by Christine A. Hutchinson

The Four Corners Regional Conference, featuring state affiliate participants from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah, was held on Sept. 11, 2004 in Salt Lake City. Participants came for leadership training, networking, and to obtain vital information to bring back to the grassroots level. Participants marked this day with hope and prosperity for the leadership for the future of the American Council of the Blind.

The conference was held at the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Bill Gippson, director of training, donated the use of the building, provided staff to volunteer during the conference, and donated boxed lunches for conference attendees.

The morning began with a brief moment of silence for those lost on September 11, 2001. A Boy Scout troop led by Scoutmaster Brian LaStage presented the flags and led the assembly in the Pledge of Allegiance. Following an invocation were the speakers: Bill Gippson; Utah Council of the Blind President Bernece Stradley; ACB of New Mexico President Rene Fernandez; Arizona Council of the Blind President Kevin Chinn; and ACB of Colorado President Christine Hutchinson.

Mitch Pomerantz, ACB second vice president, gave an overview of ACB. He discussed ACB's mission, some of its strengths and weaknesses, projects and programs currently being focused upon by ACB, and some of the goals it has for the future. Sue Ammeter, membership committee chair, and treasurer Ardis Bazyn gave a presentation titled "All About ACB Membership & Growing Your Membership at a Grassroots Level."

Utah Council executive director Leslie Gertsch and AzCB president Kevin Chinn provided answers to the questions of "what's happening on the national level with legislation" and ways to create and motivate legislative change on a local level. Chinn focused on the information he obtained while attending the 2004 legislative seminar. He gave information on the Rehabilitation Restoration Act, descriptive video, charitable donation legislation, IDEA, transportation legislation, and the Help America Vote Act, just to name a few.

Gertsch focused on the importance of being active in legislation on a local level. She related a story of an 80-year-old man and his experience obtaining dental coverage. He went to the legislature, taking along a bottle of his top teeth, which he'd lost due to lack of dental coverage. He stood and said, "I am here to impress upon the legislators to impact change for dental coverage for all disabled in Utah. Listen." He shook the bottle of teeth. "Hear that? Those are my top teeth that I have lost because of not having dental insurance. Do you want me to lose the bottom teeth as well? Please don't let anyone else lose their teeth like I have!"

This man made such an impact on the legislators that they passed dental insurance coverage for the disabled in Utah. Gertsch told the group that they can make a difference and that it only takes one person.

Robert's Rules are an important part of the leadership process. Vicki Flake, DSBVI educational instructor, made this information fun and easy to understand. To get a copy of her presentation, contact her at [email protected].

The next section featured an ADA recap, presented by Geoff Ames of the Rocky Mountain ADA Information Technology Center. He gave a lot of great information to the audience. Ames brought handouts in different media, and took time afterward to answer questions.

The final topic was fund-raising. Linda Braithwaite, immediate past president of Utah, provided examples of different ways the local affiliates can raise funds. She shared with her listeners how UCB is successfully raising funds for programs and activities. She told them that it is a difficult task to ask for donations, grants, and volunteerism for fund- raising, yet it is important.

Rene Fernandez wrapped up the conference by leading the attendees in a verbal conference survey. New Mexico will chair and host the next ACB Four Corners Conference.

During the survey, Pomerantz and Ammeter shared a story from the past. In 1982, Grant Mack held a similar leadership training seminar in Utah. He wanted the states of California, Idaho, Washington, and New Mexico to learn about ACB and the importance of such an organization. Shortly afterward, all four states joined ACB. Grant was positively impacting the blind and visually impaired community with leadership. Not knowing Grant Mack and living in Utah for almost eight years, I somehow felt that he was watching over me.

After we completed the day's work, we all went to the hospitality room. Ammeter and AzCB sponsored a great way to unwind and wrap up the conference. Thank you to all who participated in the event; we hope to see you next year in New Mexico!

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