by Kim Charlson
(Editor’s Note: Look for parts 2 and 3 of this report in the October “E-Forum” and November “Braille Forum.”)
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a true honor for me to come before you for my second report as president of the American Council of the Blind. Time just keeps flying by, and I have much to report to you since our conference in Las Vegas last year. It has continued to be a whirlwind of activity, travel, calls, committee meetings, e-mail, more calls, and decision-making in collaboration with leaders to keep our organization moving forward on so many fronts.
I have come before you on this warm Sunday evening in July here in Dallas to offer my report to you, the thousands of men and women comprising our strong ACB family. Whether you are attending this, our 54th annual national conference and convention in person, or listening from across the nation and around the world on ACB Radio, you are all an important part of our dynamic and democratic organization. I want to publicly acknowledge the tremendous support and participation from so many of you at the local, state, and national levels; for your affiliates, committees or task forces, or on issues of personal importance. Without your efforts, there would be no American Council of the Blind.
ACB continues to address many issues and challenges of all types since last we gathered together. I'll cover the highlights and how we are dealing with them over the next several minutes.
First, I would like to deliver some well-deserved “thank-yous.” It is widely known that the everyday work of ACB is carried out by our small, yet highly dedicated professional and administrative staff. In our Minnesota office, we rely on Lori, Nancy, and Dee to keep the business wheels turning.
Heading this important team is controller Lane Waters, who always knows what’s going on with everything all the time … I don’t know how he does it.
In the Arlington, Va., you may have heard a new voice on our team – Kelly Gasque. She succeeds Francine Patterson, who left ACB in December. Kelly is our new administrative assistant, starting with ACB in March. She is enthusiastic, efficient, creative, and has really taken to working with ACB’s social media team with Twitter and Facebook. She is here at the convention, so please introduce yourself to her this week.
Our director of external affairs and policy, Eric Bridges, and “ACB Braille Forum” editor, Sharon Lovering, work daily to make our lives and the lives of blind and visually impaired people everywhere better.
Now, let me acknowledge the woman who has served ACB for the past 17 years, first as the director of advocacy, and then later as executive director, Melanie Brunson. Melanie announced in early June that she will be leaving ACB at the end of September to spend more time with family, reading books and enjoying bluegrass music. She will be on the lookout to identify other ways she can continue to work in the future for the advancement of people who are blind. We will further recognize Melanie on Wednesday morning with a special ceremony featuring five ACB presidents. As you see Melanie around the convention this week, let her know your appreciation for all of her work for ACB. Please join me now in a round of applause to recognize Melanie’s numerous contributions and years of service to the American Council of the Blind.
Thanks must also go to our contract staff – Tom Tobin, director of development, and to Jo Steigerwald, our grant writer, who left ACB employment July 1st to pursue an exciting full-time fund-raising opportunity. We will truly miss Jo, who expanded ACB’s grant-writing activities to a new and successful level. She is leaving a solid foundation for our next grant writer to build upon.
Joel Snyder, director of the Audio Description Project, Larry Turnbull, managing director of ACB Radio, and web site administrator, Annette Carter, all continue to work extremely hard for ACB. I extend to each of you a special thank you and commend you all for your efforts on behalf of ACB.
I want to recognize and thank the 15 other members of the ACB board of directors and the members of the board of publications for their service. I think I have kept them all pretty busy this year … and Denise Colley, the BOP chair, has kept that group working very hard as well. In turn, both groups have made sure to keep me on track with the issues and on my toes.
At the close of this convention, one ACB officer will be stepping down for health and other personal reasons. I want to thank Marlaina Lieberg for her service as second vice president for the past two years. She has made many valuable contributions to ACB, and I know she will continue to do what she can manage in the future. Thank you, Marlaina, and we all wish you well!
In addition, I want to thank the members of the board of publications – Denise Colley, Ron Brooks, Doug Powell, Judy Wilkinson and Tom Mitchell, for their dedicated service to ACB.
I can’t go on thanking people without recognizing the large group of leaders who steer and guide ACB’s more than 40 different committees and task forces. This year, in addition to this group of leaders, ACB has utilized several expert working teams to help craft regulatory comments on WIOA, the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act, Department of Justice comments on audio description in movie theaters, Section 508 comments to the Access Board, and the most recent team working on ACB’s comments on the FCC National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program. These groups help Eric Bridges tremendously, because one person just can’t get all the work done that needs to happen. We couldn’t get it done without all of you. You all have my heartfelt personal thanks!
Finally, let me take just a moment to recognize the help and support I receive every day from my family. My husband, Brian, continues to be incredibly supportive. He lets me get away with not doing the laundry, or other chores, so I can be on a conference call or return phone calls or e-mail. I couldn’t do all that I need to do in this role without his support, and that of my life sister, Vicki. Thank you to both of you for making it possible for me to serve ACB! I love you both!
Now, to the real nuts and bolts of my report. Much of the work of the organization isn’t the moments of success with press releases and passage of legislation, but rather the day-to-day work developing and supporting our ACB infrastructure to ensure that we have the financial resources to work on our mission. I want to acknowledge ACB’s establishment of the Annual Giving Society. Earlier this evening, we hosted the first Annual Giving Society’s reception. This year, we had 193 participants of the Annual Giving Society, who collectively contributed over $201,000 to ACB. The Annual Giving Society levels include: the Leader’s Society, Advocate’s Society, the Champion’s Society, and the President’s Society for those who donate $5,000 or more annually. I’d like to ask all of the members of the Annual Giving Societies, who are present this evening, to stand up and be recognized.
Other areas where ACB has made progress in support of our work is with planned giving, grant writing, online donations, corporate and foundation grant support, the Monthly Monetary Support program, and ACB’s Mini Mall, just to name a few.
ACB president Kim Charlson, wearing a blue-and-green floral print dress and dark sunglasses, stands on stage and speaks into the lectern mike. The blue-and-white ACB banner is just visible behind her head, hanging from the top pole of the pipe-and-drape setup.