January 2024 Minute Message

Fellow Federationists: We have certainly kicked off 2024 with a bang in the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. This month, we’ve held a wildly successful Day In Annapolis, conducted an affiliate Board retreat and planned for the coming year, made significant progress on our Federal legislative priorities at Washington Seminar, testified at state bill hearings and attended briefings, all while we plan for our approaching State Convention. We’re just weeks away from gathering together in person for our 58th annual state convention, and it is going to be epic! Read on for important news and information from the NFB of Maryland. Expect Much, Give Much, Get Much: The State Convention is Coming! You will not want to miss the state convention at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson which takes place on February 16 - 18, 2024. Come and meet our National Representative, Kevan Worley. A small number of rooms are still available. You may reserve your room by calling the Sheraton Baltimore North at 410-321-7400 – ask for Alexis. Convention Room Rates: Standard Room - $99 per night. Tax on sleeping rooms is 17.5%. These room rates start on Thursday, February 15, 2024. Please note the new date and location, as the NFB of Maryland Board of Directors voted to move the 2023 in person convention and combine it with the 2024 convention in light of the abrupt closure of our original venue in October 2023. Those who pre-registered for the original in-person convention will have their registration transferred to the new date. However, individuals will need to make a new reservation with the hotel directly, as all previous hotel reservations at the Delta were not transferred to the Sheraton. Pre-registration is closed, but regular registration is available online now or in person at the convention. Visit https://nfbmd.org/convention to register online. Below are the prices for the various convention activities (prices are per person unless otherwise stated): - Registration = $30 - Banquet ticket =$60 - Parent, Senior, or Student Luncheon ticket = $35 - Dinner & a Play ticket = $30 - Transportation from New Carrollton Train Station = $50; this covers round-trip travel - Childcare = $30 per day and on sliding scale based on need Training Center Networking and Alumni Breakfast We will offer a plated breakfast on Sunday morning that has not been previously advertised, which is being subsidized in part by the affiliate. This meal costs $12, which is payable in advance or at Registration. This breakfast is in conjunction with the Training Center Networking and Alumni Gathering. We ask those interested to RSVP – and anyone who RSVPs and doesn’t attend will still be responsible for paying the $12, as we have to pay the hotel what we guarantee regardless of whether or not you actually attend. You can RSVP by February 12 by emailing Convention@nfbmd.org. You can pay via Zelle by using President@nfbmd.org. Alternatively, you can go to https://nfbmd.org/breakfast to pay via PayPal and for more information. Seeking Door Prize Donations We are seeking donations of door prizes to give away at the NFB of Maryland Annual Convention. Door prizes should have a cash value of a minimum of $25 each. For questions, please contact Door Prize Co-chairs Qualik Ford at QSFord@outlook.com and Juhi Narula at juhin13@gmail.com. Please bring door prizes to the convention. Seeking Donations for the NFBMD Bake and Experience Auction! We are seeking donations of baked goods and experiences for the NFBMD auction. Some examples of experiences include taking the winner to dinner, giving cooking lessons, musical or show tickets, etc. We are asking for donation commitments prior to February 10, 2024. Please notify Convention Logistics Co-chair Justin Young of your donation via email at Jyoung@nfb.org. Seeking Baked Deliciousness for NFBMD Fire Sale! Attention all! This message is going out to all you bakers, non-bakers, and anyone else with baked goods. As state convention rolls around again, so does our annual fire sale. If you want to help feed our movement and fund the important work we do, please take the time to donate your freshly baked goods, whatever they may be. Cookies, cakes, candies and croissants, we'll take them all. Please contact Justin Young with your donation commitment via email at Jyoung@nfb.org. State Convention Orientation: February 8, 2024 All first-time convention attendees are cordially invited to attend a First-Timers Orientation from 8 to 9:30 p.m., on Thursday, February 8. The Ambassadors Committee will walk you through the events that will take place throughout the weekend, explain processes such as door prizes and voting, as well as make sure every first-time convention attendee is matched with a mentor. Connection information is as follows: Zoom Meeting ID: 624 813 8327 One-Number Conference Call: 339-209-4083 NFBMD Convention Donation Drive and Drawing!! Want to win either $500 or have your 2025 State Convention hotel and meals covered? Here's your chance! The National Federation of the Blind of Maryland is hosting the 2023 - 2024 NFBMD Convention donation drive. For each $20 donation, you will get one chance in the Convention drawing. For example, if you donate $100, you will get five chances. The winner will have their choice of either $500 or their 2025 state convention hotel (two nights) and meals covered by the affiliate. The drawing will take place at the NFBMD banquet on Saturday, February 17, 2024. The winner does not need to be present. The fundraiser is open through 3PM on Saturday, February 17, 2024. The rules for the drawing are as follows: 1. For each $20 donated, the donor will receive one chance. For example, if the donor contributes $100, that equates to 5 chances. 2. The donor must expressly state that they wish to have their name placed in the convention drawing. 3. Donations must be made separately from any door prize contributions, convention registration donations, or end-of-year sharing contributions. 4. Donations must be received on or before 3PM on February 17, 2024. Individuals may make donations using the PayPal button located at https://nfbmd.org/DonationDrive, via Zelle (President@nfbmd.org), or by mailing checks to: National Federation of the Blind of Maryland Convention Donation Drive 1800 Johnson Street, Suite N1 Baltimore, MD 21230 Remember to Pay Your 2024 Dues! NFBMD maintains an online portal for individuals to pay their chapter and division dues. We are asking members to pay their 2024 dues as soon as possible so we can ensure that our rolls are accurate for voting at the State Convention and the annual national membership data call. Individuals may use NFBMD’s Dues Portal to pay their 2024 annual dues and/or lifetime membership dues for those chapters that have lifetime membership. The portal lists all NFBMD chapters and divisions and their dues amounts. Individuals may pay for as many chapters and divisions as they wish. The portal is located at http://nfbmd.org/dues. Alternatively, individuals may mail a check to their chapter or division treasurer. Individuals may also pay their chapter dues at the Registration Table at the State Convention. Please note that those paying via the online portal will incur a small processing fee. Success in Annapolis! The 2024 session of the Maryland General Assembly began on January 10, and we brought the collective action as soon as the session began. Our Legislative Advocacy Team was on sight from nearly the first moment the gavel dropped on the new session. We held our NFB of Maryland in person Day in Annapolis on January 18, and we gathered to debrief at Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs once more. We engaged with all 188 Delegates and Senators early in the session in order to maximize the time we have to push our issues through both chambers. More than 70 Federationists participated in a tremendously successful Day in Annapolis. Our legislative priorities this year are: - Electronic Ballot Return for Voters with Disabilities - Textbook Equity for Blind Students Act - Better Bus Service Act - Center for Excellence in Nonvisual Access (funding) In addition, we’ve already testified at two bill hearings related to deaf-blind co-navigation services and provided written testimony for several other bills. We also attended the briefing on our 2023 electronic ballot return study bill. In fact, we had four separate groups engaging in legislative advocacy on January 30 – three in Annapolis and one at Washington Seminar. Congratulations to everyone who has participated thus far. This is what collective action looks like. Success at Washington Seminar! On January 29 and 30, Maryland joined Federationists in person from throughout the country to let Congress know about our legislative priorities for blind Americans. You may read the Washington Seminar fact sheets by visiting https://nfb.org/washington-seminar or via Newsline. We will continue to work to advocate for our Federal legislative priorities in our home districts. We ask our members to attend town halls and events held by your representatives and ask for support of our legislative priorities. Get ready for Orlando in 2024! The NFB 2024 National Convention will take place from July 3 – 8, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. The Rosen Center Hotel will be the primary location. The Convention room rate is $129 plus tax per night for singles and doubles and $139 plus tax for triples and quads. To reserve a room, call the hotel at 800-204-7234; be sure to ask for the NFB Convention block. You can reserve your room until May 31, 2024, or until the room block fills up which is likely to be sooner. You can also visit https://nfb.org/convention for more information, including the cancellation policy. Preregistration for the convention will open on March 1 and will close May 31, 2024. First time national convention attendees may apply for the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship, which is a grant the NFB provides to people who have not attended a national convention in person previously. The deadline is April 15, 2024. Visit this link for more information on how to apply. https://nfb.org/get-involved/national-convention/kenneth-jernigan-conven... Those from Maryland who are seeking financial assistance should speak with their chapter president to find out what assistance their local chapter may have available. The affiliate’s Financial Assistance Application Form will go live on February 20 and must be submitted by March 31, 2024. Please note that though the Financial Assistance Committee will give due consideration to every application, the affiliate has limited resources and is unable to grant every request. Priority will be given to those who have not attended a national convention in the past and to students. Individuals will need to make their own hotel reservations and pay the initial deposit. For questions about the Financial Assistance Application Program, please reach out to your chapter president or me at President@nfbmd.org. do You Feel Lucky? The NFBMD spring raffle is upon us. During the month of May, you have the opportunity to win $50 Sunday through Friday, or $100 on Saturday. Purchase a 3-digit number raffle ticket for $5. You will be the only one who has this number. Tickets are available from chapter presidents and affiliate Board Members. Help us sell all 1,000 tickets! Basket and Bag Bingo is Coming! Would you like to win over $4,000 in prizes? Would you like to play 23 games of BINGO? Snacks and raffles will also be available. Join us at NFBMD Basket and Bag Bingo on March 8, 2024 in Catonsville. Buy your tickets early because we always sell out. We are busy arranging and filling baskets and procuring bags (purses). We need financial contributions to help with these purchases. Please let us know whether you would like to sponsor a basket or bag for $150. All contributions of any amount are welcome. You may also purchase your ticket for $25. Please purchase your ticket online at https://nfbmd.org/bingo. For questions or to purchase your ticket via check, contact Sharon Maneki at nfbmdsm@gmail.com. NFB and NFBMD Scholarship Programs The National Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland each administer a separate scholarship program for post-secondary students. The deadline to apply for an NFB scholarship is March 31, 2024, and the deadline to apply for an NFBMD Scholarship is April 15, 2024. National Scholarship Program: Each year, the NFB awards 30 merit-based scholarships totaling $240,000. - Each scholarship recipient will receive $8,000 and additional prizes. - Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement, leadership, and community service. - The 30 scholarship finalists are announced in the spring and attend the NFB National Convention, where they are mentored by blind role models. - Application materials must be submitted (online or postmarked) by 11:59PM on March 31, 2024. - To be eligible, applicants must: o Be legally blind in both eyes; o Reside in the United States, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico; o Be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time, post-secondary course of study in a degree program at a U.S. institution in the Fall of 2024 (one scholarship may be awarded to an individual who works full-time and attends school part-time); o Be age 18 before July 2, 2024; and o Attend the entire National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind (and all scholarship activities) in Orlando, Florida from July 3 through 8, 2024 (scholarship finalists will receive convention grants). - To apply, submit an application using the online application system at https://scholarships.nfb.org/. State Scholarship Program: The NFB of Maryland will award up to four scholarships of $4,000 each as part of the John T. McCraw Scholarship Program. NFBMD may award a scholarship to a former McCraw scholarship recipient. - Scholarships are merit-based and awarded based on academic achievement, community involvement, and leadership. - Application materials must be submitted (online or postmarked) by 11:59PM on April 15, 2024. - To be eligible, applicants must: o Be legally blind in both eyes; o reside in Maryland or be pursuing post-secondary studies at a school in Maryland; o be age 18 prior to July 2, 2024; o Be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time or part-time, post-secondary course of study in a degree program in the Fall of 2024 and Spring of 2025 (priority will be given to full-time students); and o Attend the entire National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Orlando, Florida from July 3 through 8, 2024 and the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Maryland in February 2025 (scholarship finalists will receive convention grants). - To apply: o Submit an application using the online application system at http://nfbmd.org/scholarship/apply; or Download, complete, and email or mail in a hard copy application form by visiting: http://nfbmd.org/scholarship. NFBMD Committees: Are You Interested? I am beginning to appoint 2024 committee appointments for the NFB of Maryland, and Groups are also continuing their work. If you are interested in being appointed to a particular committee, please send me an email with the name of the committee or committees for which you are interested. I can’t promise everyone will be appointed to the committees they request, but it is very helpful to know where people are interested in contributing most. Please send your interest email to me at President@nfbmd.org by January 15, 2024. In addition, if you are interested in joining a particular group, please reach out directly to the chair of that group. If there are committees that you think should be added, please also let me know. Below is a list of the 2024 committees and groups as they currently stand. The individuals listed below have been asked to chair these committees or groups, but this may change slightly when final appointments are sent out. Advocacy Committee Sharon Maneki and TBD, Co-chairpersons Advocates with employers, schools, Vocational Rehabilitation entities, and other public or private agencies for blind residents of Maryland Ambassadors Committee Judy Rasmussen and Debbie Brown, co-chairpersons responsible for orienting first-time attendees to state and national Convention and mentoring first-timers at those events Audit Committee Barry Hond and Justin Young, Co-chairpersons responsible for auditing financial accounts and spending for the affiliate, local chapters, and divisions BELL Committee Brittany Bomboy and TBD, co-chairpersons plans and administers the Maryland Bell program and incorporating Bell into NFBMD conventions and seminars Braille Spectator Committee Ronza Othman and Sharon Maneki, editors Responsible for sourcing and creating content, assembling, editing, formatting, and disseminating the semi-annual magazine of the NFB of Maryland Deaf-Blind and Hearing Loss Issues Committee Janice Toothman and Heather Guy, Co-chairpersons works on issues of concern and interest to the deaf-blind of Maryland Development and Fundraising Committee Jenivieve White and Ellen Ringlein, Co-chairpersons coordinates long-term and short-term fundraising initiatives including: preparing and submitting grant proposals; sending out annual appeal letters; working with estate attorneys; administering Spring and Fall raffles; marketing Amazon smile; planning Basket Bingo, Crab Feast, and other fundraisers Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Qualik Ford and Juhi Narula, co-chairpersons Provides leadership and guidance to the affiliate and chapters and divisions on matters related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Employment Committee Pam Goodman and Jannis Forbes, co-chairpersons Provides guidance and support related to strategies for increasing the employment of Maryland’s blind. Guide Dog Issues Committee Sherri Shirek, chairperson works on issues of concern and interest to guide dog users in Maryland Legislation Committee Sharon Maneki and TBD, Co-chairpersons responsible for State and Federal legislative action and educating elected officials on issues of importance to the blind of Maryland Membership Committee Dezman Jackson and TBD, co-chairpersons responsible for helping chapters and divisions with recruitment, retention, and development of members PAC Plan Committee John Paré and Ann-Marie Laney, co-chairpersons Coordinate the Maryland Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) efforts. Public Relations Committee Chris Danielsen, chairperson responsible for marketing NFBMD programs and initiatives Resolutions Committee Chris Danielsen, chairperson responsible for recommending (or not) that resolutions submitted by members be brought to the NFBMD Convention floor Scholarship Committee Mildred Rivera, chairperson responsible for administering the John T. McCraw Scholarship Program, including mentoring candidates at national and state conventions and beyond Sharon Maneki Youth Empowerment Grant Committee Sharon Maneki, chairperson responsible for reviewing and approving (or not) grant applications for youth to attend blindness programs and training or to receive technology Social Media Committee Karen Anderson, chairperson responsible for NFBMD’s social media presence, communication, and outreach using forums like Twitter and Facebook Spanish Services Committee Teresa Graham, chairperson responsible for coordinating programming, outreach, and language interpretation for Spanish speakers Sports and Recreation Committee Qualik Ford and Guy Kelly, co-chairpersons responsible for coordinating sports and rec activities for the affiliate. Transportation Committee Cheryl Fogle-Hatch and Aloma Bouma, co-chairpersons responsible for coordinating transportation-related advocacy and working to improve the state of public transportation in Maryland Website and Technology Committee John Berggren, chairperson responsible for NFBMD.org content and formatting, NFBMD databases, AV/IT at conventions, seminars, and other events, and other technology necessary for the operations of the NFB of Maryland Youth Activity Committee Brittany Bomboy and Erin Zobell, co-chairpersons responsible for engaging youth and planning youth-focused programs Convention-Related Committees Anna Freysz Cable Award Committee Debbie Brown, chairperson administers award program for an adult who has demonstrated exceptional effort in learning blindness skills, which is given at the NFBMD Convention Convention Child Care Committee Brittany Bomboy, chairperson coordinates childcare at the NFBMD Convention Convention Organization and Activities Justin Young, chairperson coordinates the NFBMD Convention, including planning and logistics Convention Registration Committee Marie Marucci, chairperson Coordinates and oversees convention registration. Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee Teresa Graham, chairperson administers award to an exceptional teacher of the blind in Maryland; awarded at the NFBMD Convention Door Prize Committee Juhi Narula and Qualik Ford, co-chairpersons coordinates and runs NFBMD Convention door prize activities Gold Cup Crab Race Committee Juhi Narula and Jen White, co-chairpersons Administers Gold Crab Race Fundraiser at state convention Jennifer Baker Award Committee Melissa Riccobono, chairperson administers award program for a child who has overcome significant challenges to learn blindness skills; administered at the NFBMD Convention Kenneth Jernigan Award Committee Mary Ellen Jernigan, chairperson administers award program for a Federationist who has demonstrated exceptional and sustained service and commitment to the NFB of Maryland; awarded at the NFBMD Convention National Funding Support Auction Committee Joel Zimba, chairperson Administers the NFB of Maryland Bake and Experience Auction at the state convention. Nominating Committee Ellen Ringlein, chairperson responsible for recommending to the NFBMD Convention individuals for open Board seats NFBMD Groups Blind Parents Group Faith Waybright and Melissa Riccobono, Co-chairpersons Crafters Group Danielle McCann and Karen Anderson, co-chairpersons Diabetes Action Network Group Eileen Ley, chairperson Performing Arts Group Chris Danielsen, chairperson Sighted Significant Others and Loved Ones Group Jen White and David Waybright, co-chairpersons Veterans Group Ed Jackson, chairperson Important Upcoming Dates • February 16 – 18, 2024 – NFBMD 2023 – 2024 Convention, Towson, Maryland • March 1, 2024 – Preregistration opens for NFB National Convention • March 8, 2024 – Basket Bingo, Catonsville, Maryland • March 31, 2024 – Deadline for National Scholarship Applications. • March 31, 2024 – Deadline for applications for NFBMD Financial Assistance for National Convention • April 15, 2024 – Deadline for NFBMD Scholarship Applications • April 15, 2024 – Deadline for Jernigan Fund applications for National Convention • May 4, 2024 – NFBMD STEM2U, Baltimore, Maryland • May 31, 2024 – Deadline to Preregister for NFB Annual Convention, Orlando, Florida • July 3 – 8, 2024 – NFB National Convention, Orlando, Florida • Summer 2024 (date TBD) – In Person NFB BELL Academy, Baltimore, Maryland • Summer 2024 (date TBD) – In Person NFB BELL Academy, Salisbury, Maryland • Summer 2024 (date TBD) – In Person NFB BELL Academy, Southern Maryland • September 20, 2024 – NFBMD Crab Feast, Rosedale, Maryland • October 1 – 31, 2024 – Blind Equality Achievement Month • October 2, 2024 – Give a Hoot Comedy Fundraiser, Gaithersburg, Maryland • October 18, 2024 – Basket Bingo, Catonsville, Maryland