Braille Institute Update - WVRC on January 11th
We returned for our second meeting at our new home, and it went well. PP RUDY ALVAREZ led us in the Pledge, RUDY first reminded us that we were making a statement about our forces in Iraq, which was supportive. Next up was LENNY, without any piano accompaniment, and we sang America the Beautiful. TONY MARRONE had the Invocation “Great Creator, you have left me with many gifts yet every gift carries a danger. With my eyes I can behold the beauty of nature, the warmth of a smile, the hope in my friend’s face…but it is easy to forget what I cannot see…Remind me that all truth is not visible, and allow me to recognize the beauty that lies within.” A good choice, TONY thanks.
We had a Visiting Rotarian, George Fenimore, a long-time member in Beverly Hills. His category was Electronics, and he acknowledged our intro by adding, “I’m glad to be here.” BRIAN BUMPAS brought his wife, Patricia.
And so to Announcements:
ED GAULD explained the forthcoming WAPI construction project, which will be at the Westwood United Methodist Church, in Fellowship Hall, from 2 to 5 pm on Saturday, January 20th. All materials will be provided, and this is a joint project with WVRC, our Auxiliary, and the Rotaract kids. My spy tells me there may be pizza provided but be sure to sign up so they can know who to expect, OK? We hope to assemble 1,000 WAPI’s, so it is certainly a worthwhile activity. He also announced the date for the Japanese Youth Exchange. It will start on June 27th when our kids leave for Japan, returning four weeks later. They spend 5 or 6 days with four different families and to this day, my daughter, Andrea recalls her trip fondly some THIRTY years ago! This is a real winner for your kids or grandchildren see ED. PEGGY BLOOMFIELD announced the details of our annual Valentine’s Day Brunch. As usual, it will be at Lawrys, on Saturday Feb. 10th, starting at 11:30 with lunch served at 12:15. There will be a program, with live music, and the Invitations are now in the mail. Cost is $50 per person, and parking is included.
January 18th, next Thursday, Dedication of the new Santa Monica Blvd - it will be at 11 am at 10250 Santa Monica Blvd, where they Valet Parking takes place.
A man was charged with murder in the first degree. His trial was in a small town, and he was terrified that they would find him guilty. So he decided to bribe one of the jurors, telling him to get the charge reduced to Manslaughter. The jurors left to decide and they were out for three days. When they finally returned, they announced a verdict of Manslaughter. The prisoner was delighted, and he asked his juror how he had done it. “Well, it wasn’t easy. I finally convinced them all they wanted to acquit.”
SHANE WAARBROEK introduced our Speaker, Carmen Apelgren. SHANE noted that he was surprised at the size of their operation expecting maybe 50 to 100 guests, there were over 700! (A note here, if I may. For as long as I can remember, PP HOWIE HENKES coordinated this visit. He was unable to attend this time, but we miss you, HOWIE. Come back soon, please.) Carmen lost most of her eyesight early, and she grew up in a small community in northern Michigan in the 50’s. There were no special Ed classes you just had to do the best you could. She earned a BA in Fine Arts from Michigan State, and had a successful theatrical career. However, her eyesight continued to decline, so she moved to LA and began taking classes at the Braille Institute. Soon she was volunteering for all sorts of jobs, and was placed on staff after that. I should add here that I believe that the great majority of employees at Braille are visually handicapped. She now speaks to groups such as ours, is in charge of their visitors program, and is their technical consultant in any media where blind people are shown She has received several awards from groups such as the Hollywood Women’s Business Associates.
Carmen began by asking those who agreed with her to clap their hands and the response was considerable when she asked how many of us had served at the annual Holiday luncheon. I remember one in particular where Art Linkletter was the Speaker! Every time she returns to her home in Michigan, she lapses into their ‘dialect’, which she demonstrated. She does feel lucky that where she grew up, she was allowed to try things learning to ski and skate, swim, and some parents are afraid for their blind child to have this freedom.
She learned to tap dance in the 70’s with lessons from some of the early legends in that genre. The only way she could learn the steps was to put her hand on the shoe of the instructor, and then learn to mimic their movements. Gregory Hines was taking lessons at the same time but of course, he was sighted. They had a small group of young women who learned together, and they began to perform. Her theatrical career took her to Japan, for instance, but her eyesight continued to decline. So she moved to LA and enrolled in some of the classes at the Braille. Soon she was their busiest volunteer, and then was taken aboard on the staff.
She has worked with many celebrities, such as Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx. Doug Henry was in her office one afternoon when she announced that she had to catch the bus to go home. He offered her a ride, along with his secretary. During the ride, Carmen told him that her husband was a big fan, but was presently bedridden. Could he perhaps come up and say hello? Henry stayed for 45 minutes, and it was a real highlight for her husband, who has since passed away.
She described macular degeneration, which afflicts many older people. It is progressive, and can cause a serious loss of self-esteem, and depression. The Braille takes special care of these clients, and while they cannot drive or read small print, they can, with training, do almost everything else. You can still be productive and have a good life. While today about 70% of visually handicapped people are unemployed, that is an improvement over the 90% of a few years ago.
Braille institute uses some fourteen volunteers for each staff person they employ, and this allows them much greater outreach. The Braille Alphabet has more than 250 letters, numbers, punctuation marks and contractions, and is transcribed in more than 95 different languages. They have 84,000 Talking Books, for instance, and work with Reading for the Blind to see that the two organizations don’t duplicate each other’s production. They offer over 150 special classes, ranging from sports instruction to learning to cook, so you can live alone. Their art classes are special, and quite broad in scope. Their Headquarters is at 741 N. Vermont, LA 90029, and they have four satellite centers, in Anaheim, Rancho Mirage, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. You can reach them at 1-800-452-4553, or www.brailleinstitute.org. Like Rotary, they are making a difference. This is obviously a going concern, and they can certainly use our help.
Someone requested her demonstration of Kathryn Hepburn, and it was great. She then slipped into James Brown these were part of her theatrical routines. RAY ZICKFELD asked if they had any cooperative projects with Recording for the Blind. As noted earlier, they do work together to avoid duplication of effort. She also announced that this spring she will be receiving a guide dog so the next time she visits, she’ll have her ‘pooch’. BRIAN BUMPAS asked if she knew an outstanding student at Hamilton High and she immediately identified Karen Wolf! She has been a big contributor to their library and activities. ELLIOTT TURNER How did you learn to tap dance? Again, as noted earlier, she had to have her hand on top of the shoe of the instructor, and then learn to replicate the movement. CURT SMITH, Are there very many large companies that help by providing specialized equipment for employees they hire? This works from two directions sometimes Braille can provide the equipment, and sometimes the hiring firm can, or will. Remember, their people who have a college degree have worked probably four times harder than the sighted student to get that degree so you are hiring a real worker, who can be quite productive. HANK HEUER, What kinds of jobs are suitable? There are blind psychologists she knows an Astrophysicist the list can be long, and if you call Braille, they can perhaps suggest a worker for you to interview. The last question involved whether some of our baseball umpires need the help of the Braille Institute!
Carmen Pilgrim, thank you for a lovely talk come back, and bring your ‘pooch’!
Remember, next week we meet in the Sequoia Room and it is Spouses Day.