Category Archives: State Board Meeting

The Vigilant: January 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

While it is unusually cold outside, 2018 is really heating up in the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. I’m very excited to usher in a new year full of possibilities. I believe we will get a few steps closer to realizing some of those ambitious dreams I outlined for you back in November.

We hit the ground running right out of the gate. January is focused on legislative priorities and I hope you can be part of our team to advocate for the priorities important to our members. In addition to the specific Richmond and Washington Seminars, expect opportunities for legislative action where you will be asked to make phone calls to our elected leaders. Through collective action, we can make a significant difference in the lives of blind people throughout the Commonwealth and across the country.

Other upcoming activities are outlined elsewhere in this newsletter. Please join me in making 2018 an exceptional year for advocacy and results in our affiliate. If I should be made aware of something that may not have already been brought to my attention, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am here to do my part to make sure our collective needs are met as blind residents of this great commonwealth.

A happy new year to you. May it bring about boundless energy and blessings to you and your family. Thank you for being a part of ours.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

The following excerpt is attributed to our very own Joanne Wilson, who contributed to a compilation of thoughtful messages in honor of Mr. Jerry Whittle–aptly described in the January Braille Monitor as “Cherished Teacher, Mentor, Author, Advocate, and Leader.

Here are Joanne’s remarks:

“In 1985 the Louisiana state legislature gave funding to the NFB of Louisiana to establish the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Inspired by my own life-changing rehabilitation experience, I wanted to replicate the ground-breaking training model that Dr. Jernigan used to teach me and countless other blind people in Iowa. My search for Center staff led me to Jerry and Merilynn Whittle, whom I heard about through the “blind grapevine.” I called them up, explaining that we were only awarded one year of funding and that we had no building, no equipment, and no students. Essentially our empowering NFB philosophy and our nonvisual training methods were the two forces pushing our dream forward.

“Jerry and Merilynn did not hesitate; they immediately agreed to become part of our pioneering team of instructors. Jerry came first, and when her job concluded, Merilynn arrived in Louisiana. They brought with them an unwavering belief in blind people, a deep loyalty to the Federation, a joyous energy, and a willingness to sacrifice and give to others. They were dependable and so hardworking; they worked day and night to launch the Center.

“Soon we had our inaugural group of students. Our first training center operated out of a four-room house. Mismatched donated furniture and lively chatter filled the space. The Braille classroom that Jerry and his students occupied had a large table that was made by attaching legs to an old door.

“Even in the early years of his teaching career, Jerry recognized that his job as Braille instructor was just the beginning. He fulfilled the roles of counselor and mentor. He spoke with students about their futures, what jobs they could do, and what they could become as blind people.

“With great enjoyment, Jerry also dispensed love advice to those seeking a partner. For instance, he warned, “You should never marry someone unless you have traveled with them on a trip. You learn a lot on these trips that might influence your decision.” More broadly, he told students “If you want to succeed in life, you must look at your fatal flaws and change them. We all have them.” Jerry had such a tremendous sense of humor. When crossing a street, you could hear Jerry shouting, “Oh, feet, don’t fail me now!” And, oh my, did Jerry get after students if they were slacking or not fulfilling their potential. These are just some of the phrases and techniques that I witnessed Jerry using as tools to create bridges to the lives of his students.

“The most significant thing that Jerry gave us was the “minor ingredients,” the invaluable elements that made our dream of creating a fun and productive training center come true. Jerry developed many traditions and pursued projects that engaged the varied interests of Center students. He started a garden, devised creative fundraising activities, and organized many trips to festivals, movies, concerts, flea markets, and sporting events. He formed a blind football team and wrote many plays. He started a Toastmasters group to provide students the opportunity to enhance their public speaking skills. He planted trees with the students to beautify the city and to memorialize students or staff who had passed away. Jerry also awarded “Whittle sticks” to recognize the Braille achievements of his students. He carefully selected tree branches that he lovingly made into beautiful walking sticks that his students eagerly worked to earn.

“Jerry started our freedom bell tradition. He began ringing the bell whenever a student conquered a challenge or met an important milestone-crossing a busy street, reading at a certain speed in Braille, getting married, or becoming employed. He would say, “When the bell sounds, all blind people have gained new ground.”

“Yes, Jerry, you have and will continue to help the blind gain new ground. Your life is a real tribute to our dream.”

Visit the January Braille Monitor to read all the contributions.

Hosting the 2018 National Federation of the Blind Convention

We hope you are making plans to join us at the 2018 National convention in Orlando Florida. The National Convention will be even better this year because the Virginia affiliate is partnering with the Iowa and Florida affiliates to host the convention. For a number of years, different affiliates have volunteered to take on the responsibility for welcoming members to the convention. After obtaining approval from the elected officers and chapter presidents, President Soforenko felt comfortable telling President Riccobono that the Virginia affiliate is going to take on convention hosting along with Iowa and Florida.

What are the responsibilities of a Host Committee Affiliate?

Host Committee Affiliates are responsible for the following:

  • Run, Staff, and supply the Host Committee Hospitality Suite – For two days of the convention, each of the affiliates on the host committee runs a hospitality suite from 7:00 AM to either 5:00 PM or 7:00 PM in the convention hotel. For our defined days, the Virginia affiliate would be responsible for finding Virginians to staff each shift, run a fundraiser like a raffle basket, provide snacks and beverages and ensure that we are answering questions from members who show up. There would be a cost for snacks and beverages and we could seek donations for these items. We have connections we could work to obtain snacks affordably. Finally, we could offset expenses by fundraising with a gift basket raffle or something similar.
  • Host Committee Table in the Lobby – To help members with common questions, the host committee staffs a table in the Rosen Shingle Creek lobby on July 2, 3, and 4. One key role is passing out the agendas and answering questions about the agenda. Jernigan Institute staff often help at the table but we still need 2 members per shift at the table. I suspect we would be responsible for 1 of the days between July 2 and July 4. We would strive to ensure the Virginia day is not the same day we are responsible for the Hospitality Suite.
  • Opening Ceremonies – The host committee arranges for the opening ceremonies including delivering a brief presentation at the Opening Ceremony and arranging entertainment. The Opening Ceremony is a 30-minute-high energy presentation that is organized and funded by the host committee affiliates.
  • Banquet Door Prize – The host committee provides the door prize provided at the end of the banquet. Last year, the host committee affiliates asked other affiliates to also contribute to reduce the impact of this contribution.

In addition, we are considering some optional events that we hope to discuss at the January 15 Board meeting:

  1. Event for all – Last year, the host committee of multiple affiliates and a national division arranged for the Hawaiian themed dance which included coming up with a concept or theme, organizing the event, selling tickets and promoting the event to make it a success. There are costs for this event and we would want to break even or turn a profit. The host committees would have to decide if this is necessary. Some events break even, some make money and some are money losers. Per President Riccobono, RUNNING A PROGRAM IS FUN AND VALUABLE BUT it is not a requirement.
  2. Organize a Leadership Event – Last year, the host committee organized an event for current and past affiliate presidents as an opportunity to network and learn from seasoned leaders in the movement. President Riccobono thought this was A GREAT EVENT BUT not a requirement and may not be needed every year. In addition, this event inherently comes with additional costs to the host committee affiliates. President Riccobono also thought it might be useful to do something to connect affiliate presidents with national division presidents.

Hosting the convention will require participation from all members attending the convention and we hope to have more Virginians attend convention this year to join in the fun. We will be establishing affiliate members to take on each of the above components in partnership with members from Iowa and Florida. We welcome NFB of Virginia alumni volunteers who currently live in other affiliates but want to join in the fun.

January board of Directors meeting and Richmond Seminar Update

We have a few important updates for the upcoming Richmond Seminar on January 15 and 16.

Monday, January 15 board of Directors Meeting Location:

We are very pleased that the Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) has again welcomed us to hold our meeting at their facility. The Board of Directors meeting on Monday, January 15 will be from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at the following address:

Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired
Library and Resource Center
395 Azalea Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23227

Pizza Lunch at the meeting:

With a meeting starting at 1:00 PM, you should plan to arrive early to the meeting and join your Federation family for a pizza lunch organized by the Virginia Association of Blind students. Plan to arrive starting at Noon for lunch and great fellowship. For $5, you can obtain your choice of 2 slices of either cheese or pepperoni pizza and a beverage. Additional snacks will be available for an affordable price. To make things easier, we will not be taking reservations so come early to secure your lunch with your Virginia Federation family. For more information, please contact either Robert Parsons or Gerald Meredith.

Priorities for Richmond Seminar:

The 2018 Virginia Legislative Session will be extremely exciting and fast paced. We will have three priorities to present this year:

  • Cross Disability Parents Rights
  • Ensuring Blind and Low Vision Students Receive a Quality Education
  • Opposition to Efforts to Weaken the ADA in Virginia

We are working on our fact sheet and it will be distributed in advance of the Seminar. We will also be explaining the priorities on Monday afternoon at the board meeting.

Reimbursement of expenses

For expenses to be reimbursed for Richmond seminar hotel and transportation costs, please use the reimbursement request form and follow instructions. The form can be found at the following address:

2018 NFBV Committee Assignments

We are pleased to announce the committee chairs for 2018:

  • Membership – Sandy Halverson
  • Legislative – Derek Manners and Deepa Goraya
  • NFB of Virginia James Nelson Scholarship- Brian Miller
  • Public Outreach/Meet the Blind Month – Corlis Jones and Uricka Harrison
  • Fundraising – Michael Kasey
  • McDonald Fellowship Program- Mary Durban
  • BELL Program – Nancy Yeager and Beth Sellers
  • Chapter President Virtual Retreat- Uricka Harrison
  • Convention Operations & Logistics – Joe Orozco
  • Communications – Sarah Patnaude

Tips from a boss on how to get your first job
By John Bailey

If you want the best advice for getting your first job as a teenager, the best source is from a business owner– the person who’s actually going to decide
Whether or not the higher you.

Jacque (pronounced Jackie) Whang,, a local business owner in Fairfax, Virginia, shared some of her tips that anyone can use to impress a potential employer
in order to land that first job. Jacque owns and manages Rita’s Italian Ice and Custard of Fairfax. She has had years of experience hiring young people
to work in her store.

A good first impression at a job interview can make all the difference. Jacque tells us about her experiences interviewing and what she looks for in a
potential new higher.

Even if this isn’t your first job, these tips can help you at any stage of your career find better employment.

See her video here!

Save the Date: State Convention 2018

Yep. The Operations team is already gearing up for state convention. If you have any commentary beyond what you may have supplied in your survey, please get in touch with Joe Orozco. And, please visit the Convention page for updated details.

A few event highlights

Dates: Thursday, November 8 through Sunday, November 11, 2018

Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia

Property: Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel & Conference Center – 2801 Plank Rd. Fredericksburg, VA 22401

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

State Convention 2018

Please check back here as additional information is added to fully prepare you for the next NFB of Virginia State Convention. Alternatively, please consider signing up for the Virginia Announcement List to have updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Essential Details

The Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia will be held Thursday, November 8 through Sunday, November 11 , 2018 at the:

  • Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel & Conference Center
  • 2801 Plank Rd.
  • Fredericksburg, VA22401

To make hotel reservations, please call: 540-786-8321, or Book your room online!

Room rates are $79 per night plus applicable taxes for Single, Double, Triple, or Quad occupancy. Reservations must be made by 5 PM on Friday, October 26, 2018. For anyone seeking to spend extra time exploring Historical Fredericksburg, the rate is good three days before and three days after the event. Individual reservations will not be guaranteed without first night’s deposit or credit card.

Please Note: The group rate is the best rate. Government and military discounts do not apply. For the rate to be honored, please contact the property directly. Do not use a travel site for booking.

From the Hospitality House website:

Ideally located in the heart of everything, Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel and Convention Center welcomes you with 196 beautifully appointed guestrooms just off I-95, midway between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia. We’re also within minutes of Fredericksburg’s famous Civil War and colonial sites, shopping, dining, the University of Mary Washington, and more. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you’ll enjoy luxurious, affordable lodging, state-of-the-art meeting facilities, a junior Olympic size pool, two signature restaurants, convenient and walk-able shopping and dining in Central Park without ever leaving our parking lot, plus live music on weekends.

Sponsorships and Exhibits

Companies, nonprofits, and individuals interested in making an investment in the upcoming convention are cordially invited to sign up now! Add your voice to the largest gathering of blind Virginians in the commonwealth. Your services and products will find their way into the hands of blind students, parents of blind children, educators, rehabilitation experts, and many others. Your investment will help the NFB of Virginia carry out important programs benefiting everyone from blind youth to blind working professionals.

More Details Coming Soon!

NFBV Board Minutes, 05/02/2015

Minutes from the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia Board Meeting

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Call to order: 11:00 by President Michael Kasey

Invocation was given by Melody Roane

Everyone present introduced themselves.

Minutes from the January 19, 2015 meeting were read and accepted.

The Treasurer’s report was read by Treasurer Mark Roane and was accepted as read.

Bell Program Coordinator Nancy Yeager announced we will have four Bell programs. She said we need at least five students for each program. Flyers and brochures have been sent out to local school districts, and Nancy will send out these flyers electronically. Jeremy Grandstaff suggested setting an application deadline for the program.

Leadership seminar: Vice President Tracy Soforenko and Strategic Planning and Collaboration Consultant Jeremy Grandstaff lead this seminar.
Volunteer leaders were Stewart Prost, Kim Valko, John Halverson, Nancy Yeager, and Sarah Patnaude. We discussed qualities of a good leader and ways to improve leadership opportunities. Participants were requested to provide feedback questionnaire answers to Jeremy Grandstaff by no later than Wednesday, May 6.

Communications update: John Bailey, Chairman of the Communications Committee, talked about internet outreach and our website, We also have an NFB of Virginia Facebook page. The committee plans to build a YouTube presence to answer common questions about blindness. The committee is looking for people good with technology, writing, and public speaking to assist in its efforts. Mary suggested making a video about how to treat a blind person. Chris O’Meally and Kris Foley offered to help with videos. The Bell program is also looking for people to assist with creating videos. Sarah Patnaude offered video assistance from the Student Division. Conference calls for the Communications Committee are the third Tuesday of every month.

Organization and Arrangements Committee: Brian McCann and Joe Hobson, co-chairs. Our 2015 state convention will be held at the Westin Tyson’s Corner in Falls Church, VA from October 30 to November 1, 2015. All other relevant information is on and NFB Newsline. Tracy Soforenko encouraged people to suggest seminar ideas for state convention. It was decided that we will have an auction at the 2015 state convention.

2016 state convention: The 2016 state convention will take place at the Wyndham Ocean Front Virginia Beach hotel from November 10-13, 2016. There will be a three week cutoff for hotel reservations. The president has signed the contract for 2016.

National Convention 2015: Tracy Soforenko asked for convention attendees to contact him by email if they were interested in assisting with shuttling people between the two hotels. President Michael Kasey announced that we had thirteen books of Jernigan tickets. We have some Independence Market volunteers, but any additional people who were interested in helping were asked to email Michael Kasey. Mary Durban announced we had reserved a Virginia table. We voted to sell our Virginia peanuts at the 2015 national convention. It was suggested that we sell flash drives or earbuds as well.

McDonald Fellowship: We had several people apply to the program. People interested in mentoring McDonald Fellowship winners should contact Tracy.

Door prizes: We agreed to match our donations from last year, which were four $50 cash prizes. We also contributed $150 for the $7500 door prize this year. In total, we will allocate $4000 for convention, and this amount will be allocated at the president and treasurer’s discretion.

Caucus: The Virginia caucus tentatively will occur on Monday, July 6, 2015, at 10 PM.

Report on Richmond Seminar: We were not as successful as we expected. Vice President Soforenko is looking for ideas on how we can be better prepared for next year’s seminar.

Committee Reports

Membership Committee: Mary Durban will be contacting chapters and divisions to get information on delegates.

Scholarship Committee: Sarah Patnaude, chair. The application may be going out earlier in the future, Sarah said.

Fundraising Committee: Vice President Soforenko suggested our fundraiser prize should be a fixed amount of money. A fundraising Committee was created and Bernie Werwie was chosen as chair. Jeremy Grandstaff offered to help with the committee. Bernie suggested we work on relationship building with other organizations.

Bell Program: Rodney Neely will reach out to chapter presidents and encourage them to connect with Lions Clubs.

Newsline: John Halverson has initiated discussion with the commissioner in Roanoke to add the Roanoke newspaper to Newsline.

Advocacy: The NFB and DVBI can work together to create more opportunities for success.

Our next board meeting will take place on August 8, 2015 in Richmond.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:06 by President Michael Kasey.

Respectfully submitted
Jennifer Shields, Recording Secretary, National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

Developing Great Leaders Workshop During the Board Meeting

All are invited to attend the next NFBV Board meeting in Richmond, Saturday, may 2nd.

I’m excited to let you know we will devote a small part of our time to a collaborative workshop called “Developing the Next Generation of Leaders“.
This workshop is an opportunity for us to have a collaborative conversation that brings us together to:

  • Build deeper understanding around the qualities of a great leader;
  • Create a more cohesive vision of those qualities that will be needed by the next generation of leaders; and,
  • Define the key actions that we could take to help build the next generation of leaders.

Important #1: I’ve attached all the materials you will need for the workshop and would ask each of you to print, braille, or bring them with you electronically–so that you will have all of the information you need to most effectively participate.

Developing the Next Generation of Leaders-final design

Important #2: We are in need of 5-6 people who could play a recorder role during this workshop. This means that you would be responsible for capturing the outputs from small group discussion. It’s not hard, but it would require you to bring a note taking mechanism such as slate/stylus, laptop or other device that you would need to take notes. Please contact Jeremy Grandstaff using the below contact information, if you can help play this role.

On behalf of the board, we are excited each of you will be lending your voice to this important discussion for our future leaders and I welcome you to contact our workshop facilitator

  • Jeremy Grandstaff
  • Phone: 614-519-3026
  • E-mail:

with any questions prior to the workshop.

State Board Meeting in Richmond on May 2, 2015

National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

Meeting of the Board of Directors

Saturday, May 2, 2015

11:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.

  • Location: Assembly Room
  • Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired
  • 401 Azalea Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227.
  • Agenda coming soon.
  • Lunch Arrangements

    Leon Anderson and Maria have agreed to sell box lunches again at the board meeting.
    They will be bringing 30 – 35 box lunches. They will include either turkey and cheese or ham and cheese sandwiches, chips and a snack for $ 10. He will also have canned sodas and bottled water for $1.
    As always, Leon and Maria will donate 10% of sales to the Richmond Chapter.

2015 Richmond Seminar & January NFBV Board Meeting Workshop

By: Michael Kasey and Tracy Soforenko

The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is a powerful force advocating for blind Virginians. Please join us for the Richmond Seminar on January 19-20, 2015 to ensure our voice is heard in the offices of the General Assembly.

If you have never attended a Richmond Seminar, we strongly encourage you to attend and participate in representative democracy in action.

The issues we will bring to Richmond will most likely include:

  • . Requiring a research based reading media assessment as part of
    every blind and low vision student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) so Virginia’s students who need Braille will get Braille;
  • . Ensuring that Ride Sharing Services (such as Uber and Lift) use
    accessible technology and allow passengers to take guide dogs; and
  • . Support for Virginia Department of the Blind and Vision Impaired
    (DVBI) as a separate agency.

The final list of issues will be presented at the board meeting.

We have bills being drafted that will need co-sponsors. Chapter Presidents should make contact with their General Assembly members in their local offices before the end of the year. If you need assistance in identifying them, contact Michael or Tracy. A meeting with them will go a long way in establishing the recognition that is needed for our visit to Richmond. All Chapter members are encouraged to participate.

Our extended board meeting and workshop is scheduled for Monday, January 19which is Martin Luther King Day. The Board Meeting will be held from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM in the Assembly Room of the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for
the Blind and Vision Impaired, 401 Azalea Avenue, Richmond, VA 23227. .

  • A) Agenda for Board Meeting – We will cover the following topics:
    • . Facilitated Workshop on affiliate Goals and plans for the coming
    • . Affiliate Social Media Strategy
    • . State Convention Lessons Learned & Ideas for the 2015 State
    • . Richmond Seminar briefing for participants
    • A detailed agenda for the board meeting will be provided in January.
  • B) Boxed Lunches – A member of the Richmond chapter, Leon Anderson,
    will be providing boxed lunches on Monday afternoon at a cost of $10 per lunch. You will have a choice of either a Turkey & cheese sub or a ham & cheese sub. All boxed lunches come with chips, fruit and a snack. Beverages will be available for $1. 20% of the proceeds will be donated to the Richmond chapter.
  • C) General Assembly Visits – Our General Assembly visits will be
    Tuesday, January 20. Everyone is assigned to a team with an experienced leader. The General Assembly members and their staff are very receptive and welcoming. They know we are organized, articulate, and well versed in the subject matter. We will put everyone on the team to work, sharing our issues and answering the questions of legislators and their staff.
  • D) Affiliate Funding – Transportation and hotel paid by affiliate!<

    The affiliate will reimburse transportation expenses and hotel expenses.

    Chapter presidents should arrange cost effective transportation for their chapter members. Individuals are expected to share hotel rooms and must obtain hotel reservations themselves at the NFB of Virginia rate. If you need assistance identifying a room share, please contact Michael or Tracy.

Hotel rooms are available at the Crowned Plaza Hotel Downtown, 555 East Canal Street, Richmond, VA 22319. Hotel rooms can be reserved by telephone at 804-788-0900 or 1-855-472-7802. The NFB rate is $94plus tax per night.
The deadline for booking hotel rooms is January 8, 2015. Do not delay, book your room today.

NFBV Richmond Seminar Hotel Reservations

It should not be required but just in case; the 3-digit booking code is NFB.

Some notes from Brian McCann who organized the agreement with Crowne Plaza:

  1. The link above is set for one guest but you can revise the search by
    using the revise search link. Don’t go back to the reservations page and start the search over, this will take off the discount rate.
  2. Your credit card is NOT charged a deposit for a room hold.
  3. Total EST price for the room after taxes is $106 per night.
  4. Cancellation Policy: Canceling your reservation before 6:00 PM (local
    hotel time) on Monday, 19 January, 2015 will result in no charge. Canceling your reservation after 6:00 PM (local hotel time) on 19 January, 2015, or failing to show, will result in a charge of 1 night per room to your credit card. Taxes may apply. Failing to call or show before check-out time after the first night of a reservation will result in cancellation of the remainder of your reservation.”

Overnight self parking is regularly $12 but we have arranged the discounted rate of $7 for hotel guests. See front desk for details.

Chapter presidents must provide the names of the individuals planning to attend from their chapter to Michael and Tracy by Wednesday, January 14,
2015 so we can establish teams in advance. If you have any questions, please contact Michael Kasey at (540)760-3885 or or Tracy Soforenko at (703)635-2085 or