By Cindy Hollis Van Winkle, Membership Services Coordinator, American Council of the Blind
I can remember as a little girl trying to color pictures that were dot to dot. The premise was to assist one in drawing the prescribed picture. Of course, I could never see the dots well enough to color the picture to look like anything recognizable, no less what it was supposed to be. But this was during a time in my life when we lived in a neighborhood of young families. Kids played together, schooled together, and grew up together. When a family was on vacation, others watched their home. When kids were playing outside, one of the parents watched through a window. Birthday parties, sleep overs, sharing meals, and yes, even the occasional quarrels occurred in that neighborhood, but we were connected by location, schools and Scouts, age of children, and an unspoken sense of belonging.
Now let us talk about the American Council of the Blind (ACB). Our neighborhood is made up of sixty-eight affiliates spread out all over the country and covering a myriad of interest areas. Annually, a representation of those affiliates join at the Conference and Convention, but many aren’t able to travel to those in-person events for whatever reason. When we are there, however, we feel that sense of connection as a picture of ACB is drawn in that week-long moment in time.
And then a pandemic hit, and our world experienced an upheaval. Suddenly, local groups who normally met on a regular basis in person could no longer do so. Our annual event was changed to a virtual one, and many of our members have been confined to their living quarters – human distancing.
But we are a resilient bunch. We’re used to finding creative ways to do things, to clear obstacles on our pathway, to charter new territory. We’re also accustomed to talking on the phone and using technology. So, the government says we need to distance ourselves from one another, and so we abide. Then we create ways to connect via different avenues by using tools known to us.
In mid-March, two conference calls were held by ACB for affiliate leaders, exploring ways to stay connected with our membership. Ten weeks later, those calls have turned into 40 to 50 calls each week covering a variety of topics and several social in nature, a weekly schedule being sent out to members and friends of ACB and email list where the daily schedule can be shared each morning, over 1000 people joining one or more of these community events each week, and several people coming forward to facilitate or host these calls. ACB Radio has supported these events along the way and has now provided a dedicated community channel for the expressed purpose of sharing these events with even more people.
Listen to our community on the ACB Radio Community channel: www.acbradio.org/community or access through your favorite Amazon device by saying, “Open the ACB Radio Community skill.”
Today, members of ACB from all over the U.S., and often guests from within and outside of our country, are becoming active members of a community not connected by streets and sidewalks, but rather by hearts and passion. The dots on ACB’s proverbial coloring page are the hearts of our members; the lines are the events we join in on via Zoom, and the connection takes place each and every time we meet. Through these community events, regardless of where we each live, we’re reminded we’re not alone. We truly are a community.
If you have not yet joined us for one of these calls, we are ready to welcome you. The first step is to subscribe to the ACB Community Events email list so that you too can receive your morning email with that day's schedule of events: http://acblists.org/mailman/listinfo/acb-community-events. Next, join us!