Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired

Official Newsletter of the Michigan Council
of the
Blind and Visually Impaired

An Affiliate of The American Council of the Blind

     The Michigan Council of the blind and Visually Impaired unites people: to promote cultural, social, and personal growth, as well as understanding toward progress, dignity, equality in issues regarding blindness and visual impairment.

Joe Sibley, President
Michael Geno, Past President
Rosemarie Facilla, First Vice President
James Moore, Second Vice President
Deb Wild, Secretary
Matt Livingston, Treasurer
Donna Rose, Assistant Treasurer

General Inquiries regarding the activities of MCBVI may be made by calling toll-free 888-956-2284, or we can be contacted by email at, mcbvi1@verizon.net

Donna Rose, Editor
(517) 333-9117
1-877 254-6397
wild-rose@sbcglobal.net

From the President
By Joe Sibley, MCBVI President

E-mail address: Joe.sibley1@sbcglobal.net

     Well I'm not sure if it's old age or what but time sure seems to be moving quickly these days. We are well into 2009, a good time to reflect on the events and most important the blessings of the past year. Much has changed in my life in the past 12 months, and a big wonderful change is coming to me in 2009 which you will know about soon. I am very blessed including the many wonderful people I have come to know in MCBVI. It is also a good time to take a good look at this organization and examine what we are doing well, and where do we need some improvement. Our membership has grown in recent years, but how do we spread the word to the hundreds of blind or visually impaired people in this state that are not members about the benefits of MCBVI membership. Why are some chapters growing while others are struggling? How can we make MCBVI more attractive to potential young members?  We discussed that last issue at our January board meeting.
Gwen Botting, president of Michigan Parents of Visually Impaired (MPVI) joined us to discuss MPVI and also a new comprehensive design team (CDT) that she is heading up to address the serious issues in the state's educational system and the frequent poor handling of students who are blind or visually impaired. I consider it a vital part of our organization's outreach to participate in this process. Too many of our youth are being cheated out of preparation to lead a full and productive life. If this is also a passion of yours, please contact me and I will put you in touch with Gwen. The future of MCBVI depends on our bringing new younger members to the table to continue our work.
I truly appreciate the wonderful people serving on our board of directors and chairing the vital committees to keep things moving along. One need that we need to address is to find someone willing to chair our fund raising efforts. An ideal candidate would be one who has experience in, or is willing to learn about writing grants and seeking other funding sources. Thinking outside the box could be very helpful. We also need individuals interested in becoming historians for our organization, keeping records of our newsletters and other activities.  We are looking for interested writers to update our MCBVI handbook as well.  Please contact me if you are interested or know someone who might be.
As of this writing, the new and improved MCBVI website is under construction thanks to the efforts of Michael Geno. This will be a wonderful source of information and entertainment for those both inside and outside the organization. Watch for an upcoming announcement about our new URL in an upcoming issue of the newsletter. I am extremely excited about this improved version of our organization's website.
Please feel free to contact me with any thoughts or suggestions you have regarding this organization. Having only held this office for a few months now, I welcome input from members. It is still my goal to visit every chapter this year.
Finally, a major salute to Donna Rose who does a wonderful job in putting this newsletter together. I'm not just buttering her up because I am late getting this column to her, Donna does a great job in finding and creating content and putting it together in a way that allows MCBVI to shine. I am proud of our newsletter, great job Donna!
Have a wonderful spring and be thankful for everything you have, and everyone you know!
Joe

Remembering Carlton By Chris Schumacher

     His ministry.  That is how Carlton George, who went home to be with the Lord on January 15th, 2009, saw providing transportation and assistance to the members of the Detroit Northwest Chapter and MCBVI as well as to other blind and visually impaired people in the Detroit area.  Many of us first met Carlton through Bonnie Weaver, a former member of our chapter, as he was a volunteer driver for the agency where she worked and eventually began bringing her and her daughter to chapter meetings. As relationships evolved, he began offering his services to other members of our chapter.  I remember how frustrated he would get when staff in doctors' offices or waitresses in restaurants would speak to him rather than ask the blind person with him.  He would say, "Don't ask me.  I'm just the driver."  Initially, I think he did feel he was "just the driver" because there were many times instead of staying in meetings he would sit in his car and wait for us or run other errands.  However, we encouraged him to stay with us, and he truly became a vital part of our organization.  At our last meeting in November we were having a discussion about our chapter's future, projects we would like to do, things we had done in the past, etc.  Carlton was passionate about the fact that no matter how many actual projects we did or how much money we raised, the main thing we could be proud of was how we support each other and the sense of family that we have in our group.
When driving some members of our chapter to an MCBVI board meeting, Carlton usually picked me up first.  I got in the back of his car, knowing that he was going to get George and Sue and George would sit in the front.  Carlton said, "Now we'll be like driving Miss Daisy!"  That was Carlton, a great guy with a great sense of humor.  However, My fondest memory of him is when some of us went to the Visions 2006 event in Ann Arbor.  We were at the Envision America table looking at the ID Mate Omni bar code reader.  Carlton could see that I was interested in this but was hesitant about its hefty price tag.  He literally took over the sales representative's job of explaining it to me as he was familiar with it.  Apparently, one of the other ladies that he drove for had one and found that it helped her a great deal, and he wanted that for me.  That was Carlton, enabling and empowering.  I will always think of him when I use it now.
So no, Carlton.  You were not "just the driver."  You were a dear friend and a member of our Detroit Northwest Chapter and MCBVI family.  Yes, you will be greatly missed, but as the Vince Gill song says, "Go rest high on that mountain.  Son, your work on earth is done."

When Possible Use Local Phone Numbers
By Donna Rose, Editor

     The MCBVI Board of Directors asks you not to use our toll free numbers unless you do not have flat rate long distance service.  Last year our phone bill for our toll free usage was over $800.  We pay for calls to these numbers and not to have the numbers themselves.  Instead we ask you to use the local number listed for the person you want to contact.  We want you to be able to get a hold of us, so if you don't have flat rate long distance service on your land line or cell phone, you may use the toll free at your own discretion.  Please understand the toll free numbers are set aside solely for MCBVI business.

Save The Date:  MCBVI 2009 Convention

     The 2009 MCBVI Convention will once again be held at The Howard Johnson's Plaza Hotel, 255 28th street SW in Wyoming from October 8th through the 11th.  Stay tuned for more details in upcoming newsletter issues.

Tax Time:  Earned Income Tax Credit

     Many disabled taxpayers may be overlooking a valuable tax credit that could increase their federal income tax refunds by as much as $4,824. The IRS estimates that up to one in four taxpayers who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit - or EITC - fail to claim the credit. Are you one of them?     You may qualify if your income was under $41,646 last year and you, or your spouse, worked or received disability retirement benefits under an employer plan and were under the minimum retirement age. The amount of your EITC depends on several factors, such as the amount of your earned income, your filing status, whether you have children and how many, etc. Special rules apply if you have a child who is permanently and totally disabled.
To get the credit you earned, you must 1) file a federal income tax return and 2) claim the credit. Many communities have volunteer income tax assistance sites or local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers, which will compute your EITC and prepare your return without charge. To locate a volunteer site, call your community's 211 or 311 number for local services or call the IRS at 1-800 906-9887.
Some states have a similar tax credit, increasing the dollars available.  Find more information about EITC in alternative formats for people with print disabilities at: http://www.irs.gov
Follow the home page link to "Accessibility", then the link to "Accessible IRS Tax Products" and select the appropriate link to download accessible forms or publications. The IRS web site provides accessible electronic files in formats including: ASCII Text (.txt), Braille Ready Format (.BRF), and Talking Tax forms in PDF that work with MSAA compliant screen reading software and Braille display devices.

Historic Theatre Closes:
Michigan's first MoPix system moves
By Joe Sibley, President

     In November of 2008, it was announced that Studio 28, a 20  screen megaplex in Wyoming (Grand Rapids) would be closing its doors. Studio 28 opened in 1965 as a single screen modern theatre, later expanding to 2 screens, then 6, then 12, finally becoming the world's first 20 screen theatre, a title it held for years. Loeks Theatres used Studio 28 to be a pioneer in the latest concepts including all digital sound, stadium seating and much more. Studio 28 was also the home of Michigan's first MoPix system. MoPix West Michigan raised half of the cost of this first installation, and Loeks Theatres matched that and provided a home for the new equipment. MoPix is a system that enables those who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing to fully enjoy first run movies right in the theatre without changing the experience for the patrons not using the system. MoPix West Michigan launched as a project of VIPP, the MCBVI chapter in Grand Rapids and expanded to include many from the deaf community as well. The project was supported by MCBVI, NFB, MCB and many other organizations and individuals. A second similar project brought MoPix to Celebration Cinema Lansing, also owned by Loeks. While a few other MoPix systems have been installed around the state, progress has been delayed as theatres move from film to digital projection and there were issues on how to make MoPix work with the digital cinema equipment. Some of those issues have been resolved, so more Mopix systems should be available soon.
The closing of Studio 28 was the result of both an aging and inefficient building, and competition mainly from Loeks Theatres own four Celebration Cinema multiplexes in the area totaling around 70 screens.
When the decision was made to close Studio 28, Loeks Theatres officials asked MoPix supporters to choose where to move the MoPix system. The overwhelming choice was to move it to Celebration Cinema at Rivertown Crossings Mall, primarily because of easy access to the mall by bus.   The system was up and running just a few days after Studio 28 closed. For additional information visit www.celebrationcinema.com and select the Studio 28 page for historic information, or the Celebration Cinema Rivertown page for movies showing with MoPix.

Did You Know?

     Social Security offers an online newsletter.  You can read it by visiting their website link: www.socialsecurity.gov/newsletter

     Social Security increased its Substantial Gainful Activity amount SGA for those who are legally blind and receiving Social Security Disability benefits to $1640, allowing people who are blind to work under that limit without losing their benefits.  As always you must report any work activity to SSA.  Contact your local Social Security office or 800-772-1213 to receive brochures in alternative formats on the topic of work, or visit: www.ssa.gov

     Star Bucks now offers their beverage brochure, Make It Your Drink, in Braille and large print.  Simply ask for it next time you visit one of their stores.  If they don't have it ask them to get it.

     A new national center for the nine million American parents with disabilities and their families has been established in Berkley, CA.  The center partly funded by the US Dept. of Education will conduct national research mainly on the topics of custody, family roles and personal assistance; paratransit; and intervention with parents with cognitive disabilities and their children.  To learn more contact:
www.looki ngglass.org
or telephone toll-free:
1-800 644-2666 (voice)
1-800 804-1616 (tdd/tty),
or by email at:
tlg@looki ngglass.org

     Federally-funded health centers care for you, even if you have no health insurance. You pay what you can afford based on your income.  There are health centers in most cities and many rural areas.  This information has recently been updated, and can be read by visiting this link:
www.disabilityinfo.gov/digov-public/public/DisplayPage.do?parentFolderId=148

MCBVI Seeks Officers

     There will be three officers positions open for election at our 2009 state convention.  These include:  second vice president, Treasurer, and assistant secretary.  If you would like to learn about the duties outlined in our constitution for any of these positions please contact nominations chairperson Karla Fields at (586) 465-2338.

Stimulus Payments May Be coming Your Way

     If you receive Social Security Retirement, Social Security Disability, or Supplemental Security Income monthly payments a one time payment of $250 will be on its way to you or your bank account soon.  This payment is a part of the stimulus package recently signed into law by President Obama.  While Social Security hopes to have these payments to you by the end of May 2009, they ask that you not contact them about the payment unless you haven't received it by June 4, 2009.

Committee Reports

Publications
Donna Rose, Chairperson

     Well, you are receiving your winter newsletter a bit late.  Due to my own computer issues and some terrible flu I am running behind in everything.  I will accept reports and articles for the next newsletter by May 15th.

Public Relations
Donna Rose, Chairperson

     As your public relations chairperson I was able to send out press releases about our 2008 state convention throughout our state.  In early February I dropped off about 1400 MCBVI brochures to the Michigan Commission for the Blind to be included in packets they provide to interested individuals throughout our state.  If you need help writing a press release to your local media regarding your chapter's events, I would be happy to help.  

Resolutions
Chris Schumacher, Chairperson

     Due to the holiday season and members' busy schedules, our committee has not met since the MCBVI convention.  However, now that the holidays are over, it is time to get back to the business of our organization.  In order for our committee to do that, we need to hear from you to give us some ideas for possible resolutions.  It is never too early to start working on these, especially if there is some research or fact finding needed to be done to enable us to write a resolution.  Send your suggestions to me in Braille, on cassette, or you can email me at chrisanne7452@sbcglobal.net  The committee tries very hard to come up with ideas, but we need your help, too.  So give us something that we can work on when we have our next meeting.

Chapter Updates

Blue Water League Of The Blind
By Jeanette Geno, President

     Dear Friends, Last October found the BWL busy with a harvest party, story telling and a lot of fun activities. In November we had a thanksgiving dinner and great fellowship. We celebrated Christmas in December with a dinner party involving Lions.  About 60 members and visitors attended.  This annual event is a lot of fun including gift giving.  This is the second year we have saved catering costs by organizing a pot luck resulting in good food from so many good cooks.
We began 2009 with our annual election of officers.  On January 15 Phyllis Magbanua was re-elected as Vice President, Wayne, Lepiors was elected Chapter Delegate, and Michael Geno elected for another term as BWL Treasurer.  As Chapter President I am looking forward to working with our newly elected board.     February usually finds us busy getting ready for the annual Winter Camp for the Blind held in a beautiful setting near Battle Creek Michigan.  Our regular meeting date that follows will include a Valentines dinner dance.  Our chapter is also busy producing Braille books for Southeastern Michigan emergency county offices.  We will be embossing, bursting, collating, binding, and packaging more than ten thousand pages of Braille.  That's after the more than 24 print pamphlets have been converted to computer files that have been edited, proof read, and cleared for printing.  This brings in some much needed funds to support our very important work.  We will update you on further planned activities in our next report.  Till then, we hope all of you are keeping warm.

Capital Area Council of the Blind
Donna Rose, President

     The Capital Area Council held its Christmas party in early  December.  Everyone brought a gift to exchange $5 or less.  Every other month or so we have a speaker join us at our lunchtime meeting at the Gone Wired Caf‚ in Lansing.  In January we heard from Scott Norris on upcoming library plans to go digital.  He brought a Victor Stream to demonstrate and invited us to a once a month computer club held on Saturdays at the library.  We also had a recent presentation by Brad Walker, new manager at WKAR Talking Book Radio.  We talked with him about getting involved with him on our local programming.  In June we will be taking an evening trip on the Michigan Princess boat for dinner and dancing on the Grand River.  We are also hoping to learn salsa dancing from a dance instructor we met at our meeting place if the details can be worked out.  For more info on our chapter activities you can contact president Donna Rose, 517-333-9117.

Detroit Northwest

No report at this time.     

Kalamazoo Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired
By Sherry Gordon

     December brought us the opportunity to have our annual Christmas party. We had about 20 persons and guests in attendance. The party was held at the T.G.I.  Fridays Restaurant on the west side of Kalamazoo.  A yummy dinner was enjoyed by all who attended, followed by the "gift game". For this game, everyone brings a gift whose value is around $10. Each person draws a number from a "hat". The person with the number 1 picks a gift from the pile of gifts and opens it announcing what it is.  The person with the number 2 can either "steal" the gift which person #1 has or they can pick from the pile of gifts, open the gift and announce what they have. We always have a lot of fun doing this! The really cool thing about this game is that everyone goes home with a gift. The "hot" gifts this year that everyone wanted to steal were lottery tickets!
We also sponsored a family for Christmas. This family included the Mom and 2 small children. We gave a whole bunch of food items and also showered the family with gifts. What a rewarding experience!
In February, we always celebrate Valentine's Day with a dinner. We plan to get together at a local restaurant, have dinner and give away money prizes for the male and female who are wearing the most red items. This is also a lot of fun!
In Kalamazoo, we are also looking forward to our annual Kalamazoo goalball tournament. We usually have between 14-18 teams from around the U.S. who come to play. The dates for this year's tournament are February 28 and March 1.  For more chapter info contact Sherry Gordon at (269) 383-4144.

Visually Impaired Persons
for Progress (VIPP)
By Deb Wild

     VIPP met twice since our last newsletter: In November and on 01-13-2009 at the Grand Villa Restaurant on Chicago Drive. In November we held our annual election of officers. Unfortunately our treasurer resigned. Casey Dutmer was elected as treasurer to finish out the term. Lisa Weber was elected as president, and Tressa Conrad was elected as secretary. We set a date for our holiday party. In January we reorganized our committees.  Due to cancellation We rescheduled our holiday party which will be on Friday, January 30. One of our members distributed cards where one can get discounts on certain prescriptions. Another member is researching costs for a bus trip to Comerica Park to take in a daytime Tiger game--exciting! We will attend a White Caps game on June 16 as a fundraiser. We sold soups and subs to try to raise some money. Mary Kent is our MCBVI delegate; Casey Dutmer is our alternate delegate. We discussed the Braille Challenge and other items. Sadly Studio 28 closed the Sunday before thanksgiving. Several VIPP members attended the farewell reception. The Mopix equipment has a new home though as you can read in an earlier article in this newsletter.  For any questions about VIPP, feel free to e-mail me at:  dwild@altelco.net or call me at (616) 235-8189.