The Vigilant: June 2018

Joe Orozco, Editor

From the President’s Desk

Our NFB national convention is coming up fast. As you can imagine, things are rather busy at all levels of the organization. The frenzy of activities is even more exciting because we are part of the 2018 Convention Host Committee. Like many of you, I am energized by the great spirit of camaraderie this annual tradition offers. I look forward to connecting with friends, being inspired by our members pushing themselves to try new things and recharging my batteries with our philosophy at our “Federation family Reunion.”

Virginia Caucus

Please plan to join us at the Virginia Caucus on Wednesday, July 4 at 10:00 PM in Weikia 6.

Come meet our McDonald Fellowship and Jernigan Scholarship finalists as well as our National Scholarship finalist. Participate in our banquet exchange. Learn about the happenings across our various affiliate programs and enjoy fellowship with other Virginians and guests from across the country.

For additional details, contact:

Tracy Soforenko
Phone: 202-285-4595

Banquet Ticket Exchange at Convention

Everyone should plan to be at the banquet which serves as the convention high point. It would be great if we could sit together to cheer on our 2 National Scholarship Finalists and have some fun with the enthusiasm with a few Virginia cheers.

Banquet tickets are received from registration but you must exchange your ticket for a separate ticket to get a specific seat at a table. When you get your ticket, write your name on the ticket with print or Braille. If you want a vegetarian or special meal, also write that on the ticket. please speak to Evelyn Valdez who is coordinating Virginia’s banquet ticket exchange. Please make certain you highlight any special needs for meals. You can catch Evelyn at our affiliate caucus on Wednesday, July 4, or you may reach her via phone: 908-803-4891, or via email at: .

Do not delay. Evelyn will need to turn in tickets on the first day of General Session so please get her your tickets. If you want to sit with a specific group, give the tickets to Evelyn in a batch so she can ensure you can sit together at the same table. I believe banquet tables will hold up to 10 people.

Welcom Concert

I hope you are excited about our Welcome Concert scheduled for Friday, July 6 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Besides our headliner, APL.De.Ap from the Black Eyed Peas, we have tremendous performers including:

  • Marion Gwizdala, who sings and plays acoustic guitar
  • Precious Perez, who sings classic and rhythm & blues while playing the ukulele accompanied by a bongo player
  • James Brown, who will be leading a number of Federation songs such as Live the Life You Want and other recent Federation favorites

We will be selling $10 wrist bands which will be available for sale at the Welcome Table in the Lobby, the Hospitality Suite, the Virginia Table in the Exhibit Hall, and at the SUN table. All proceeds from the wrist band sales should be kept separate from other sales and should be provided to Sean McMahon. Sean can be reached on his mobile phone at 520 247-2197 or email at

Virginia Table in the Exhibit Hall (D19)

In order for the Virginia affiliate to accomplish all our goals, we need to fund the organization. One way we raise funds is by selling products at the Virginia table in the exhibit hall. This year, the Virginia table is D19.

We need you to work a shift at the exhibit hall. You will be partnered with someone else and it is a great way to make new connections and help us raise necessary funds.
While the Exhibit Hall is open each state, affiliate has their own table. At that table we get to meet and greet other fellow Federationists and their guests, sell our products (our peanuts are always a big hit,) and be an overall ambassador for our affiliate. With the exception of the General Sessions, the Exhibit Hall is the main hub of the convention.

Listed below are the times that our table will be operating and we will need individuals to fill those slots.

  • Wednesday, July 4th: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Thursday, July 5th: 8:30 am to 5:00 pm
  • Friday, July 6th: 12:00 noon to 1:45 pm and 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
  • Saturday, July 7th: 12:00 noon to 1:45 pm.

All shifts are currently available. Earl will also need a few individuals to assist him with setting up our table prior to our 11:00 am opening on Wednesday, July 4th and helping to break the table down after closing on Saturday July 7th.

Please contact Earl at the information listed below and if you have some desired shifts you would prefer to work let him know so he can try to accommodate you.
You can reach him via email at: or via cell phone at: (804) 252-8998.

Six Dot Dash

On June 3, the NFB of Virginia had 9 participants in the National Federation of the Blind Six Dot Dash in Baltimore. It was an outstanding event and we had a blast. Thanks to the generosity of President Riccobono, we had the opportunity to stay overnight at the Jernigan Institute and President Riccobono even met us for dessert and coffee back at the center after a long night working on the banquet address.

We were concerned because the weather reports predicted a downpour in the morning. However, the weather held out and it was a gorgeous cool morning with more than 100 participants and great fellowship. Potomac Chapter member Carl KNOETTNER had the fastest time in his age cohort. I will admit that I was having fun chatting with old friends and new during my walk of the 6 kilometers and did not have a fast time but it was a great morning.

Our Virginia team had a great time and truly enjoyed participating in this exciting event. The race was efficiently run, the course was beautiful, and we enjoyed the company of Federationists and friends from Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia.

Joe Ruffalo, a member of our National Board of Directors and President of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey summed up the event more eloquently than I could:

“Every step I took was one step closer to the finish line however, we never
finish as the finish line should become our new starting line.
Every step I took was a step closer for Braille literacy for all.
Every step I took was in memory for all that came before us to make our
lives easier than the generation that came before us.
every step I took was a step for the next generation that is learning that
it is respectable to be blind.
Every step I took wants me to share the gift of the Federation.
Every step I took with my Federation family to raise expectations to live
the life we want was a step of joy!”

Project RISE at the Jernigan Institute

Over the weekend of June 8-10, our Project RISE students enjoyed an engaging program at the NFB Jernigan Institute. While the newsletter provides greater detail on this fantastic program, I wanted to share that I truly enjoyed getting to know these outstanding students, the staff and mentors and the volunteers who made this possible. I am impressed by our students, thrilled by the capabilities of the staff and grateful for the support from our National Center staff. It was an honor to be part of something that worked so well.

Visiting chapters

As I have mentioned, I really enjoy meeting our members in person. I am very pleased to attend the June 21 Fairfax Chapter meeting. Please let me know what your chapter is planning and maybe I can join you at your next chapter event.

As I said, it’s a busy time for us, and I hope you are finding a way to be a part of the activity. I mean this sincerely, it is not the same without you, so if we have missed you recently, please consider coming back soon.

Yours in service,

Tracy Soforenko, President
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia

This Month’s Words of Inspiration

“Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”–Sam Ewing

Products to be sold at convention

From Michael Kasey, Fundraising Committee Chair and Earl Everett, Virginia Table Coordinator.

In addition to Welcome Concert Wrist Bands, we will be selling the following products:
We encourage you to help sell our items at convention, either at the Virginia table or as you travel around the Rosen Shingle Creek property. You may obtain these from either Michael Kasey, Mark Roane or Earl Everett at convention.

  1. Virginia Peanuts – Available in salted or butter toasted. We will sell these for $3 per bag or 2 bags for $5
  2. Maxell wired ear buds with a .5 standard jack for only $5.
  3. Two in One Lightning Adapter to allow for connecting both standard earphones and a charging cable simultaneously. Since the iPhone 7, wired headphones and the charging cable share the same flat Lightning port. If you need to charge your phone and still use 3.5-millimeter earphones, you need this 2 in 1 adapter. This $10 device is well built and will be a great asset.
  4. Leather Cross Body Bag – this Genuine Leather bag is ideal for holding your Aira Google Glasses and a MiFi or any number of other items. Measurements: height 7.8 inches; Width: 9 inches. Fully satin lined interior. Various colors including black, dark blue, red, and purple. Strap drop is adjustable from 14 to 28 inches. This bag can be worn over your shoulder or around your neck. Safe and secure, great for a small every day bag. This bag would be fantastic for keeping your Aira glasses and My-fi together. Suggested price $15.00 per bag.

The 2018 NFB Southeast Regional Student Seminar

An opportunity to sharpen self-advocacy, confidence, and social networking skills for blind students.

Eligibility: Blind High School and college students in the southeast states. Other interested students are welcomed to attend.

Activities Include: Engaging workshops with Federation mentors, interactive confidence-building opportunities, and chances to apply NFB philosophy to real world situations.

When: August 10-12, 2018

Where: National Federation of the Blind
The Jernigan institute
200 East Wells St.
Baltimore, MD 21230

To register, please contact Naim abu El-Hawa, Vice President, Virginia Association of Blind Students at 202.848.8932.

Registration opens on May 15, 2018 and closes on July 15, 2018. For any questions about this event, please contact Robert Parsons at 804.801.7674. Students that attend school in Virginia or Washington D.C. are eligible to receive a $25 subsidy to assist with travel expenses to the event.

Independence Market volunteers Needed

Mrs. Maurer and the NFB community Relations Team is compiling the schedules for the Independence Market demonstrators/helpers, storekeepers/pay station attendants, line marshals, and cashiers at the 2018 NFB National Convention.
We are looking for some people to work shifts and ask you to volunteer by emailing the Community relations Team at

Please reach out to them soon so you can get a shift that works for your schedule.

It is contemplated that each demonstrator/helper will work a four-hour (morning or afternoon) and a two-hour (lunch) shift. This is only a total of six hours.

As you may be aware, there are other duties to be fulfilled in the market. The shift times we will assign to line marshals or other positions within the market will be the same as the ones for demonstrators/helpers and the storekeepers/pay station attendants. The exception is cashiers. The days the cashiers work, their shifts will be extended to accommodate the count out procedure at the end of the shift.

Please consider helping to make the Independence Market a great place to find jus the items our members need.

A Loving Donation

From Brian and Danielle McCann (formerly Trevino)

Dear NFBV Family,

Over the past two years, we have been incredibly blessed to have found love and happiness with one another and on May 12 of this year, we were united in marriage. The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia has played an important role in our lives. Your support of us as individuals as well as us as a couple has truly meant a lot.
We believe that happiness and joy should be shared so as one of our wedding favors, we decided to give a small gift that will hopefully keep on giving.

It was a beach-themed wedding so to keep with the style, we did the following:

We placed organza bags in each guest’s place at the tables. Each bag had six gold coins in it. On our sweetheart table, we arranged three treasure chests. Each chest was designated for one of the three charitable organizations that have impacted our lives the most. Guiding Eyes, in honor of Brian’s guide dog Julie, the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia which was instrumental in the crossing of our paths, and the seeing Eye, in honor of Danielle’s guide dogs Abbie, Valla, Katie, and currently, Schulz.

We invited our guests to come up to our table and place their coins in the chest(s) of their choosing with the promise that we would count up the coins and donate the equivalent dollar amount to the three organizations.

We’d like to let you know that the NFB of Virginia’s chest had 73 coins in it so we are donating $73.00 with our sincere gratitude for the love and support you have given to us.

With love,

Brian and Danielle McCann

Do You Want to be Your Own Boss?
By Joe Orozco

I’ve heard blind people give advice that in today’s job market, starting your own business is a viable option. And, it is, but most people fail to see the reality of going at it alone. I run a freelance copywriting business outside of my day job. It keeps me afloat when our federal government shuts down, and I have to go to work without getting paid. I figure maybe one day I’ll grow old and retire from catching bad people, but when that day comes, I had better be prepared to make a smart transition.

Here’s a blog post I previously wrote for my freelance blog:

Self-employment looks appealing for someone who wants to quit a job they hate. Working for yourself, however, does not mean total, or instant, freedom. Being the boss will put you in direct contact with the obligations from which you were once shielded.

As a self-employed entrepreneur you will need to work twice as hard to enjoy the benefits you had as someone else’s employee. You will need to pay for your own health and life insurance, account for your full share of taxes, cultivate your own retirement plan, and cover your own vacation and sick leave. We haven’t even begun touching on the expense of day-to-day operations. Working for someone else generally means you will have a steady check and benefits even in slow months. If you cannot meet the obligations of maintaining a business with enough money left over to pay yourself, you are probably not ready to fly solo.

The idea that you can be your own boss is something of a mirage. Someone outside of your control will always call the shots. If your clients aren’t satisfied, your clients won’t buy your product or service. True, you can pick and choose the assignments you take, but you don’t get a complete picture of what it is like to work for someone until you’ve actually started working for them. Trust me; you will eventually wind up working with people far worse than the supervisor you thought you hated.

Are you prepared to stake your reputation on resolving conflicts with difficult customers? Working for someone else means personal differences can generally be kept within a department or within the company. Working for yourself, however, means you are the company, and the negative repercussions of personal differences could taint the customer base you serve. Word of mouth is just as good at destroying as it is at promoting.

But, you say, I am a creative type whose only boss is my mind!

Can you feel me patting your head?

There is a difference between doing something as a hobby and doing something to make a living. Even authors who spend hours working on the next bestseller are beholden to their readers to keep the royalties flowing. If readers aren’t buying what you have to say, it’s going to be a while before you can enjoy the flexibility of writing from a balcony overlooking a sun-swept beach.

Given all my negativity, you may have gotten the impression that I am against your dream to start your own venture. On the contrary, I am squarely in your corner, but I despise marketers who make it seem as though the only key ingredient to successful self-employment is desire. You need time, talent, and the tenacity to persevere when the chips are down, because more than 90% of businesses fold in the first five years.

Tips for Preparing for the Plunge

  • Think about the kind of work you can still see yourself doing in ten years.
  • Network inside and outside of your current job to learn your trade and identify potential customers.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open for partners or contractors who can help lift your business idea.
  • Keep your day job and work for a couple clients after hours to get a taste for self-employment.
  • Start putting money aside that could sustain you for up to a year.
  • Minimize, or outright eliminate, any looming debt that could hurt your credit.
  • Familiarize yourself with the tasks you enjoy doing and those tasks you would rather outsource.
  • Do not leave your current job under negative terms; your boss could be an asset.
  • Expect the unexpected. If you’re injured and can’t work, who will pick up the slack?

Self-employment is an exciting prospect. There is something appealing about setting your own schedule, determining your own worth, and having something to show for your hard work, but that’s just it. Going into business for yourself full-time means raw determination.

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.