by Kim Charlson
As my third and final term as president of ACB winds down, I can attest to the importance of the relationships I have developed with ACB’s staff and members. I have met so many people who care about ACB and are working incredibly hard every day to make things better for others who are blind or visually impaired in their communities, their states, or in our nation. The passion and dedication to a cause, a principle, an event, a piece of legislation at the state legislature, or making a new member feel welcome and important, are all critical to the overall success of whatever relationship is being developed. It all makes a huge difference in our affiliate at the local, state, and national levels.
As I have had the opportunity to travel and visit our affiliates, I have met leaders doing so many different things with their members. This past fall, my visits included Illinois and Kentucky. It was my first visit to Illinois, and they are a passionate, committed, determined group, working hard in their state on many issues including transportation, which impacts everyone. They were also fighting to preserve blindness services from severe budget cuts. The affiliate’s leaders all have complex lives -- raising children, working full-time, caring for family members, but no matter what other things were going on in their lives, they found time and put their affiliate responsibilities at the forefront. No one made excuses for not getting things done, and if they needed assistance to finish a task, they asked others for help. That kind of teamwork really makes a difference for getting things done smoothly to everyone’s advantage.
My visit to Kentucky was a repeat one – and I enjoyed every minute of it. Brian was the main guest as a fellow affiliate president, but they were very resourceful at putting us both to work. We spoke about Aira, technology, library services, guide dog issues, and enjoyed amazing food, fellowship, and some great shopping in their exhibit area. The Kentucky Council of the Blind has such a strong sense of self-support, and they rely on one another to resolve many issues that come up. The collective leadership is very skilled at solving problems, getting technology to work correctly, fixing a device that isn’t functioning properly, and giving one another that extra level of personal support when needed.
The other relationship I observed was a strong bond between KCB and their dedicated volunteers from the JW – many of the same people who help every year at our national convention. Their dedication and commitment to helping ACB as supportive volunteers is another relationship we value for what it brings to us; and the JW would say they value the relationship with ACB as well for what it brings to them. Their support is so valuable at our national convention, and many of you who attend conventions have probably been assisted by their patient, calm presence during those hectic moments when you didn’t know how to get to an important session.
Whether it’s members or volunteers, whether it’s local, state, or national ACB affiliates or committees, our relationships with one another and with our organization are important. They are essential to what we all do every day to expand our inclusion in society, and to increase the opportunities for independence for all people who are blind and visually impaired. That’s a relationship I will continue to grow and foster as long as I possibly can, because the outcomes are priceless for every one of us!