Minutes from the May 13 2023 NFB of Virginia Board of Directors meeting

Sandy Halverson agreed to take the notes from our May 13, 2023 Board of Directors meeting. Here are the notes from Sandy.

National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

Board of Directors Meeting

May 13, 2023

Call to order and introduction of guests: The board of directors meeting of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia was called to order by President Soforenko at 1 p.m. and after introductions, it was determined that 16 voting delegates and several members and guests were present.

Secretary’s report: The minutes from our January 2023 meeting were approved as read and posted.

Treasurer’s report: The report given by our treasurer, Mark Roane, covered the period from December 31, 2022 through April 20, 2023 providing detailed transactions in our account. Current balance in our General Checking account is $60,270.67. After which our treasurer’s report was accepted unanimously.

Project RISE: Joe Orozco, our Project RISE coordinator, described activities which had been planned for students along with their mentors and parents since our last board meeting. These included public speaking exercises with feedback from the audience. RISE students and mentors partnered with a church to provide Christmas gifts for low-income families which were purchased and wrapped by the students and other students performed a variety of jobs at some local animal rescue shelters. During our board meeting, the students were practicing cane and problem-solving skills in a scavenger hunt experience. Joe briefly described our GUIDE program for younger youth led by Ally Kelso who is leaving Virginia to attend college in Florida; and a proposal will be presented at our August 5 board meeting to continue this program. A recently hired employment coordinator is identifying summer job placements for RISE participants and we were urged to contact Joe with job contacts.

Convention operations: Our Greater Williamsburg Chapter is planning for our upcoming state convention November 2-5 with the hope that by our next meeting, our convention landing page and registration process will be in place. Our operations team is also seeking coordinators for registration, sponsorships and exhibit hall.

In-person BELL report: We were pleased to learn from Louise Walch, our BELL coordinator, that we will have 16 students from across Virginia who will be arriving at Virginia Beach to take part in our one-week program. Mary Durbin has been recruiting volunteers and Jodi Nicholson, one of our Teachers of Tomorrow national program participants who lives in Virginia, will be our lead teacher.

Silver BELLs: From Sandy Halverson, our Silver BELLs coordinator, we learned that approximately 60 blind and low-vision seniors throughout the Commonwealth were introduced to blindness 101 and had opportunities to practice travel, technology, home management and communication skills. We will be submitting a grant request to the Virginia Board for the Blind and Visually Impaired to provide most of the funding for our 2023-2024 Silver BELLs program. Seniors receiving services from DBVI were encouraged to attend one of the two week-long senior retreats taking place this summer at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired in Richmond.

National Convention: Our 2023 NFB national convention will take place from July 1 through July 6 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston, Texas. Preregistration closes on May 31; however, virtual experience participants may register at any time. Room rates for the Hilton and Marriott hotels were given. Mitchell Ford, one of our Project RISE mentors and a member of our Potomac Chapter, is a national scholarship finalist and a Norfolk resident who will be attending MIT is our second national scholarship winner. Tracy reminded us that he will serve as our voting delegate at convention and Sandy Halverson will serve as our alternate. If there is a call for a delegate vote to be taken, there may not be time to poll everyone in the affiliate delegation before the vote must be cast.

Kenneth Jernigan and McDonald Fellowship winners: Mary Durbin, coordinator of our McDonald fellowship committee and mentor to both programs, thanked the McDonald Fellowship committee. Some individuals applied for both programs while others did not and we are pleased to have Nathan Green from Lexington, Bob Meter from Williamsburg, Renee Valdez from Alexandria, and Pam Balensiefen from Ashburn among our in-person delegation. Those who are interested in mentoring our first-timers should contact Mary by June 15 so assignments can be made and distributed.

Virginia caucus: On Sunday, July 2, we will meet in a room to be announced sometime in June for an affiliate caucus at 10 p.m. The banquet ticket you purchased guarantees a meal but not a place to put it; the purchased ticket must be exchanged for a ticket with a table and seat number. The person responsible for ticket collection will be announced at the caucus and we will have an opportunity to welcome our first-timers and conduct other convention-related business.

Independence Market and NFBV Exhibit Table Volunteers: Our independence market staff needs lots of volunteers for product demonstration and storekeeper duties. Renee Valdez who co-chairs our fundraising committee, stated we will be selling NFB tote bags and membership coin holders, each for $20 and the table will be staffed July 2 and 3; email Renee to work at our table and Tracy to work at the Independence market tables.

Those who will be attending our national convention virtual experience were urged to connect via Zoom to listen to the resolutions committee meeting, board of directors meeting, all general sessions and the banquet; there will also be additional programming virtually and registration makes you eligible for door prizes. A motion was made, seconded and carried unanimously that we donate $300 for six $50 in-person door prizes.

Contributions to national funds: After chapter and division presidents indicated NFB camp, White Cane, tenBroek, Jernigan and SUN fund donations, a motion was made and carried that the NFB of Virginia donate $15,000 to our White Cane fund, and $2,000 to each of the three remaining funds.

Museum of the blind people’s movement: Tracy next provided a lot of information about our museum of the blind people’s movement. The general public is the audience. The exhibits designed and implemented by us are our way to positively change societal misconceptions about blindness, stop equating us with Mr. Magoo, Helen Keller, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. This project is being directed by a board of museum advisors, one of whom is a national scholarship winner of ours who has also worked on the Obama presidential library and will ensure museum accessibility at all levels. Several state affiliates have pledged $50,000 to be paid over five years. After discussion, a motion was made and seconded that the NFB of Virginia match that commitment. When an officer asked if this was a prudent investment, others felt more time was needed to consider this commitment of funds, and there were specific questions about exhibits that could not be answered at this time, it was suggested that further action be tabled until our August board of directors meeting and the motion was withdrawn. It was also suggested we review the museum information on our national website.

Division reports: Naim reported one of our students participated in the National Association of Blind Students Midwest Chicago conference; fundraisers are being planned with details coming soon. From Yasiah, the merchants annual meeting in March went well; Mark Roane, our treasurer, is working now as is Chimere Roberts, one of our Richmond chapter members. Patty reported seniors have learned about the kinds of game modifications for positive interactions with grandchildren and were informed about the upcoming VRCBVI senior retreats taking place in August. With regard to membership, we are working to improve the process for new member contacts, getting them involved and keeping them involved. Renee reported our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee has set a goal to meet with more chapters this year and increasing our social media outreach efforts. From Jimmy Morris, our scholarship application should be live in June and we will be offering three $2500 scholarships; a detailed announcement will be coming soon. Jacki shared our communications committee Facebook and YouTube presence. The highlight of Stewart’s legislative report was minimum wage legislation signed by our governor that says no new subminimum wage certificates can be given after July 2023. Our public outreach committee urged chapters to start planning for Blindness Equality Achievement Month proclamations and other community activities.

Tracy announced our next board meeting will take place Saturday, August 5, 2023 starting at 1 p.m. after which the meeting was adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,

Sandy Halverson

Acting Recording Secretary

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