By Jacqueline Wissinger
The 2021 conference, held from Thursday, the 16th of September to Sunday the 19th, was a completely virtual event. Thanks to the hard work of our techies in PCB, Michael Zaken, Doug Hunsinger and others along with some expert help from a team from ACB, we were served up a menu of widely varied events.
The theme of this year’s conference was Strengthening Community through Unity, which was amply supported by the variety of sessions which were offered. There were Guide Lights and Gadgets for guide dogs as well as a Gallery of Gadgets to make life easier for their humans. There were high tech and low-tech demonstrations and a discussion devoted to self-advocacy, enabling the Deaf-Blind Community and one devoted to the organization of support groups.
Each of our evening sessions began with Pre-Session Entertainment provided by three of our very talented peers. Two game nights, one featuring Jeopardy and the Common Man and the other, Two Truths and a Tall Tale, a movie, two virtual tours and an open mike event, which showcased the creativity of some of our talented peers topped off the festivities. Since this conference is being archived and will be available on our PCB website, www.pcb1.org), and also on our Information Line, I will not even attempt to cover four days of events in detail, but will encourage you to check out the conference for yourselves and relive the fun.
Chris Hunsinger kicked off the Thursday evening session by reminding us that “PCB is a peer-based group. That means we need your passion, help, and your time.”
Our chaplain, Jacqueline Wissinger, conducted our Necrology service. Sadly, ten of our peers have passed away since our last conference.
Mary Ann Grignon monitored a panel of craft-makers who discussed how they work their crafts and sell them online. PCB is looking for crafty peers to participate in our PCB Craft-Ability project.
Lisa Salinger and Jule Ann Lieberman presented on low-tech solutions and low-no-cost services that provide shopping assistance to peers with vision loss.
Thursday evening’s events also included the first reading of the proposed Bylaws amendments by John Luttenburger.
The Friday evening session began with a panel discussion concerning Volunteering Outside of the Blind Community facilitated by Sue Lichtenfels. All panelists urge peers to get out there, volunteer, and share their passions.
Our next presenters were Christine Malec and JJ Hunt who shared with us the many facets of their work as podcast hosts of Talk Description to Me, providing detailed description of things of interest to increase the visual literacy of people with vision loss. Their website is www.talkdescriptiontome.com. Will Grignon presented Christine and JJ with the 2021 PCB Community Impact award.
After a reading of the resolutions by Carla Hayes, Chris Downey, an architect who has been blind since 2008, spoke to us about Enhancing Architectural Accessibility, emphasizing that incorporating accessibility from the ground up is much easier and less costly than retrofitting a building later.
The Saturday morning session opened with an interview conducted by Tony Swartz with Joseph Koury, the author of the book “Seeing without Eyes,” which describes his 3-month hitch hiking journey across the country in the winter after losing his sight.
Andrea Lemoins, the outreach coordinator for Library of Accessible Media for Pennsylvanians (LAMP), then gave us an overview of the services and the equipment provided by LAMP.
Our last presentation of the morning was a panel discussion hosted by Pam Shaw. She was joined by four panelists of “varying ethnicities and races” to discuss the subject of diversity: a recognition of commonalities and a celebration of differences.
The Saturday afternoon session of our conference began with the business meeting. Team reports were first on the agenda, followed by Melissa Carney’s Director of Outreach and Engagement report.
The site selection report for next year’s conference was presented by Mary Ann Grignon and Bob Lichtenfels. Bob reminded us of our obligation to consider the Crowne Plaza in Harrisburg first in choosing a site for an in-person conference, which would be held from October 20th to 23rd, 2022. A motion was made by Tony Swartz and seconded that next year’s conference be a virtual one only. Bob expressed concern that if the next conference were to be a virtual one, that we may never go back to in-person conferences. The issue was postponed until a later date.
A courtesy resolution to thank all those who were involved in the planning and implementing of the conference was read and approved.
A motion was made and passed to adjourn the meeting with the business to be conducted at a later time to be determined by the chair.
The business meeting reconvened on Saturday, October 23rd via Zoom. In order to maintain the continuity of this report, I will discuss the proceedings here.
Mary Ann Grignon began with the Site Selection Team report. She informed us that the contacts from the hotel were unwilling to change their position on the food and beverage count regardless of whether or not we had a hybrid or an in-person conference. She added that a hybrid conference would be much more involved and more expensive than we had supposed. She said that it was unlikely that we would meet our food and beverage minimums due to the fact that we barely met them at our last in-person conference. A motion was made, seconded, and passed that the Conference Program and Planning Team investigate the options and make a recommendation to the board regarding the type of conference and also the date of the conference, and that the board would make the final decision on the matter.
Three Bylaw amendments were presented: changing “member” to “peer” in all PCB documents, setting forth Board voting under “Unforeseen Circumstances,” and regularizing voting rules in the Bylaws to reflect current practice. None passed.
Will Grignon read the slate of nominees: President, Chris Hunsinger; First Vice President, Mary Ann Grignon; Second Vice President, Rose Martin; Secretary, Jacqueline Wissinger; Treasurer, Michael Zaken. There were four 2-year Board positions up for election this year. The nominees were: Bob Shingleton, Donald Dunn, Doug Hunsinger, and Pam Shaw. All positions were approved by acclamation except the Director position proposed for Pam Shaw. Roger Simmons was nominated from the floor, Pam withdrew her nomination, and Roger was voted in by acclamation. Sue Lichtenfels administered the oath of obligation. The terms of all positions will commence on January 1, 2022.
The virtual banquet began with a welcome from our past president, Sue Lichtenfels, who thanked all of the sponsors and all of those who contributed to making this year’s conference “the success that it’s been.” The winners of the 50/50 drawing and the winner of the Refer a Friend award were announced.
Suzanne Erb presented the Student Merit award to John Stevens.
The PCB awards were next presented by Will Grignon, introducing Jeanette Schmoyer, who presented the Reimage Leadership Award to Elizabeth Oleksa. The Anthony B. Swartz Peer Excellence Award was presented to Doug Hunsinger by Tony Swartz. The John A. Horst Champion of Independence award was presented by Doug Hunsinger to Jonathan Mosen, who was our banquet speaker for the evening.
The annual PCB auction was held on Sunday afternoon. There were great prizes, and the bidding was lively. This was one of the best auctions we have had. After expenses, the amount raised was $4,343.32.