A Successful April Service Project in Des Moines

On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, thirteen members from the National Federation of the Blind’s Des Moines, Iowa, Chapter volunteered with the local Meals from the Heartland. This is an organization which works diligently with the help of hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers. Meals from the Heartland is made up of volunteers from businesses, schools, churches, community organizations, and beyond who package meals for delivery to malnourished people in Iowa, across the United States, and around the world.

Gloria Graves and Jim Rechkemmer smiling for the camera

Once arriving to the Meals from the Heartland location, NFB Des Moines Chapter members were received with a warm welcome from the staff hosting the volunteer event, and there was discussion of what reasonable accommodations would need to be made for packaging meals. The staff was willing to do anything to assist with this process and ensuring we had a great experience.

It was decided that the 13 NFB Des Moines chapter members would be divided into three groups at different tables. Other members of the community were sprinkled throughout our group, which gave us a great opportunity to discuss the NFB with sighted members of the Des Moines community. Sighted individuals weighed the meals once they were packaged since the scales were not accessible to blind members. Set up was assembly line style, which allowed members to choose a specific duty to fulfill. All members were divided into groups with other volunteers and worked within their individual groups to determine what would be best and who wanted to be in charge of each task when packaging meals.

This was a great event in which blindness was not made to be a big issue to the individuals hosting the event or the other volunteers who partook. This event truly illustrated the idea that if a person is blind, he or she can still be a contributing member of their society. It also showed what could be accomplished with advocacy and the use of alternative techniques. This was a multi-faceted experience which not only allowed us to give back to the community, but also gave us the chance to network and build connections with sighted peers.

After such a wonderful experience with Meals from the Heartland, there is continued discussion of bringing in a talking scale so that individuals who are blind are able to take part in the measuring portion of the packaging if they so choose. This showed what could be accomplished when we choose to look at what a person is capable of rather than solely focusing on their disability. All participants learned something that night and were able to walk away knowing they did something and were a part of changing the lives of others.