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Personnel Announcements

In the State Office

DBS Staff,

Please join me in welcoming Melanie Etters as the Division's Communication Director.  Melanie brings extensive experience in the field of communications.  I am confident the Division will benefit from Melanie's experience in both our external and internal communications and outreach efforts.  You can expect to hear from her as she becomes more acquainted with the Division and develops processes that will improve our communication.

I am pleased to announce that Ed Hudson has been reclassified as the Bureau Chief of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  This classification more accurately reflects the responsibilities of this position and I know you will join me in congratulating Ed.

Joyce Hildreth

In District 6

We would also like to welcome Brian Michaels, the new District Administrator for the Orlando District Office. 

Educating the Community in District 11

by Ashley Evans

Monica Vasquez is a Senior Rehabilitation Specialist in the district 11 office of Fort Lauderdale who has recently appeared twice on television.  One of her appearances concerned a blind teenager that had run away from home in Coral Springs.  The teen’s mother had awoken in the middle of the night to find her son gone.  She called the Coral Springs Police, who contacted the Broward Division of Blind Services office for help.  The police wanted someone who could read Braille, in case the runaway had left a note, although they later discovered that he had not.  They also wanted to know if they could try to contact the blind runaway through his note taker, which did not turn out to be an option in this case.  Monica explained to the police how DBS and the Lighthouse work, showed them a notetaker, a cane, and talked to them about how there are many different models of cell phones  that blind people use.  She taught them how to properly approach a blind person, too. 

“I explained to them that you don’t just grab a blind person , but you speak to them first and explain to them who you are,” she said. 

The missing teen was eventually found in Dunkin Donuts with some friends.  The District 11 office has placed a call to the Coral Springs Police Department in attempt to set up an in-service training so the department will be better prepared to deal with blind and visually impaired citizens in the future.  They are now awaiting a return call.  The District 11 office is planning on working with the lighthouse of Broward on educating the community about blindness.  Karen Parparian, the Lighthouse’s Program Coordinator, will be working with Monica on this. 

Monica was also a guest on “7 Days,” a documentary series on AmericaTeVe just a little before Christmas.  The film crew visited her at her home, to film her in her own environment, conducting some tasks of daily, independent living.  She was filmed using her computer with Jaws and Window Eyes, and making a salad in her kitchen. 

“It showed that blind people can have a life, go to work, and take care of their household responsibilities,” said Monica.   “Hey--it’s possible!” she laughs.

News from District Five

Staff Changes

Congratulations to Jim Woolyhand our new District Administrator in District 5.  Jim has been employed with DBS for 23 and a half years as a Senior Rehabilitation Counselor, and most recently as the VR Supervisor.  We are very excited to have him as our D.A. in District 5.

Congratulations to Mark Steinman- our new Rehabilitation Supervisor in District 5.  Mark has been employed with DBS for one and a half years as a Senior Rehabilitation Counselor.  Mark came to us with 25+ years of experience with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.  Mark is very knowledgeable about VR, and displays great passion for our clients.

Holiday Tradition Continues in District Five

by Alice Radford

After Thanksgiving, we asked each counselor to take a look at their caseloads for those with   children in their families that might need some assistance at Christmas.  Once the names were received, we asked all staff on campus to please bring items to complete care baskets for these families.  Halifax Counsel for the Blind in this district has always been gracious as a monetary supplier for this endeavor each year.  Their generous donation was used to buy turkeys and other items that were not supplied by donations, so that each family could have a holiday feast.  We provide these families with items such as peanut butter, jelly, macaroni and cheese, and crackers.   This year we were able to assist 9 families with all types of food items.  The reaction our staff receives from these families brings them such joy.  We believe this will be a tradition that will continue within our District for many years. 

A big THANK YOU goes out to Halifax Counsel for the Blind, DBS staff,  Debra Camara RT., Mary Grant WP and other staff that have assisted with this task, and for all those who so graciously donated items for the food baskets this year.

We hope to be able to continue this tradition here in  District 5.

Holiday Hope

by Peter Cerullo

I received a phone call from Arlene Clark Program Manager with Urban Ministries, located here in the Greater Daytona Beach area of central Florida.  This non profit agency gathers non perishable food supplies and then distributes this food to families that are in dire need.  M’s Clark said that December 2010 proved to have the highest need recorded due to the economic down turn. 

“Donations are down, but blessings of inspiration and hope came to us in the true spirit of this past holiday season,”  said M’s Clark, who went on to say that her heart was truly touched when she received two full food baskets donated from the students of the Rehabilitation Center for the blind and visually impaired in Daytona Beach.  Clark stated that this was a sign of hope, and that the families who were the recipients of the Rehab Center student’s benevolence were grateful. 

It is wonderful to know that people in need are helping others in need, and I am proud to be a Residential Instructor at the Rehab Center and applaud the students for their genuine kindness. 

Christmas in Miami

by Carol Brady-Simmons

Adult Services

This Christmas Season the Miami Lighthouse was chosen by Hands on Miami to host a Christmas Party for clients and employees.  Credit Suisse Bank volunteers came to Miami Lighthouse, catered a lunch and joined the Better Chance Music Production Program™ in offering entertainment for all.  In addition, holiday gifts were raffled and a great time was had by all.  Terrabank also delivered approximately 100 gifts for Miami Lighthouse clients and individual gift bags were prepared by the Social Work department, and handed out mid-December.

Transition Program

This holiday season the Transition Program at the Miami Lighthouse was highlighted by many events.  A joint Holiday party with the Broward Lighthouse was hosted by the Transition Program where food was made by clients as they socialized, danced and exchanged gifts.  They got to learn new festive recipes and sew together popcorn for the Christmas tree.  Even though sewing popcorn is an old tradition, many of the teens enjoyed the activity and it allowed them to follow up on sewing lessons from the summertime.  Secret Santa presents were purchased by each student at a nearby mall the day prior to the party.  In addition, the party was attended by a certified dance instructor to teach everyone some new moves.  The students had a great time getting out on a Saturday night, and meeting each other- they are already asking for another joint event to continue the fun!

Children’s Program

The Children's Department kicked off the holiday season by creating beautiful arts and craft pieces as part of our playgroup activity.  These creations were used to adorn the tree.  We continued to spread great cheer at our annual holiday party.  Children sang holiday songs and were engaged in a winter storytelling event at the party.  The party concluded with gifts for all.

Christmas Lock-In

by Allison Clark

Independence for the Blind of West Florida hosted a Christmas Lock-In at their learning center in Pensacola on December 21 and 22 for their Transition students.  Nine teens, between the ages of 14 and 18, participated in the overnight event.  During the Lock-In, the students traveled to Cordova Mall to learn about appropriate business attire for different careers, and they also visited the downtown Pensacola YMCA for a late night swim in the indoor pool there.  Several teens were also given the opportunity to prepare a delicious dinner of chili and cornbread.  I.B. West instructors teach the teens important cooking techniques such as safely handling and cooking meat, chopping and slicing vegetables, as well as safely using an oven and stovetop.  They also participated in some classroom lessons to help them improve their socialization skills.  In January, the group will head to Pensacola NAS to learn about civilian jobs in the government as well as tour the National Aviation Museum.   


Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind: 

The Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind will conduct its next quarterly meeting in Tallahassee at the DoubleTree Hotel, 101 S. Adams Street on February 9, 2011 from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM.  For a copy of the agenda, when available, contact Phyllis Dill at 850/245-0392 or

The Council will also conduct a Public Forum on February 8, 2011 from 3:30 PM until 5:00 PM at the Lighthouse of the Big Bend, 3071 Highland Oaks Terrace, Tallahassee.  This is an open meeting with no agenda.  In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons needing a special accommodation to participate in these meetings should contact the local DBS office no later than five (5) working days prior to the meeting, at 850/245-0370, or toll free 800/672-7038.

Dining in the Dark

Mark your calendars now for May 13, 2011 for “Dining in the Dark”, sponsored by New Vision for Independence.  Tell your friends and coworkers to save this date to join you for dinner and a feast for the senses.  Contact Theresa Tabone at 352-435-5040 or at 

End Zone

We hope you found this month’s newsletter interesting and enlightening.  Remember, we need your submissions each month.  Let us know what’s going on in your district or facility.  The publication date for the Inside DBS newsletter should be the tenth of each month.  The deadline for submissions is the fifth of each month.  Comments, suggestions, and submissions should be directed to:

Ashley Evans
Phone:  (850) 245-0310

Additional useful links and telephone numbers:

MIS Help Desk:
Phone:  (850) 245-0360

AWARE Help Desk:
Phone:  (850) 245-0395 or 1-866-841-0912

Division of Blind Services Website:

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