Like our parent organization, the National Federation of the Blind, we are a membership organization. As such, our leadership is elected annually by our membership. Those serving in a leadership capacity not only represent the membership, but are also entrusted to chair committees and conduct the business of the organization.
Each member of our leadership has their own personal experiences with community service, a passion for the work of the National Federation of the Blind, and a strong belief in blindness and the capacity of all blind people.
Get to Know Our Board of Directors
Darian Smith enters into his third term as president of the National Federation of the Blind Community Service Division.
Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Darian came to know of the National Federation of the Blind in 2001, but became an active member of the organization in 2008. His involvement in the movement has helped to strengthen his belief in blindness and allowed him to recognize the low expectations society traditionally holds of his blind brothers and sisters.
At first Volunteerism was just a thing that Darian did. it wasn’t until joining an AmeriCorps program called the National Civilian Community Corps (AmeriCorps NCCC) that community service became something he looked upon differently. In NCCC, Darian was selected to participate in a corps of about three hundred other young Americans from across the country. He was the only blind person in the group.
Once assigned to his ten-person team, he traveled to parts of Colorado, Texas, and Alabama, embarking upon one of the most formative experiences of his life. He did a number of things while in the corps, including constructing trails and his understanding of team work. he assisted people in reclaiming their lives post hurricane Ike and helped to revitalize a community while undergoing significant transformations as a corps member, teammate, and person. However, by far his biggest highlight was being chosen to take part in a program where he mentored at-risk youth because of the great conversations and wonderful lessons that both he and the youth shared with each other.
It was also in NCCC where he felt some of the most hurtful forms of discrimination. He experienced times where his desire to serve and learn was overpowered by people’s fears and concerns. These fears and concerns relegated him to the sidelines of service on more than one occasion.
This experience sparked within him the dream of a group where the blind can come together to think of the ways that they can use the power of volunteerism/ community service as a tool to educate, equip, and empower the blind as fully participatory, well -rounded, and fully capable members of society. He knew, through his active participation in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind, that the organized blind routinely give of their time, talent, and resources to help other blind people live the lives they want to live, and he hoped that this group would change the narrative of the blind as the people who need to be served and turn it into a narrative where the blind themselves do the serving.
At times, he experienced hesitancy and push back when wanting to help those who were not blind. It was for this reason that he hoped that this group would encourage each other to use their talents and energy, both collectively and individually, to fix the problems in their local communities that might not be based in blindness and to do so by serving alongside their sighted neighbors. He hoped that by doing this, eventually more and more people would see the long-held truth about blindness, that it is not the characteristic that defines a person and their abilities.
Eventually, after many years and hard work, with the love, hope, and determination of him and many friends, the dream became a reality. Today, the Community Service Division’s contributions make a difference to himself and to others.
Dacia Cole is from Columbia, Missouri, and has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since she was a young child. She has held several positions in both the Columbia chapter and the Missouri affiliate. She is active in the community in several ways. She participates in events at her church including teaching kids, working at the local food bank, singing at nursing homes, and picking produce in a community garden. Along with those activities, she participates in local parades, including the Memorial Day parade where she and other chapter members walk in honor of their members who are veterans. She has also read to groups of kids and handed out information about the Federation and brailled people’s names at festivals. Community service is important to Dacia because she wants to give back to her community and help pave the way for those who come after her.
Chris Parsons is from Colorado and works as a technology instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Her family learned about the NFB when she was young, but she didn’t really become involved in the Federation until she attended National Convention in 2009 as part of the College Leadership Program. At that convention, she also got involved in building what eventually became the Community Service Division. Chris has participated in a variety of service projects, including setting up tables and items at Toys for Tots, planting seedlings at a nursery, tutoring at a local elementary school, putting together linen rolls at a food bank, brailling children’s books, and picking up trash along a highway. She loves helping people and giving back; however, she has always been a bit intimidated when it comes to jumping in and getting involved in a project, and she is admittedly not always sure where to begin. For this reason, she finds the Community Service Division particularly important as a network of resources and ideas and also a source of encouragement and support for blind people with all types of service experience. She feels that it is essential to meet people where they are in their service experience and help them to find projects that both interest them and challenge their and society’s beliefs about the capacity of blind people.
Jonathan Franks has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for over 6 years. He has been involved with the NFB Community Service Division for over 2 years. He first heard about the Division after winning a National Federation of the Blind national scholarship in 2014.
Jonathan recently graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Degree in Social Work and a Minor in Psychology. His ultimate career goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and to work with children who have gone through physical, sexual, emotional, and Psychological trauma using Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He attributes his 14 years of experience with volunteering to his Degree choice. He considers himself a selfless person and has a very strong belief in altruism and the value it has on others.
Jonathan has served with numerous populations, including the homeless, the blind, people with other disabilities, the elderly, diabetics, at-risk children, and children who have undergone trauma. He has also participated in numerous advocacy endeavors for underserved populations.
Jonathan has witnessed first-hand the power that the Community Service Division has and endeavors to pass along the Division’s message to as many people as possible. He has also helped revitalize his local NFB chapter by assisting them in getting involved with numerous community service projects. This has helped the chapter grow not only in membership, but also in their desire to embrace the power of what community service can do for everyone.
Tara Abella is from Brownsburg, Indiana. This is her first year of being involved in the Federation. She received a scholarship at our 2016 national convention in Orlando. Tara is a senior at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She is studying elementary education and special education in the hopes of teaching Elementary children from low income families in a public school setting. Her volunteer experience includes volunteering at an afterschool program for children from low income families, an art studio for individuals with cognitive disabilities, The American Cancer Society, and through the Best Buddies program. Participating in community service allows her to explore her passions and helps her grow as a teacher and an individual. It also allows her to give back to the community. This participation also provides opportunities to build life-long friendships and relationships with other successful blind people.
Kyra Sweeney is from Santa Monica, California. Although she began attending conventions of the National Federation of the Blind at four years old, she truly became involved in the organization after attending a summer program at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Kyra counts community service as one of the most important and rewarding parts of her life. She has volunteered with the Los Angeles region of the American Red Cross for two years, working to assist survivors of disasters and to spread awareness about disaster preparedness. While attending college, she also volunteered at a local elementary school as a classroom assistant and tutor for students. Kyra believes in the potential of all blind people to contribute to their communities in valuable ways. As a board member of the Community Service Division, she hopes to connect members with one another so that experienced volunteers can help those who are just starting out to be confident in their ability to give back.
Ronnie Bellomy is a member of the Fort Worth, Texas, Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. This is her second year as a member of the National Federation of the Blind, and she joined the Community Service Division at this year’s National Convention. She has participated in numerous community service opportunities. Some of these opportunities include collecting books to promote literacy in the United States, conducting a food drive on her college campus to support the local family assistance organization, facilitating paper recycling, implementing a bottle/can recycling program on her college campus, assisting in collecting Christmas shoe boxes filled with needed materials and small toys for children in Mexico, and facilitating a faith-based activity program in diversely-populated neighborhoods with a team. Community service and the Community Service Division are important to Ronnie because She has a passion for service. She enjoys passing on the opportunities that many have provided her. It is important to Ronnie to continue to demonstrate that visually impaired/blind individuals can serve equally alongside their sighted peers.