2014 PCB Convention Report and Reflections
By Cathy Long, PCB Secretary
The theme of this year’s convention was “Leadership is for Everyone.” It was held October 16-19 at the Holiday Inn in Johnstown, PA. President Tony Swartz opened the convention by warmly welcoming us and reminding us that advocacy must continue. He provided reasons why we must be vigilant with regard to advocacy. For me, these remarks were motivating and, at the same time, while considering the condition of PCB, prophetic in nature, if all PCB members do not do their part.
John Horst, Executive Director of PCB since 1995, spoke. John expressed appreciation to all members who have worked with the PCB office throughout the years. He reported on the status of the PCB office. The new executive secretary’s name is Gail Varney. Please call and introduce yourself to her in the near future.
Next, Sue Lichtenfels, First Vice-President, spoke about our theme. She began by saying that “leadership is for every day.” Leaders are rich in character, transparent in their actions, and forthright in their attitude. Be the best you can be and help others strive to do likewise. Leadership is offered at the grass roots level. She gave examples. A lot of it dealt with strength of character. Her talk was well prepared and motivating. If you have the ability to do so, and could not attend the convention, I recommend that you listen to it on our web site. By now, the archives of the 2014 convention are there. Even if you were present, listening to the talk again would be a good idea.
Chapter reports were presented. It’s always interesting to hear what each chapter is doing.
John Luttenberger, member of the Resolutions Committee, then read the resolution under consideration. This resolution would be voted on later in this convention. I know Carla Hayes, Chair, was listening to the convention as much as possible, and we all missed her this year.
Rosemary Martin, Chair of the Bylaws Committee, then read suggested bylaw changes that would be voted on later at this convention. Announcements were then read by Rosemary. Thursday ended with a convention mixer where first-time attendees and students were recognized.
Activities Friday morning consisted of an audio darts tournament, and a tour to a museum in Johnstown to discover what it was like for immigrants arriving in the United States. There was also the first annual student seminar. The exhibit hall was opened, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This year, Mary Kay and 31 Gifts were selling items, and PCB got a percentage of their sales. We had a lot of used media to sell this year, also benefitting PCB. Many thanks to all of you who worked in the exhibit hall. We had a session called “Just for the Ladies,” and a session on iPhone applications. Both sessions were well attended.
The Friday afternoon convention session began with the Candidates’ Forum. Four individuals were seeking a board position. These individuals were Rosemary Martin, Jacquelyn Wissinger, Joseph Fagnani, and Tom Burgander. To save space, I am pleased to announce that these are also the individuals who were elected to serve as board members.
The next presenter was Mike Gravitt. He spoke about resolving advocacy-related conflicts. After some pointers, Mike asked for two volunteers, who were then presented with a hypothetical situation, and were to attempt to resolve the conflict. It did not go well, but after the skit, real give-and-take with the audience brought forth great ideas. I must disclose that I was one of the participants in the skit. We did manage to make the audience laugh but the skit was basically a failure with regard to our objective! But because of the give-and-take with the audience, I feel this presentation met its objective.
Eric Loori, Executive Director and co-founder of Freedom Guide Dogs, discussed an option for people to get a guide dog and learn to travel with the dog in their home area. His presentation was informative. Clearly, he is committed to providing good service to people who do not wish to go away for a few weeks or a month for a new dog or for their first dog.
The afternoon session was adjourned, but another presentation was offered: Modifications in the United English Braille (UEB) Code. This was presented by May Davis and Louise Chuha. Hand-outs were provided. They did a good job presenting this new information to us. I saved hand-outs and later showed them to friends at home. We all agreed that we will have to get used to these changes.
The live auction took place on Friday evening. It was so much fun!
Saturday morning started with a salute to the flag and a silent prayer.
The Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Committee gave a report on the state of advocacy, and again there was a skit.
Then from the Education and Employment Committee, a student panel answered questions and spoke about how life is different for them when going to college. The presentation was entitled “College Life: the challenges and changes.” They did an outstanding job, as did Education and Employment Committee Chair Al Pietrolungo, who asked prepared questions of the students.
“Content: A strategy for our web presence and more” was presented by Sue Lichtenfels and Tom Reid. We have been asked to write stories about our lives that illustrate our everyday experiences, first, as people, and, second, as a person who is vision impaired. How we are perceived is reflected in the dismal unemployment rate within our community. We need to challenge the misperceptions that have become social norms. This is a battle between perception and reality. PCB currently has two avenues it uses for PCB-related information: the pcb1.org website and The PCB Advocate. The idea is to share our stories on a new website that would redefine what it means to live with vision loss. Write up your story and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject field saying “online story.” If you want to volunteer to help, send an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject line “volunteer.” We are looking for a name for this website. Avoid blindness or vision-related words. Send those suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom spoke about how public service announcements helped change the attitude of people toward domestic violence. We can do this with regard to their attitudes about blindness and low vision. This is a brief summary of what they said. It was awesome!
David DeNotaris, Director of BBVS, spoke briefly at the convention. He introduced his newest colleague, Justin Laffey, who is the assistive technology person for BBVS. This new hire is a direct result of comments PCB presented to State Plans.
Next we heard from Don Ciccone and Susan Banks from Carnegie Library for the Blind in Pittsburgh. After their presentation, Tony presented to the Carnegie Library the Corporate Service Award for excellent customer service, superior talking book services, and for the production and distribution of the recorded format of “The PCB Advocate.”
Committee reports followed and these too can be accessed through the convention archives.
Site selection: Sue Lichtenfels. In 2015 our conference and convention will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Harrisburg, PA. The dates are October 15 through 18, 2015. For reservations, call 717-234-5021.
Michael Zaken presented the 2015 budget. The board had previously approved the budget, and after presenting it to the membership, a motion was made and seconded to approve it as well, and that motion passed unanimously.
Resolution 2014-01 was read. This pertains to accessibility of testing by the Pennsylvania Civil Service Commission. With some word-smithing, the resolution passed unanimously.
Bylaws: The first two revisions, Article VI. Section 4 and Article VI Section 5 were read as amended. The convention approved these changes unanimously. Then Rose read the third revision, Article IX Section 3. This third revision was approved unanimously. Likewise, the fourth revision, Article VI, powers and duties of the Board of Directors, Section 3. This was approved unanimously. Note: at each juncture of the reading and voting on bylaws changes, time was allotted for questions and answers pertaining to what was under consideration.
Next, the slate of candidates was again read. Elections took place and all four individuals recommended by the Nominating Committee were elected to the Board. The newly elected members were sworn in with the Pledge of Obligation.
During the banquet, additional PCB awards were bestowed. The second award for the day was given to Judge Norman Krumenacker for his dedication to the Cambria County Association for the Blind and Handicapped, serving as a board member. It was presented by Dick Bosserman, the president of that agency.
The third award was the lifetime of distinguished service given to Diane Celidonia, who works at Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services in Pittsburgh. It was presented to Diane by Sue Lichtenfels.
The fourth award was the Lifetime of Achievement honoring Tony Evancic, presented by Mike Zaken.
Finally, another award was given to Belinda Eigen for working with PCB on developing our new web site. This was specifically given to her by President Swartz, with much appreciation. It is entitled the President’s Distinguished Award.
Lastly, the Philadelphia Metro Council of the Blind received its charter.
The Necrology report revealed the loss of seventeen individuals since last year’s convention.
Note: Since the Resolutions Committee Chair was unable to attend the convention, courtesy resolutions will be written by the Resolutions Committee to thank the Holiday Inn, to thank the Convention Program and Planning Committee, and to show our appreciation to Dick Bosserman and the Cambria County Association for the Blind and Handicapped. The Resolutions Committee has been empowered to write the resolutions and send them to the office by a motion that passed unanimously.
The convention ended with questions for the president and his responses. We adjourned at about 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 19, 2014.