes licensed in Florida. Meeks chose to attend Barry's law school in Orlando because of its receptive and helpful staff, its accessible campus, and moderate climate. "What the dean says about Barry exemplifying ‘…a caring environment..' is true," said Meeks. Barry's mission- to provide a quality education in a caring environment with a religious dimension and a commitment to community service -is carried out daily by the faculty, administration, and staff in all divisions of the University. "The most enjoyable thing about attending Barry was the remarkable camaraderie," Ron said. "I was always included and felt very much a part of everything that happened at the law school." "The most important attribute that a person needs for law school success is unquestionably determination," said Meeks. “It took an awful desire to stick with law school,” he explained. His persistence was noticed and admired by the administration and faculty. "Ron is a great example of how much someone can accomplish with patience and determination," said Associate Dean for Student Affairs John (Jack) Agett. "Ron's passion to succeed in reaching his goal of graduating from law school was second to none." Studying law is rigorous even for those who can read the volumes of assigned material, but for a blind student who relies solely on listening, the process is especially time-consuming and difficult. Because Ron's fingertips have become desensitized from diabetes, he cannot read Braille and must depend on auditory processing. "Although I had to listen to the passages four or five times in order to memorize the material, that repetitive process definitely taught me the law," he says. Professor Robert Whorf, who taught Meeks in two complex constitutional law courses, was impressed with his class participation. "Ron's presence was uplifting for me because he so often had a smile on his face as he considered the legal and political implications of questions put to the class. He frequently spoke up and contributed to class discussion. His comments were insightful. It was obvious that he had not only read assigned materials, but had also thought about how justice is accomplished." "The biggest challenge I faced in starting law school," said Meeks, "was trying to get my books in alternate formats that I could use." Publishers were initially reluctant to provide electronic versions of casebooks, but eventually, suppliers did furnish texts in alternate formats. Thanks to support from the Department of Veteran's Affairs (V.A.), Ron has a laptop computer equipped with a screen reading program. The synthetic voice "reads" documents aloud. It can also read Westlaw's "text only" internet site, so Meeks is able to conduct legal research on-line. "As an Air Force veteran, I've had tremendous support from the V.A.," says Meeks. Currently, he volunteers at the V.A.'s Office of Legal Counsel and finds the work very interesting. He plans to serve as an advocate after becoming licensed to practice law. "I will take public service cases," says Meeks, "and I am interested in veteran's law and employment law." With his enthusiasm and determination, Meeks will no doubt assist and inspire others when he begins his new career as an attorney. He has already left a positive mark on Barry Law School, as described by Professor Whorf: "Those of us who taught and studied alongside Ron Meeks are the true beneficiaries of his inspirational time here." The View from in Here: By Penny Zibula A Participants' Perspective on Technology, Research and Services for People Who Are Blind and Visually Impaired EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written by Penny Zibula, a former employee of Atlanta VA Rehab R&D Center. Penny also served with Rita Harrison as mentors for our first youth program at the GCB state convention in Bainbridge. She and her supervisor, David Ross, presented their information to several GCB chapters last fall to encourage us to get involved. There are few members of the blind community who have never been asked, "What's it like to be blind?" Although the question is often put forth, the answers we give are seldom translated into useful assistive technology, sensible research and effective services. The reason for the over-abundance of griping emanating from those of us who are full-time participants in the blindness experience, is a direct result of the proprietary mindset of developers of high-tech devices, researchers who test these devices and rehabilitation and education professionals who base their actions solely on their observations, as well as on the observations of gurus in their respective fields. If more proof is needed that there is a serious problem with the major decision-making power resting in the hands of these observers, simply look at the number of wayfinding devices that have been touted as technology that can "help the blind see." Then look around at the number of people with vision impairments who continue to choose to travel with a white cane or a guide dog in order to safely navigate their environment. Add to this the 75% of working-age members of the blind community who are either unemployed or under-employed, and it becomes abundantly clear that developing products and services based on the perspective of the professional observer is simply not achieving the goal of enabling people with vision impairments to become active and productive members of their communities. In other words, participants in the blindness experience whose perspectives are not taken into account in every aspect of product development and service delivery are, for the most part, being set up to fail. The View on Assistive Technology On any given day, one can easily find a wide variety of articles on the latest and greatest breakthroughs in assistive technology for people with vision impairments. Whether news of these high-tech wonders is brought to us by way of print or electronic media, the theme is usually the same: "Here is a miraculous device that will improve the lives of people who can't see." More often than not, however, we are left with the question "How can a piece of equipment that seems so bulky, uncomfortable, complicated to use, awkward in appearance and/or expensive make our lives better?" The answer is that, in the real world of the participant experiencing blindness, it most likely cannot. Although one would be hard-pressed to find someone who actually would be willing to say so, the reason that there are so many pieces of expensive assistive technology that are gathering dust, is that, more often than not, the first time that potential consumers actually used the devices was when the ideas had already been developed and the prototypes built for testing. At this point, we as participants had little or no affect on the outcome of any of these products on which countless dollars had already been spent. Before anyone took the time to ask the people for whom the device was being developed whether or not this was really something they might actually use, it was a done deal. Unfortunately, the fact is that, by the time we become aware of a new technology, it is usually too late for us to have any real impact on the end result. The tide may be turning, however. There are currently facilities where researchers who are committed to involving consumers from the beginning in the development of wayfinding and other assistive devices for people who are blind and visually impaired are hard at work. The Atlanta VA Rehab R&D Center is one such facility where this shift in perspective is taking shape. For example, before the start of formal testing of a device that will give the user audible information regarding specific locations in public buildings (stairs, restrooms, water fountains, etc.), People with vision impairments are being recruited to provide input regarding which sounds will be least likely to be distracting while providing the most useful information. Utilizing participant experience in the earliest stages of research is a relatively new phenomenon, but efforts such as those currently underway at the Atlanta VA Rehab R&D Center, are far more likely to result in assistive technology that will meet the real needs of the consumer and at a cost that could potentially make these devices even more accessible. The View on Independence The English language contains many words and phrases that have different meanings for different people, depending on whether one is an observer or a participant. For example, "school holiday" can represent something to be anticipated or something to be dreaded. It all depends on whether you will be experiencing the holiday as a student, or if you will be observing it from the perspective of a parent. In mainstream society, the word "independence", when related to vision loss, represents adjustment, success, and a minimum of reliance on others. To those of us who are living the experience of blindness and visual impairment, the word, for the most part, represents a goal to be attained that will improve our chances of leading productive and fulfilling lives, and that will enable us to actively participate in the mainstream communities in which we live. Although the majority of us work hard to learn and use techniques and strategies that are intended to afford us a better quality of life, the reality is that, despite the fact that we have acquired skills in orientation and mobility, activities of daily living, assistive technology, and acceptable social behavior, our opportunities for employment, travel, and social interaction are often greatly limited. Unreliable public transportation, job discrimination, and the inescapable truth that society continues to consider the fact that we cannot see to be an insurmountable deficiency, gives the majority of us diminished return for our efforts. From the perspective of the collective rehabilitation system, enabling people who are blind to achieve independence is similar to teaching people how to use a shovel, handing them a treasure map, pointing them in the right direction and saying, "Here you go." From the perspective of the participant, achieving independence is similar to locating the right spot, digging up the treasure chest, and upon opening it, finding that 80% of the paper currency it contains is actually Confederate money. If this fate were to befall an observer, there would be an outcry along the lines of, "This is an injustice. I struggled and sweated to dig up this treasure, and now I find out that 80% of what I've worked for is useless!" When we, as participants point out that all our hard work has yielded us very little in the way of practical benefits, we are perceived by our observers as having a bad attitude. And if we attempt to effect changes that might stack the deck in our favor, we are called troublemakers. This double standard does not stop here. When a sighted person wishes to go to the supermarket to purchase the week's groceries, he/she can drive to the store, wander the aisles, select the desired items, put the bags in the trunk and drive home again. Depending on the length of the checkout line and the traffic, this should take less than an hour. The participant in the blindness experience, if he/she is truly "independent", is expected to coordinate the trip to and from the store with the bus schedule, wait until a store employee can assist with the shopping, and then either lug the items home in a backpack, or pay for a taxi. This process can take several hours. Most observers have no concept of the amount of time and energy the participant requires in order to accomplish the most mundane tasks, let alone the degree of planning and forethought involved in everyday acts of independence. If participants choose to enlist the assistance of a sighted person in order to save time and energy, many observers consider this to be a mutinous act that indicates that the participant has not learned to adjust. In reality, the most successful members of the blind community are those who have learned to make rational decisions regarding when requesting assistance makes sense and when it does not. The View at the End of the Day The majority of us who are participants in the blindness experience, whether we have had a "good" day or a "bad" day, will often arrive home and, upon closing the door, breathe an audible sigh of relief. In the safety and familiarity of our personal space, we are no longer bombarded by well-intentioned offers of assistance, questions from children and adults about various aspects of our "condition," and the large and small frustrations of navigating through an environment designed by and for people who can see. In the space that we have created to meet our needs, whether it is our entire dwelling or a single room that is part of a home that we share with others, we experience a freedom of movement and thought that we can find nowhere else. This is because our space was created by us, based on our experience of what it takes in order for us to function efficiently and comfortably. In the same way that we have designed functional and safe environments for ourselves as individuals, we, as participants, have both the power and the responsibility to become active in the design of products and services for people with vision impairments in general. There are many individuals in the fields of research, assistive technology development and service delivery who would be open to incorporating participant experience and perspective from the very beginning. It is a matter of seeking out these professionals and articulating to them why it is critical to conduct research, develop technology and provide services based on this perspective. Of course, finding open-minded professionals and then convincing them that participant input from the ground up is the most effective way to proceed will take time and effort. The potential results will be well worth it, though, when we begin to see more technology that we can both use and afford, and when blindness-related services are geared more towards empowering clients than rehabilitating them. At the end of the day, we are the only ones who can provide professionals with the perspectives and insights that will enable them to realize the full potential of their work. Without our energy, commitment and willingness to articulate what it is like to be blind, we can continue to expect more of the same hokey technology and inadequate service delivery to which we have become accustomed. We can choose to continue to gripe, or we can choose to work the problem. We can accept the status quo, or we can effect positive change by insisting to observers who make critical decisions on our behalf that our experience and perspective will ultimately prove to be the key to the creation of our mutual success. For more information on research studies currently underway at the Atlanta VA Rehab R&D Center, or to volunteer to be a participant in future studies, contact Erica Watkins at 404-321-6111 ext. 5830, or e-mail, Erica.watkins@va.gov CHAPTER NEWS Athens: The officers for 2007 are Daniel Myers for president, Cynthia Cole for vice president, Jeraldine Toney for secretary, Jamaica Miller for assistant secretary, Annie Harris for treasurer and Mike Teal for assistant treasurer. President Myers reports that the group will be discussing special projects and fundraisers in the first couple of months and will give a report for the next issue of this magazine. They meet the fourth Saturday of the month at 11:00 a.m. in the Butler Building on South Milledge Avenue. Atlanta: The officers for 2007 are Kim Carmichael, president; Diane Simms, vice-president; Cynthia Kitchens, treasurer; Betsy Grenevitch, secretary; and Wade Norton, one-year board position. The chapter meetings have been changed from the first Friday night in the month to the first Saturday morning still continuing to meet at the First Presbyterian Church at 1328 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA. The Church is across the street from the Arts Center MARTA station on the Southwest corner of Sixteenth Street and Peachtree Street. Enter the Church on the Sixteenth Street side. Augusta: The new officers are Keith Morris, president; Stanley Lopez, vice president; Kathy Morris, secretary; and Dave Everly, treasurer. There is a cookbook in the making; entries can be sent by January 31, 2007, to Kathy Morris, 3359 White Oak Road, Thomson, GA 30824; or via E-Mail to mkumorris@yahoo.com. The name of the cookbook will be Cooking without Looking and will be produced in large print and on CD. You are invited to join the chapter meetings on the second Thursday night of the month at St. John Towers, a senior citizen apartment complex. For further information and for directions, contact President Keith Morris at 706-595-1465. Bainbridge: The officers for 2007 are Adeline Escoffery for president, Tonya Wright for vice president, Gloria Hampton for secretary, Janice Tootle for treasurer, and three board members who are Edward Escoffery, James Harper and Keith Carter. The meetings are held the second Saturday of each month at the library. Chattooga County: For January the chapter members will focus on assisting Barry Vaughn and his family whose house burned in December just before Christmas. Also, they are planning to assist Wendi Harkins with an open house for her new apartment in Summerville. Wendi has been able to leave the nursing and rehab center to live in her own apartment. Wendi has physical challenges and utilizes a wheelchair in addition to being visually impaired. Marsha says, “We are very proud of Wendi's accomplishments.” The new officers for Chattooga County are president, Marsha Farrow; first vice president, Wendi Harkins; second vice president, Ann Norton; treasurer, Barry Vaughn; secretary, Jan Morris. Columbus: The chapter members meet the first Saturday of the month at the public library from 1:00 until 3:00. For Christmas, the members bought food for a grandmother raising her grandchildren and great grandchildren. The officers are Crawford Pike for president, Otis Smith for vice president, Desma Pike for secretary, Clifford Brinson for treasurer, Clifford Jones, Jimmie Burkes, and Joe McNiel for board members. East Georgia: East Georgia enjoyed a splendid Christmas party with everyone bringing covered dishes of all sorts. Christmas carols were sung with Jerrie Ricks accompanying on the piano. The members are planning again to have another yard sale and fundraiser in April. Officers for 2007 are Anne Wheeler for president, Neb Houston for first vice president, Phil Jones for second vice president, Christine O’Brien for secretary, and Linda Cox for treasurer. Greater Hall County: The officers for 2007 are president, Genie Rae O'Kelley; vice president, Roland Ware; treasurers, Ted and Millie Brackett; and secretary, Sue Heskett. Macon: The Christmas party held at the Dimpsey was a success again this year with Mary Wiley reading a Christmas story and parishioners from Patricia Fitts’ church leading the music. New officers for 2007 are as follows: Tim Kelly, president; Rose Gautney, vice president; Cathy Marsh, secretary; and Serena Kelly, treasurer. Northwest: The newly elected officers for Northwest Chapter are Tim Barrett for president, Ron Burgess for vice president, Cindy Wilson for secretary, and Charles Stubblefield for treasurer. Members will be making plans for special projects to report on in the next issue of this magazine. Rome-Floyd County: The chapter members are planning to conduct another tour of the Braille Trail in Rome sometime during the year to raise awareness of Braille and how useful it is in describing various kinds of trees and plant life along the trail. The GCB state convention was held in Rome a few years ago and took that tour which was very interesting and informative. Since that time the signs and ropes have been renovated. Hopefully, the GCB members can meet in Rome again for another convention and take that wonderful tour again. The officers are Phillip Dillard for president, Dorothy Thomas for vice president, Suzanne Jackson for secretary, Betty Ellington for treasurer. Savannah Chapter: Chapter members had a great time at the annual Christmas party on December 15. The plans for the coming year include a fundraising hot dog sale and ice cream social, as well as putting a plan into place for recruiting new members. The officers for the chapter are president, Brian Leighton; vice president, Theresa Brenner; treasurer, Kim Harrison; secretary, Jack Lewis; and directors Marj Schneider, Bob Walls and Jan Elders. South Metro The South Metro Council members had a great Christmas party and entertained two children from the Center for the Visually Impaired. Jay, three years old, is in the BEGIN program at the Center and is partially sighted. Erika, 15 years old, is in the STARS program there. Both of them came with their mothers and Jay’s grandparents. There was delicious food and fellowship and the party ended with singing Christmas carols. Instead of bringing gifts for each other, the members decided to bring toys for the Toys for Tots program. The officers for 2007 are as follows: Frances Sweet, president; Barbara Graham, first vice president; Robin Oliver, second vice president; Jewel Madison-Bell, secretary; Steve Longmire, treasurer; Bernace Murray, Ann Butler, and Maquatia Dutton, board of directors. The membership is down just a little from last year with 35 active members and four associate members. The February program will be presented by Stella Cone from the Georgia Library Services. Stephens County The officers are Alfred Camp for president, Sheila Rousey for vice president, Nettie May Liles for treasurer, and Delores Rutenber for secretary. President Camp and his members are busy planning another annual bluegrass and gospel benefit concert fundraiser for the GCB scholarship program. It is scheduled for Sunday, February 4, 2007, from 12:00 Noon until … The groups to perform are Jerald Lanham and Band, Liz Moore and The Get-Togethers, Brandy Rock Mtn. Bluegrass Band, Blue Streak, John Oliver and Carmel Ridge, Disciples for Christ, Al Camp and Night Owls, and others. Sound is by Max Buckner, Emcee is Liz Moore. Raffle tickets and refreshments will be available. This will be held at the Shiloh Fire Department, Toccoa, Georgia at Hwy. 17 or I-85 to Exit 173 (Toccoa-Lavonia). For more information, contact Al Camp at 706-886-3894. SPECIAL INTEREST AFFILIATE NEWS Georgia Council of Blind LIONS J. C. Coefield is president, Anne Wheeler is treasurer, and Ann Sims is secretary. Please send your dues of $20.00 to Anne Wheeler, 2199 Floyd Street, Covington, GA 30014. Dues should be received by January 31, 2007, and checks should be made payable to GCBL or Georgia Council of Blind LIONS. For further questions, contact Anne Wheeler via telephone, 770-786-5778, or via E-Mail at awheel@bellsouth.net. Please include the district number of your local LIONS Club and the name of your local club and any office you hold there. Georgia Guide Dog Users The GGDU will be co-hosting the second Top Dog Workshop in Savannah and will probably be meeting as you are reading this magazine. Many exciting events are planned, and the report will be given in the next issue of The GCB Digest. The officers for 2007 are Kim Carmichael, president; Diane Healy, vice president; Alice Ritchhart, secretary/treasurer; and Frances Sweet and Bob Walls for board of directors. Please send dues of $15.00 for full membership or $7.00 for associate membership to Alice Ritchhart, 125 Willow Pond Way, Brunswick, GA 31525. Please make your check payable to Georgia Guide Dog Users. If you have questions, contact Alice via telephone at 912-261-9833, or via E-Mail: alice.ritchhart@adelphia.net. ANNOUNCEMENTS It is past time now to get your chapter and at-large dues in for 2007. If you haven’t already done so, please send $12.00 for each person’s dues to GCB treasurer, Linda Cox, at 850 Dogwood Road, Suite A-400-604, Lawrenceville, GA 30044-7218, telephone, 770-972-2232, E-Mail, lindabcox@hotmail.com. Make check payable to the Georgia Council of the Blind. Be sure to give your complete address, telephone number, e-mail address if applicable, and your preferred format for the publications from GCB and ACB. Remember, if your chapter members or special interest affiliate group plans to do a fundraiser and your group needs to use the GCB tax number, you must request the GCB Tax Form from the GCB treasurer and submit it six (6) months in advance of your event. The GCB receives twenty-five (25) percent of your profits. You must request the GCB Fundraiser Outcome Report Form and submit it along with your check within one (1) month after your event. The next GCB board meeting will be Saturday, January 20, 2007, at the Center for the Visually Impaired, 739 W. Peachtree Street, Atlanta. If you have questions about the meeting, please contact Alice Ritchhart, at telephone number 912-261-9833, or the GCB Toll Free number at 877-667-6815; or you may contact her at her e-mail address: alice.ritchhart@adelphia.net Steve Longmire, our GCB Webmaster, would like for you to send him any updates or other pertinent information for the Website which is georgiacounciloftheblind.org. Funnies I was in the Express Lane at the store, quietly fuming. Completely ignoring the sign, the woman ahead of me had slipped into the checkout line pushing a cart piled high with groceries. Imagine my delight when the cashier beckoned the woman to come forward, looked into the cart and asked sweetly, "So, which six items would you like to buy?" Wouldn't it be great if that happened more often? Because they had no reservations at a busy restaurant, my elderly neighbor and his wife were told there would be a 45-minute wait for a table. "Young man, we're both 90 years old," the husband said. "We may not have 45 minutes." They were seated immediately. The reason congressmen try so hard to get reelected is they would hate to have to make a living under the laws they've passed. All eyes were on the radiant bride as her father escorted her down the aisle. They reached the altar and the waiting groom; the bride kissed her father and placed something in his hand. The guests in the front pews responded with ripples of laughter. Even the priest smiled broadly. As her father gave her away in marriage, the bride gave him back his credit card. Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should get used to the idea. Three friends from the local congregation were asked, "When you're in your casket, and friends and congregation members are mourning over you, what would you like them to say?" Artie said, "I would like them to say I was a wonderful husband, a fine spiritual leader, and a great family man." Merle commented, "I would like them to say I was a wonderful teacher and servant of God who made a huge difference in people’s lives." Don said, "I'd like them to say, 'Look! He's moving!'" Smith climbs to the top of Mt. Sinai to get close enough to talk to God. Looking up, he asks the Lord, "God, what does a million years mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A minute." Smith asks, "What does a million dollars mean to you?" The Lord replies, "A penny." Smith asks, "Can I have a penny?" The Lord replies, "In a minute." The editors appreciate everyone who helped us with this issue of The GCB Digest. We pray for each of you a healthy and safe New Year!

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