[Missouri-l] Pony Express Association of the Blind provides fun, fellowship for local low-vision residents
dhuff at moblind.org
Thu Dec 16 12:53:51 CST 2010
Keeping things light without sight
Pony Express Association of the Blind provides fun, fellowship for local
St. Joseph News-Press
Dee Ann Sutherland is the president of the Pony Express Association for the
Vision fades, but friendship lasts forever. The members of the Pony Express
Association of the Blind in St. Joseph have lost a lot - driver's licenses,
independence, spouses - but they have one another. And together they have a
The group, founded in 1958, is unusual for an organization affiliated with
the Missouri Council of the Blind both because it has several sighted
and because none of its current low-vision members was born blind. The
composition might explain why the ties that bind the group are ones of
not vision impairment.
Some of the sighted members, such as Marguerite Smith and Lorene Brokaw,
started coming to the meetings with their low-vision spouses and have
to come after they've passed away. Margaret Lyle came with her mother, Opal
Williams, until she passed away in 1984 and likewise kept attending. Pat and
Larry Carr accompany Pat's mother, Alice Graham. Bob Lafferty comes with his
wife, Pat, who lost her vision a year and a half ago.
For the low-vision members of the organization, the 29-member group provides
much-needed solidarity. Shirley Estes started coming to the Pony Express
of the Blind meetings in 2006.
"I had lost a lot (of my vision)," she says. "I just wanted to be with
people who were experiencing the same thing."
Dee Ann Sutherland, president of the Pony Express Association, says the
group helps with problem solving.
"All of us have different levels of vision," she says, "It's good to get
together and talk about problems and how to deal with them in different
Blind or low-vision residents have another option for support groups in St.
Joseph, the local chapter of the Missouri Federation of the Blind. Unlike
Pony Express Association of the Blind, the Missouri Federation of the Blind
has more of a political bent. It sends representatives to Jefferson City to
lobby for services for the blind and helps connect members to lawyers for
A Christmas feast
During the first full week of December, the Pony Express Association went to
the San Jose Steakhouse and Mexican Grill in St. Joseph for a special
dinner meeting. The group normally meets every other Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
at the Joyce Raye Patterson Senior Citizens Center.
Family members drive some of the gathered 18 group members to the San Jose
Steakhouse; the rest come in with Leland "Buster" Daise, the driver for the
Adult Transportation Services (OATS) bus. The service for disabled and older
adults makes a special trip for Pony Express Association of the Blind
Mr. Daise is always the driver for that run, so he's become an honorary
member of the group.
Betty Beaver and Trudy Steele use lit magnifying glasses to examine the
menu. No one in the group reads Braille; with extra magnification, the
members can see well enough to read print. Mr. Lafferty reads the menu to
his wife and alerts her to when the waitress comes by to take everyone's
When the dishes arrive, the waitress identifies everything on the plate,
whether the country-fried steak has white or brown gravy and the side dish,
she sets them down.
The second Pony Express Association of the Blind meeting of the month offers
other activities for members. During one, the St. Joseph Police Department
put on a safety presentation. At another meeting, a group gave a
presentation on living wills. The members of the Pony Express Association
are well into
retirement age but are looking to bring in younger members.
The Missouri Council of the Blind hosts events as well. Ms. Beaver and Ms.
Steele have attended the Missouri Council of the Blind's camp at Cobblestone
Lodge in Steelville, Mo. The campsite, designed for the legally blind,
offers all the usual activities such as canoeing, Bingo, card games and ring
- with modifications. The playing cards have Braille on them. During ring
toss, people will stand behind the pole and clap to guide the low-vision
"We don't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves," Gerry Loubey says after
Ms. Steele and Ms. Beaver recount a Cobblestone Lodge canoeing adventure for
Getting through the day-to-day
Resources for the blind at both state and local levels also help give
low-vision members the opportunity to live as normally as possible. Only a
in the Pony Express Association of the Blind live in assisted living
facilities. The OATS buses take those unable to drive to doctor
stores and other shopping trips. MERIL, in collaboration with the Missouri
Department of Family Services' Rehabilitation Services for the Blind,
a low-vision resource center for the St. Joseph area. The low-vision
resource center sells products to help make reading, note taking, using the
and watching television easier. The state will subsidize the cost of
equipment for Missouri residents over the age of 55 who cannot read the
with the best correction. Everyone else may purchase the equipment directly
The Northwest Missouri Rehabilitation Services for the Blind office in
Kansas City also provides counseling, independent living and vocational
residents to help them adjust to life without vision.
Other activities members could do with their eyes closed before vision loss
made that more than a saying. Lifelong cook Alice Graham keeps up her work
the kitchen, though she now avoids recipes that call for boiling water. It's
difficult for those with low-vision to tell if the water is hot enough or
if it's been boiling for a while. Ms. Graham was so familiar with her
kitchen and her measuring cups that when her vision started to go, she began
by feel. She's in the kitchen less now only because a tornado damaged her
home in 2006 and destroyed her utensils. Getting accustomed to new measuring
cups was a challenge, her daughter said, but not one that has prevented her
from making her beloved pies.
Life is still bright for the Pony Express Association of the Blind. The
members stay at the restaurant long after the food has been served and catch
with one another.
"I never dreamed blind people could have so much fun," Ms. Estes says.
Denny Huff - President
Missouri Council of the Blind
Toll Free: (888) 362-1383
Cell: (636) 262-1383
MCB Phonecast: (816) 298-8969
<mailto:DHuff at MoBlind.Org> DHuff at MoBlind.Org
The purpose of Missouri Council of the Blind shall be to promote the general
well-being of our members and legally blind people in Missouri, and to
support or participate in other programs promoting the best interests of
legally blind people everywhere.
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