JPMorgan Chase/ACB Leadership Fellows

by Kim Charlson

As ACB approaches its 55th annual conference and convention, we are placing more emphasis as an organization on investing in the development of new leadership talent for the future. A special grant from JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) is allowing ACB to offer a program which will bring eight ACB members with recognized leadership potential to the July 2016 national conference and convention in Minneapolis.
These individuals needed to satisfy three basic criteria — be 18 years of age or older; be blind or visually impaired; and be members in good standing of ACB. Each applicant had to be recommended by the president of their respective affiliate. The application process for the JPMC/ACB Leadership Fellows included the submission of two letters of recommendation and participating in a telephone screening interview with the DKM committee.
Areas considered in the selection process included the applicant’s reasons for applying for the leadership award; a brief summary of the applicant’s education and relevant experience; number of years of membership in ACB as well as previous conventions attended, if any; description of one’s role as a leader; and an assessment of what one feels they bring to ACB.
All award recipients receive round-trip transportation; hotel accommodation (double occupancy), per diem stipend for meals and incidentals, convention registration fee and reception and banquet tickets. Recipients are expected to attend the convention from the opening session Sunday evening, July 3, through the Friday evening banquet, July 8, and to participate actively in all convention activities including the daily general sessions, special-interest presentations, seminars and workshops.
I would like to introduce you to the class of 2016 JPMC/ACB Leadership Fellows.

Debbie Deatherage, Louisville, Ky.

Debbie works at LC Industries, and is active in the Kentucky Council of the Blind, including serving as the president of the Greater Louisville chapter. She is active in the Kentucky School for the Blind Alumni Association and presently serves as its first vice president. Debbie is also active in Lionism, serving as second vice president of the Louisville East Lions Club.

DeAnn Elliott, Cambridge, Mass.

DeAnn has been a member of the Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) since 2008. In 2011, she joined the consumer advisory board for the Perkins library, and now serves as its chair. Seven years ago, DeAnn partnered with a guide dog from The Seeing Eye and served a two-year term as secretary of Guide Dog Users of Massachusetts. She is now serving as the chair of the BSCB legislative committee.

Kim Hebert, Lafayette, La.

Kim has served as treasurer for the Acadiana Area Council of the Blind, Inc., and is very involved with fund-raising. She received the Vernon Daigle Award for service to the Louisiana Council of the Blind (LCB) and ACB at the national level. She currently serves as LCB second vice president.

Debbie Cook Lewis, Seattle, Wash.

Debbie works at the Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) and serves as liaison to the Washington State Rehabilitation Council (SRC). Additionally, she is employed by the University of Washington Center on Technology and Disability Studies. Through contractual arrangements she manages the DSB Independent Living Program; administers the ICanConnect deaf-blind equipment distribution program; and much more. She serves as a board member of Guide Dog Users of Washington State (GDUWS). She also serves as treasurer of the Washington Council of the Blind.

Miguel “Mike” Palomar, El Paso, Tex.

Mike has been a member of ACB, ACB of Texas and the El Paso Council of the Blind for several years. He serves as the vice president of the El Paso Council of the Blind. He was the 2015 recipient of the ACB of Texas Ed and Linda Bradley First Timer Award. He is presently employed by the Ready One Industries Call Center in El Paso.

Sandra Spalletta, Rockville, Md.

Sandra is active in the District of Columbia Council of the Blind (DCCB) and the Alliance on Aging and Vision Loss (AAVL). She serves on the boards of DCCB, AAVL, the Out of Sight Dragons (OSD, dragon boat team), and the Washington Volunteer Readers for the Blind (WVRB). She took on the responsibility of establishing the DCCB web site,, which has now been in existence for slightly over a year. She is a practicing attorney, graduating with a law degree from Harvard University. She is one of the three principals and a managing member of BW Realty Advisors LLC, which provides structured financing advice for complex commercial real estate projects.

Meka White, Federal Way, Wash.

Meka is the editor of the Washington Council of the Blind (WCB) quarterly newsletter, the Newsline. She also serves as the event coordinator for the regional Braille Challenge, and is an invaluable member of the WCB leadership committee. She also serves as WCB first vice president. Meka does all the above while working 40 hours a week at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind.

Sheila Young, Orlando, Fla.

Sheila has served as vice president, then president for four years, and is currently the Greater Orlando Council of the Blind treasurer. She has served on several Florida Council of the Blind state committees, including the host committee for the national conference and convention when it was held in Orlando in 2009. She is also the president of the Friends of Library Access, Inc., the organization that supports the talking book library in Daytona Beach. She works full-time for Orange County Public Schools as a paraprofessional, working with visually impaired, blind, and multi-handicapped students.
I congratulate all of these talented individuals and thank them for the contributions they have already made, and for the many more important things all of them will do in the future. Thank you also to JPMorgan Chase for their ongoing support of ACB!