by Carol Edwards

"Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please to put a penny in the old man's hat ..."

What, already? Believe it or not, the holiday season is quickly approaching. It seems that each year Christmas gets more commercialized. My kids are grown now and I have not been lucky enough to have grandchildren yet, so it is not quite like in the good old days!!!

A couple of years ago some of my friends and I decided to stop buying stuff and make a personal Christmas gift: something baked, a craft, something that expresses the true meaning of the season. Since I joined ACB, my family members have received ACB memberships already. This year I am adding a few more friends to my list. Maybe I will give you all a few ideas.

If you don't like that madhouse shopping, buying friends and family an ACB membership will be much easier and more convenient. This is also a gift that keeps giving all year. You can think of it kind of like the fruit of the month club, but the person will receive "The Braille Forum," and if your state affiliate has a publication, they'll get that too.

If you have a cranky neighbor -- and some of us do -- just think: when they receive a card from you telling them you thought enough of them to give them a membership in the best organization there is that works for the betterment of the visually impaired and blind, they might wonder just what you want. Better yet, you will know with each issue of the "Forum" they receive that you will be the first person they think of. It might also make someone who appears to be cranky a little nicer or happier to think you did care enough to do something special for them.

Another important group is our elected officials. We all have them in our towns, counties, states and of course, the federal guys. Since ACB spends many hours and much money on advocating legislation that deals with issues of importance to blind and visually impaired people, just think what a difference it would make if every single U.S. senator were a member of ACB, or our representatives, or the elected folks in our states and counties. As the chairman of a legislative committee in Texas and someone who really enjoyed the 2004 legislative seminar in D.C. and the challenge of running through the halls of Congress, the fact of strength in numbers is very true when it comes to dealing with our legislators. Even if you personally are not interested in legislative work, it does help the individuals on these committees and benefits everyone. When it comes time to vote on issues, an article they have just read in "The Braille Forum" might sway their vote if they were not fully informed on it before.

Start your list today! Send your list and money to your state treasurer. Or if you are in a chapter, give it to your chapter treasurer. Just remember to get it in before March 15, 2005 in order for your friends and family to be counted when the needed delegates are decided for the national convention. Membership is not just a numbers game, it is knowing the mission of ACB is being spread throughout our states so that even if a person is newly blind or has just learned they have a disease that will lead to blindness, they know that there is a group that cares and they are not alone.

I would like to suggest that we all ask our doctors to join ACB too; they make a lot of money from us as patients. And don't be shy! Ask the Lions Club members to join, and the people who work at your state rehabilitation services.

Another idea I have shared with some is publicizing the ACB scholarship program. We have one here in Texas, too. The PTA is a national organization in which their focus is kids, and scholarships are very important to them. Call your state PTA office and ask them if they will publish the scholarship information for your affiliate and for ACB. PTA's monthly newsletters go to all PTA presidents throughout the state; publicizing the information in the newsletter will let more children in your state know of scholarships. When you submit the information, you will have to include something about ACB. You could also write a letter to each school district's superintendent and tell them about the scholarships, ask them to forward this information to their special education departments and all PTA/PTO presidents; this will enable every person with a child in a school to learn of ACB.

Our local Wal-Mart has an optical section and I have been told I can set up a table and distribute literature about ACB. This would be a great time to have a door prize or two and a form for people to fill out that includes the request that "if you would like more information on ACB, check here."

Finally, in the fall the United Way has its annual campaign to raise money for its charities. There is also the Combined Federal Campaign, for federal government workers. You may have noticed in "The Braille Forum" the CFC number 2802.

When I was a postal worker, the mail processing facility I worked at would allow people from non-profits to come and give a presentation on their organizations. The employees loved this because they didn't have to work when they were in the meeting, and the employee had the choice of which charity received the money. It might surprise you how many would write the number of your organization just because someone took some time to tell them about it. All areas have postal mail processing facilities.

If you don't know whether one is near you, ask at your local post office. Also ask them if you can talk to their employees. I am sure that if the postal service does this, other federal agencies might also. When you give your presentation, talk about membership, and use the "give a person a Christmas gift" as a selling point. Be sure to tell them you do not have to be visually impaired or blind to be a member. Since we have many special- interest groups, it is a very good idea to include them. When you're at a federal agency such as the postal service, be sure to bring up ACB Government Employees. Let's all make an effort to find just one new member! It might be very important for that one person to learn about ACB.

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