2016 ACB of Maine Annual State Conference

2016 ACB of Maine State Conference

 

The Great City of Waterville was host to this year’s 2016 ACB of Maine State Conference, and as the Mighty Kennebec River continued to flow by, members of the blind community from around the state rolled into town for another great collection of courage, strength and hope. The inspiration wasn’t too shabby either, and as the registration process finished up and the President took the podium, another conference was under way.

 

This year’s collection of speakers included those from DBVI, The Iris Network, Catholic Charities, the Secretary of State’s office, Adaptive Outdoor Education Center, Disability Rights of Maine and the ITN.

 

The agenda was packed, the electricity was charged and the day took shape as the canes and paws made their way into the conference room. With so much going on throughout the day, it’s hard to signify any one item as the height of the day, that is until we all remembered and learned of a few things regarding a very special couple from Central Maine.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Marge and Hugh Awalt indeed were the highlight of the day, and as the cheers and applause filled the room, the love of that entire room was outdone only by the love felt between these two incredible individuals.

 

Hats off to you Marge and Hugh, and may many more sunrises and sunsets be waiting for you both.

 

And so another annual convention has come and gone, and with it, ACB of Maine is gearing up to head through the holiday season, and into 2017 with a spirited step and a full tank of enthusiasm and optimism that this next year will help to bring an amazing amount of spirit and cheer to the blind community of Maine.

 

From all of us at ACB of Maine, Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful holiday season, and may the coming year continue to amaze you all.

 

 

Marge and Hugh Awalt – 50 Years Together

Marge and Hugh Awalt at ACB Maine Conference

Marge and Hugh Awalt at ACB Maine Conference

It happened one October day, fifty years ago. Two souls were brought together by an unseen force. Two unique hearts wrapped around each other, and began beating in rhythm as they embarked on an incredible journey along the hands of time. If ever there were two spirits that were meant to join hands, it was Marge and Hugh Awalt, and the members of ACB of Maine were honored to take part in their amazing celebration of love.

 

The annual conference became one more celebrated stepping stone for this Central Maine couple, and as the day progressed, we were all invited to reminisce and hold high the memories that these two marked their union with. The laughter, the smiles, the applause that filled the convention room was the highlight of all who attended, and for a brief moment in time, time stood still.

 

I’m sure that I join everyone by saying, hats off to you both. Your love, faith and commitment to one another is such a huge part of what makes ACB of Maine so special.

 

The two images accompanying this post are of Marge and Hugh, and their celebration cake. Thank you to all who assembled this warm and memorable occasion. It’s an experience that ACB of Maine will never forget.

 

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2016 ACB National Convention: Mary Ellen Frost Speech to the Women Concerns Committee Sister Power Breakfast

 

Mary Ellen Frost speaks to the Women Concerns Committee Sister Power Breakfast at national convention in Minneapolis Minnesota

Mary Ellen Frost speaks to the Women Concerns Committee Sister Power Breakfast at national convention in Minneapolis Minnesota

At the 2016 ACB National Convention held in Minneapolis Minnesota this July, Mary Ellen Frost spoke to an audience of blind and visually impaired women about how her low vision affected her challenges in life.

 

The following is her speech:

 

 

When I was asked two years ago to speak before this outstanding group of women, I pleasantly declined, thinking you women have accomplished much more in your daily life, business and the work force than I ever could. You have been able to develop skills and come to the forefront in your communities and beyond. As I was preparing for today, one of my morning scriptures was Proverbs 27, which is one of my favorite books of the Bible. It was basically saying let others praise you and not from your own lips, so I wondered how I was going to share with you about myself. After much thought and family conversations I Now feel I am able to stand before you ready to tell my story.

 

I was born albino, which means I have little to no pigment in my hair, skin and eyes. My eyes are extremely sensitive to light. It took years for my parents to make the adjustment; I was different than the other children in the neighborhood.   My parents were young teenagers in love and at a loss about how to handle the situation. By the time I was five my parents had separated and divorced and my mom was left to raise two girls. My younger sister carried all proper genes, golden skin, brown eyes and auburn hair; and was assigned the task of making sure her big sister was not hurt by her surroundings. I often tripped, bumped into things and definitely could not cross the street safely. It was not until I was in the third grade that a teacher reached out for help on my behalf, and I entered the division of the blind system in Massachusetts, where I grew up attending public school. I walked the fine line of having too much sight to attend the Carroll center, but still fell in guidelines of being legally blind. It was not until I was in the tenth grade when another teacher created the final exam with extra large print, and with that assistance I was able to receive my first ever “A” grade. At that point, I then realized that I had potential, and with the right tools, I could achieve. I did receive my high school diploma, only getting by with low grades and words imparted to me; I would never be able to further my education or obtain a regular job in the work force. I had been “main streamed” in school before it became popular and before the (ADA), Americans with Disability Act was effective.

 

Please allow me to pause and interject something here. Before graduating, I was assigned a social worker from the Massachusetts Division of the Blind by the name of Marjorie Gordon, may she rest in heavenly peace. Truly this woman was an inspiration in my life, and as life has its turns, just a few years ago I became acquainted with a lady from Massachusetts who relocated to Maine and also had Marjorie as a counselor. We we’re so happy to have the chance to exchanged stories. We do live in a small world. So, what were my options? With Marjorie’s help I acquired a job within the (B E P). Business Enterprise Program, working at a cafeteria in a mill.

After a short time I left this employment and attended a school in Boston called the Boston school of Pediatts.   Its purpose was to train people to become a qualified professional baby nurse. I passed all the requirements given me, received a white nurses cap and diploma. I love babies and small children. Their needs are simple, and one could almost always be up close and personal, which would be well within my range of sight, but this career was very short lived.

 

At this point in my life, I felt that I was qualified to care for babies and young children; however I soon found that I was not to be the judge of my own qualifications. Their parents were and should be, judge of that. Their main concern was the safety of their child, not to treat me equal. I could not convince them that their child was as safe with my care as they would be in the care of a fully sighted person. I felt that I was not being treated equal. Though at that time I was very hurt, I was not being treated unfairly. My husband and I have had many discussions on the difference between fair and equal. “FAIR & EQUAL” are not the same and should not be confused. Over the years, I have been mulling this topic over in my mind, of how it applies to life. We are taught that all persons are created equal. But it is “the people”, the human effect that decides what is FAIR. Was it fair that I was born different, that my parents divorced, that I had eyes watching me every minute for my own safety that I was unable to do things or go on my own as I pleased? Maybe not.

Equality in human beings does not exist. The truth is none of us are equal, and that is a great and wonderful thing. We all are unique in our skills, our abilities and the challenges we encounter. Equal means things are exactly the same; fair takes on your personal needs. We all have different needs, therefore, for our leaders, teachers, employers and our government to treat all people equal would not be fair. When I was in school I was not treated equal. The state of Massachusetts provided a reader to help me keep up my studies, paid for my summer camp and helped me acquire my first employment. I think being treated fair helped me to get started on the road to independence. Let us remember that at the end of the day we should strive not to treat one another equal, but to treat everyone fair.

 

AS my life moved on, and like in all good stories, the fairy tale came true. I met the man of my dreams and husband of 51 years. He has faith in me enough for both of us. He entrusted me to raise three wonderful children who have given us 9 amazing grandchildren; and thus far, the albino gene has not been seen again.

My life did a 360 degree turn, away from the person who was naive, shy, timid, and afraid to venture out of her comfort zone, to a fly by the seat of her pants kind of girl. I have learned to make the most of the moment, accept challenges, step out of my comfort zone, and here I stand before you today.

 

Twenty years after I graduated from high school, I entered the University of Maine Farmington, in the Early Childhood Development Program. I am proud to say I graduated with honors, along with an associates degree. As my children were entering college I wanted to help with the family expenses. I had the opportunity to work in community and home day care situations. I started taking on positions of leadership in my church and community organizations. I gained confidence, respect and maturity very late in life but WOW what a prize! True happiness can only be found within you. Make it happen, live it and enjoy each day as it unfolds before you. Take part in the experience of living a happy life.

 

You are here in this room ladies because you are a leader. You are here my friends because you choose to BE more, you choose to DO more and as sisters, you accept more. You have joined the ranks of the outstanding women around you here today, and I am honored to be part of the experience. I thank you for the invitation to be present with you.

 

I would like to leave you with the following because I love cooking so much. I have a recipe for you that binds us together as SISTERS!

Mix well into each day one part of Faith

One part of Patience, one part of Courage,

And one part of work.

Add to each day one part of Hope,

Faithfulness, Generosity and Kindness.

Blend with one part Prayer, one part Meditation,

And one Good Deed.

Season with a dash of Good Spirits,

A sprinkle of Fun, and a pinch of Play,

and a cupful of Good Humor.

Pour all this into a vessel of love. Cook thoroughly over radiant Joy,  garnish with a smile,

And serve with

Quietness, Unselfishness and Cheerfulness.

Randolph-Sheppard Act: 80th Anniversary

From: Dan Sippl via leadership <leadership@acblists.org>
Good afternoon Friends and Colleagues.

 

Today we honor and celebrate this program’s historical achievement. On this day in 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Randolph-Sheppard Act.  For 80 years, thousands of blind and visually impaired individuals have embraced the entrepreneurial spirit to play a vital role in the economy of the United States.

 

Think back to 1936, most of America’s blind and visually impaired were on street corners with pencils in tin cans rattling for change to feed themselves and their families.

 

Two sitting Senators with great insight and foresight thought of the idea to create jobs for the blind and to help them off the street corners and into careers. The Business Enterprise Program (BEP) is the single most successful disability-targeted program for providing real opportunities with competitive earnings in American history.

 

The BEP has incredible stories of person’s blind and visually impaired overcoming tremendous personal and physical obstacles to achieve a career.  As we all embodie the idea that with hard work, anyone can embrace a future of their choosing.

 

Why is the BEP important? Because we now have the ability to change a person’s life. What a great job we have as stewards of this program!

 

Happy Anniversary and here to 80 more years!

Let’s all celebrate

 

 

Videographer Lee Arnott and The Blind Bowlers of Maine

Good March to you all from ACB of Maine!

 

As a lot of you probably know, I have had the honor of being involved with the Blind Bowlers of Maine since 2011, and because of it, I have had the privilege of meeting, and becoming friends with quite a few amazing people. This bi-monthly event that I attend usually runs from mid Autumn, through mid spring, and its warming medicine has helped me tremendously these past five years, as those winter months have a habit of trying one’s spirited soul.

 

Last spring, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet a very unique woman. Her name is Lee Arnott, who is a videographer extraordinaire. During a few of our bowling adventures, Lee video taped our candlepin excursions with the Blind Bowler’s group, and her expertly produced video turned out to be just that, a very wonderful and touching look at this time tested event that has brought a community of folks together to share their experiences, strength and hope.

 

Below, you will find a short bio on Lee Arnott, along with a YouTube link to her produced video. As the webmaster of ACB of Maine, and a proud member of the Blind Bowlers of Maine, I thank you Lee for your efforts, your friendship, and for your unique perspectives. I’m sure that I speak for everyone when I say that I wish you the very best with your business endeavors, and thank you again for producing such a well crafted documentary about some of the most inspirational people I know.

 

I would also wish to thank Rolfe Frost for his incredibly gracious and committed efforts. Without you Mr. Frost, none of this would have been possible, and again, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say hats off to you sir, and may each of your days be almost as good as tomorrow.

 

The Blind Bowlers of Maine continue to be proudly sponsored by the Lions Club, and our thanks and appreciation for their gracious contributions will always echo throughout the Central Maine blindness community.

 

Deon Lyons

American Council of the Blind of Maine

 

***

 

 

Lee Arnott is a videographer/editor who resides in the great town of Gardiner, Maine. She owns and operates Sweet Thunder Productions, her video production company.  Lee studied filmmaking at Emerson College, graduating in 1994. She moved to Maine in 2000 and started volunteering at the local community TV station, producing documentaries about local artists and area events. In 2009 she set out to start her own production company, officially opening the doors to Sweet Thunder Productions in 2010. Lee produces Maine wedding videos, marketing and web videos for businesses and non-profits; instructional, educational and  corporate videos throughout the State of Maine. Her passion is documentaries about people and social causes.

 

The Blind Bowlers Club video is a result of Rolfe Frost, a Clinton, Maine Lions Club member, contacting Lee about producing a short video about his Saturday bus ride throughout Central Maine, picking up blind residents and taking them bowling and out to lunch. Lee traveled with Rolfe on four Saturdays in February, March and April, filming on the bus and at the 1-7-10 Bowling Alley in Augusta. The video combines humor, camaraderie, and the sport of bowling. Rolfe, along with long time bowler Marj Awalt, are featured throughout the video lending their perspectives with regards to the bowling experience, the community and what it means to them personally.

 

The 8 1/2 minute video crafted by Ms. Arnott has been screened at the Maine Lion’s Club Annual Convention, online, and at various related events.

 

To view this wonderful video via YouTube, click on the  following link:

 

https://youtu.be/Hb60S2mupEw

 

Lee’s contact information:

Lee Arnott

Sweet Thunder Productions

(207) 441-7011

www.sweetthunderproductions.com

Like us on Facebook!

www.facebook.com/SweetThunderProductions