How Can Your Chapter or Affiliate Strengthen Your Personal Outreach to Your Local Community?

compiled by Ardis Bazyn

The topic of the last ACB Membership Focus call was “How can your chapter or affiliate strengthen your personal outreach to your local community?” Many times we’ve focused on social media, websites, conventions, and seminars. However, personal outreach in your community may get better results. We shouldn’t assume all who are blind know about everything. Specific blindness resources are often not researched until someone has lost a great deal of sight.
Below are some ideas on how to get involved in your community to spread the word about your chapter or affiliate.
·      Become a mentor for a blind student or older adult just losing sight.
·      Call local colleges and universities to ask them to share your events with blind students.
·      Work with the Braille Challenge in your area.
·      Tell schools members can share about how blind/visually impaired participate in the community and the skills used: braille, cane travel, computer access, sports like beep baseball, etc.
·      In northern California, there is an old time seaport village which shows how blind people affect the community through a sensory garden. Low-vision members provide the support and maintain and label plants. Some plants rattle in the wind.
·      Plan Dining in the Dark dinners like spaghetti in the dark. Get sponsors or partners like Lions Clubs to earn more.
·      Create craft and vendor fairs to show braille and talking devices and meet people and publicize your group. For more volunteers, team with puppy raisers, local blindness agencies, or other disability organizations.
·      Offer correspondence in braille or training for sighted guides for conference or athletic events.
·      Participate in state fair family day and give braille and cane demonstrations, disseminate braille cards and Helen Keller information.
·      Wrap gifts for Barnes and Noble during the holiday season.
·      Make presentations to local organizations about your local and state chapters.
·      On entrepreneur day, blind vendors who own businesses could share their products and services.
·      Hold an open house for individuals who have lost some of their sight.
·      Distribute brochures at local fairs.
·      Serve on local boards, commissions for disabilities, ride-share and other transportation committees, home alone projects, vulnerable communities for natural disasters or disaster preparedness for seniors and disabled.
·      Adopt a school to feed children who can’t get meals during the summer.
·      Support or volunteer for public housing, Boys and Girls Club, and food bank.
·      Assist in a Mud Run.
·      Sponsor a car wash so people can see blind folks working.
·      Sell snacks for local beep baseball games, or have an annual hot dog sale at a busy grocery store.
·      Offer a raffle with donated items — baseball games, special events, etc.
·      Volunteer at a AAA baseball game to throw out the first pitch, sing the national anthem, etc.
·      Plan a comedy night.
·      Organize a local activity including a live band and games with walk-a-thon, bake sale, and other booths.
·      Hold a Mutt Strut event: sponsors, exhibitors, walkers and runners, local volunteers, local bands, and getting food donations and raffle prizes from community businesses.
·      Create an “episodes of life” dinner, letting people write experiences about their life and getting sponsors. 
·      Post your events on websites, online calendar, and Facebook.
·      Visit senior centers, nursing homes, assisted living centers, vision support groups, and rehab agency clients.
·      Interview people at the agency.
·      Provide a sharing activity like “Mary Starshine answering questions about blindness.”
·      Network with braille transcription groups and share beep baseball and other blindness related videos with others.
Why not set a goal to try at least one new activity or event this year? If you need assistance with membership, contact the ACB membership committee. On April 24, we’ll hold our next membership focus call. We’ll talk about the benefits of ACB membership. We’ll meet at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific. The call-in number is (712) 775-7000, and the passcode is 640009.