by Cindy Hollis
As we reflect on the past few years, it’s clear that the world has been through unprecedented challenges. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, people all over the world found themselves grappling with isolation and the loss of their usual social outlets. Our ACB membership and the blind community as a whole was no different. Yet, out of these challenging circumstances, the ACB Community was born, emerging out of necessity, growing stronger over time, and continuing to make a difference in the lives of many.
During a time when it was difficult, if not impossible, to meet in person, the virtual doors of Community were opened for anyone who wished to enter, regardless of membership or affiliation. The ACB Community quickly became a lifeline for many, a vibrant and dynamic hub of diverse activities and events, helping people connect, share, and grow.
Since we began in March 2020, our ACB Community has achieved remarkable milestones, including hosting over 15,000 events held on Zoom, Clubhouse, and streamed on ACB Media. Hosts, moderators, streamers, and facilitators are all members of the community who are blind or low vision, ensuring that the environment remains safe, respectful, and welcoming for all.
The ACB Community has been fearless in trying new things, experimenting with a wide range of activities and support systems. From recipe swaps and cooking presentations to exercise classes, technology discussions to peer support groups, crafting classes to learning languages, assistance with braille and low vision aids, and even games to music, we’ve delved into a multitude of areas.
One of the most heart-warming traditions that have emerged from this community is the annual Friendsgiving event held each Thanksgiving Day, providing a place for members of the ACB Community to gather and ensuring nobody feels alone during this important holiday. And once again, we are gearing up for our annual Christmas Tree Lighting on Christmas Eve. This event is not just about decorating a tree with our virtual ornaments but a symbol of unity and hope during the holiday season. One highlight of this event is the tradition of choosing a member to place the star on the tree. This act is symbolic of the inclusivity and togetherness that the community embodies.
As we approach the end of 2023 and look ahead to 2024, a much-anticipated tradition is the Community-athon, a celebration which honors the dedicated volunteers and community members who work tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of many. It’s 12 hours of showcasing our events, entertainment, prizes, and a fundraising effort to support our beloved ACB Community platform.
However, the ACB Community isn’t just about activities; it’s about building relationships and fostering a sense of belonging. For instance, we’ve held a few episodes of the Not-So-Newlywed Game where some of our ACB couples landed themselves in the hot seat for fun and lots of laughter. And our one-time Virtual Couples Connection (our version of the old TV show “The Dating Game”) brought together one couple who will be married at the end of 2023.
Beyond the events themselves, we have brought together people of all ages and from all corners of the world to support and empower one another. Our ACB Community serves as a support system for its members. It’s a place where individuals advocate for one another, learn together, laugh, and cheer each other on. In the midst of a challenging and uncertain world, this community provides a sense of belonging and hope.
If you’ve yet to find your way to this amazing ACB Community, know that there is always room at the table for you. The ACB Community offers a daily schedule of events you can access either through a daily email or by calling 1-800-424-8666, extension 1024. If you’re interested in becoming a host or facilitating your own event, or if you’d like to sign up to receive the daily schedule, don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]. We are always looking to welcome new members to our ACB Community and expand our vibrant and supportive framily (that’s a word coined within our community embodying friends and family).
Maybe the ACB Community was born out of necessity during a time in our history none of us could have ever imagined, a pandemic, but it has grown into a global family that brings hope, connection, and support to so many. Community reminds us that we never have to be alone. Community exists because of each of us who gives in our own way. The holiday season is a time to reflect on the things which matter most in our lives. For each who read this, we hope you have or will experience the gift of Community.