The Daily Southerner
A Christmas party at the Pinetops Lions Club Community House on Thursday, Dec. 20 brought holiday cheer to the blind and visually impaired.
“The main thing that this Lions’ Club does is help the blind and needy,” said Lion Richard Robertson, party chairman. The Club gave out 12 bags of gifts to blind and visually impaired community members at the party.
Harvey Long Jr., 43, of Pinetops, said it made him “feel good” to receive the gift bag filled with fruit, popcorn and cookies. He attends the Christmas party every year with his mother, Lois. Long said he enjoyed the entertainment at the party – Christmas music and a comedy routine by Wayne Flora, founding pastor of the University Church of God in Greenville.
“He said that laughter is the best medicine, so he had everybody cracking up,” Long said. Robertson said Flora dressed as a “country hobo,” wearing a straw hat, and told jokes in a country accent.
Long’s positive attitude helps him overcome the challenges of daily life for a legally blind person.
“It’s very hard and frustrating. You just gotta have a good outlook on life that you just live one day to the next,” Long said. Adaptation has been a major part of Long’s life; his eyesight has worsened over the years and he has had to learn how to use a cane to navigate his surroundings. These days, he is learning computer skills.
“Once you learn the keys, you can pick it up. You have to have a good memory,” he said.
At the Christmas party, Long spoke about his experiences at the fishing tournament at Nags Head, which has an annual attendance of about 550 visually impaired and blind people. Long said the Lions Club pays a portion of the cost, while attendees pay $100 out of pocket.
“It means a whole lot to me. When camp [time] came around, I couldn’t wait until it was time to go,” Long said. “There’s a lot to do at camp.”
Fishing, putt-putt, shopping and tubing are among the activities for campers. During his first year of camp, Long said he was named “king of tubing,” although that summer marked his first tubing experience.
Other attendees at the Club’s Christmas party discussed their experiences at Camp Dogwood in Western North Carolina, a retreat for the deaf and the blind that includes horseback riding, crafts, dancing, boating, and other social activities. Kateaka McGee, coordinator of the North Carolina Services for the Blind in Tarboro, also spoke about the many services for the blind and visually impaired statewide.
Founded in 1917, the Lions Club is the largest public service organization in the world, with 1.35 million members and 46,000 clubs globally. In 1925, Helen Keller, a famous deaf and blind woman, addressed the Lions Club International Convention, urging the Lions to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.” Since then, the Lions have focused efforts on helping the blind and visually impaired.
The following is a list of some of the other free programs provided to those classified as “visually impaired” by Lions Cubs:
• Eye examinations and eyeglasses for approved elderly needy recommended by the county Department of Social Services. Total cost generally less than $200.
• White telescoping and support canes for the blind – Social Services recommend qualified recipients and lengths of canes and trains recipients.
• Learning of crafts, cooking and the use of large print computers at the Blind Center in Washington, NC. For more information, call 946-6208
• Camp Dogwood in Western North Carolina mountains near Charlotte. Free room and board during one week: brick building beside a lake, crafts, dancing, boating, fishing, swimming, games, shopping and other activities. Social Services recommends qualified legally blind with 20/200 or worse vision. The $100 fee and transportation might be paid by a Lions Club.
• Education grants for college to children of visually impaired - $1,500 per year for up to four years. An eye doctor says if parents are legally blind with 20/200 vision after correction. Depends on number of dependents, etc. For students, a C or better high school average is required.
• Seeing-eye dogs for the legally blind. This requires working with a guide dog for two weeks in Michigan or Florida. Free room and board provided. Qualified recipient pays for his/her own transportation.
• Mobile Vision Van provides free tests of vision and eye pressures for glaucoma. Glaucoma, if not checked and treated, can lead to complete loss of sight.
• Used eyeglasses are recycled to improve the vision of thousands of needy people worldwide.
• Governor Morehead N.C. School for the Blind in Raleigh Athletic Program.
• Boys and Girls Club at Lake Waccama near Wilmington. Free education, room and board for 130 orphaned children and children of troubled parents. Fourth through eighth grades on campus and public high school. Forty children live in 10 buildings. Ninety children live with local foster parents. Financed by Lion’s Clubs, other clubs and the State of North Carolina.
•Miscellaneous Request for Eye Operations - for cataracts up to $2,500. Special eye surgeries up to $1,800. Prosthetics false eyes up to $1,200. Approval is based on needs.
For more information - call a member of any Lion’s Club or The Headquarters of the N.C. Lion's Club in Sherrills Ford at 1-800-662-7401.
Free programs to qualified visually impaired by the North Carolina Services for the Blind:
Down East Radio Reading Service on the radio. Volunteers read local area, state and national newspapers day and night. Vision must be 20/70 or worse. Get a free radio from Kateaka McGee by calling 641-7614.
Talking books – A free CD player or cassette tape players and free CDs or cassette tapes of people reading selected magazines and books for qualified visually impaired people.
Governor Morehead Training School in Raleigh – One to 12 weeks of personalized training in how to cook, bathe, dress, get around, use magnifiers, shop, etc. Helps visually impaired to live independently. A special course is taught on how to be a cook in a restaurant.
Discussion meetings and lunches: One-hour social discussion with 30-40 visually impaired people on matters of mutual interest, and speakers once a month in Tarboro at a cost of $2 per month.
Personalized training in the home. How to cook, dress and perform essential tasks is taught.
Medical eye examination, glasses and eye surgery for qualified visually impaired.
Magnifiers, Pens, Paper, Talking Watches, Talking Clocks and other Adaptive Equipment – for 20/70 vision or worse.
For more information on the programs offered, call Kateaka McGee at 641-7614.