Local Organizations of the Blind:
How to Build and Strengthen Them


Barbara PierceFrom the Editor: Federationists who can count silver threads among the gold may well remember the title of this article. In the early seventies it was the title of a publication written by Dr. Jernigan recommending ways to build strong, effective local chapters of the NFB.

Through the years Dr. Jernigan came to the conclusion that some of the ideas he had outlined and the situations he was responding to were no longer relevant to the current needs and challenges facing local chapters. But the requirement that the Federation build vital local chapters and state affiliates has never been more compelling than it is today. Our national organization is engaged fully in breaking new ground and dealing with problems and needs that are truly nationwide in their implications and scope. The advocacy, education, and problem-solving within the Federation are broader, more extensive, and more demanding than ever before in our history. These tasks, which were once managed largely by individuals in our National Office, have expanded to such a degree that they necessarily fall to state and local chapter representatives working together with advice from our National Office. This is a natural and healthy development of our efforts to train leaders at every level of the organization who are equipped to help blind people and represent the organized blind movement in all sorts of situations. At one time, only the very most experienced of us could be counted upon to do the job right. Dr. Jernigan traveled the country in the 1950's writing testimony and preparing Federationists to stand up and deliver it when necessary. Today state and local officers and members think nothing of stepping up to the witness table and providing testimony to legislative committees and state agencies.

This is all as it should be, but the need to develop healthy and vital local chapters is even more important than it was when no one expected them to do much more than get together every month to talk about the spirit of the Federation, to keep the hope of a better future alive, and to raise public awareness and needed funds for our organization. Recognizing the importance of this task, the Braille Monitor has published articles from time to time through the years that address the question of developing strong chapters and affiliates. But they have appeared hither, thither, and yon, and it is difficult to pull them together to assist new chapters, newly elected officers, and experienced but over-burdened leaders.

I thought it would be useful to bring several of these items together so that they are readily available. Consequently, we are reprinting in revised form four articles published in these pages during the past few years. The following group of articles is not definitive. A number of other good pieces have appeared from time to time, but these four seem to have been particularly helpful to those who have had them to turn to.

We urge you to hold on to this issue for later reference. If you let it slip away, try to remember May, 1999; that's the issue you want to order in future for members eager to build and strengthen local organizations of the blind. Enjoy the following articles, and when they inspire you to go in new and exciting directions, write down the accrued wisdom and send it along for the rest of us to profit from.