by Linda Porelle, Co-chair, ACB Women
Winifred Downing’s name first caught my attention while reading “The Braille Forum” back in Boston in the late 1990s. After moving to San Francisco in 2005 and getting her name from the CCB office, my decision to check out the San Francisco chapter was an easy one.
When I arrived at my first chapter meeting, I was warmly welcomed and immediately realized that I had found a new home. And there she was, the remarkable lady who would quickly become both my mentor in all things CCB and ACB and a cherished friend.
Winifred started her irresistible recruiting campaign in short order. She invited me to join the chapter’s community support committee, which later became the current grant for purchasing access technology for young students. She then urged me to run for and be elected chapter president, only 14 months after joining CCB!
It was such a pleasure to accompany Winifred to several CCB conventions. Since we were both wordsmiths, she made sure I was connected with both the resolutions and publications committees, which I still consider my most satisfying activities in CCB. She also did me the great honor of speaking for me in my first successful run for the CCB board of directors. In addition, I owe my involvement and leadership in BRLC and CLUA to Winifred’s encouragement and support.
In the last couple of years of her life, Winifred withdrew from her very active role in CCB due to declining health. She still enjoyed having visitors at home who could fill her in on all of the goings-on, however. I was fortunate to be one of those visitors, spending quiet afternoons enjoying lively and intelligent conversation.
In rereading some of the many loving tributes that poured in after Winifred’s passing in 2016, the word “mentor” kept appearing. I’ll list some of the mentoring qualities that were so generously shared with me during our time together.
- Inspiration by example. Her devotion to her family, her church and the blindness community was boundless. That devotion inspired me to dig deep and give more as well.
- Personal invitations to participate. Each invitation from Winifred helped to boost my confidence for stepping up and getting more involved.
- Inclusion. I can still recall walking into my first resolutions committee meeting with the knowledge that I was being recommended for membership by Winifred.
I imagine I could have made my way in CCB on my own. However, Winifred’s guidance and support were invaluable in making the connections I needed to feel that I really belonged and could be useful and productive in CCB and ACB.
I encourage each of you to look around and find someone who may be newly arrived in your affiliate or just quietly sitting back. Get to know them. Find out what lights them up. Then invite them to join a committee with you and set forth on their own adventure of belonging to our wonderful organization.