Help Your Local Chapter!
Dear Alexander Graham Bell Community,
One of the most far-reaching effects of the 2016 AG Bell Convention is the new energy surrounding our 25 AG Bell Chapters. In fact, just following the convention, two new chapters were formed in Rhode Island and the DC Metro Area, bringing our number to 27. Several chapters have been revitalized and people in another six states have reached out to us for support in establishing new chapters or refreshing existing ones.
We couldn't be more pleased by this volunteerism. It is a perfect time to renew our commitment to children and families in local communities across the nation, to engage adults who are deaf and hard of hearing, and to strengthen the work of professionals by building collaborative relationships. During the convention, AG Bell staff and consultants worked to deliver professional training to chapter leaders, to provide them with tools to improve membership recruitment, meeting attendance and volunteer support. This is an initiative that has been dormant for a while, but as part of my commitment to you and the tenure of our new President, Ted Meyer, we are now focused on growing our chapters and ensuring that every family who seeks our help can find parents, adults with hearing loss and professionals in their state to help them on their journey.
It's not a numbers game. It's a recognition that we strengthen each other through service. Sometimes we are called on to share our story and give of ourselves to help others; sometimes it's their turn to help us through the challenges we are facing. While each of us is on a unique journey in life, no one can succeed without the help and support of others.
One chapter organized a meet-up for teens to speak with younger children and their parents. One parent said, "You've given me hope that my daughter will be fine," while another shared that "I thought we were the only ones who were having problems - now I know we're not and we can find help to get us through." Professionals have asked for help in finding financial support for families, including one low-income family with three children who needed hearing aids and whose insurance simply would not help; more than a dozen members shared their ideas. Chapter members discuss everything from finding a pediatrician who knows about hearing loss to choosing a musical instrument to study to the best way to wear a bike helmet with a hearing aid to asking for accommodations at college. Whatever question arises, there are parents, adults and professionals who have looked for solutions and are happy to share their experiences.
AG Bell is focused this year on expanding and reinforcing local chapters to make those circles of support stronger. Some of our work will provide the organizational supports that chapters need such as their incorporation and renewals, documentation and insurance coverage to give chapters security in their standing as independent organizations. But most of our attention is dedicated to providing chapter members with skills they can use in their local area to reach families of children with hearing loss and offer them great opportunities to learn more about their child's journey, the milestones and challenges they may encounter, and the skills they need to help their child succeed. Skills building for chapters includes proven practices to improve recruitment and reach more families, adults and professionals; better meeting organization to provide great experiences; marketing activities to attract new supporters and participants; volunteer management to offer members the chance to give back and join in as their schedules allow; and speaking skills to better educate the public on listening and spoken language and the achievements of our children.
I hope you are already engaged with your local chapter, but there is so much more each of us can do. If there isn't a chapter in your area, do you connect with professionals and other parents of a child learning to listen and speak? Perhaps together you can help build a chapter for your state. Does your chapter need your help but you're pressed for time? Even a half hour on a Friday night can turn into a volunteer opportunity - maybe it's enough time to write a short article for your chapter newsletter, to reach out to a possible funder, or to design an event flyer - like the outstanding newsletter that earned the Michigan Chapter an AG Bell Award at the convention. There is much we can do together, and when everyone puts in what they can, so much more can be achieved.
AG Bell's chapter initiative is being led by Susan Schmidberger, our Chapter Advisor, and Lisa Chutjian, our Chief Development Officer. Working with experts in the field of chapter relations, they are raising our capacity to reach further, to help families and professionals wherever they live (and I look forward to a time when we welcome chapters beyond our borders). I'm hopeful that you will feel the call to learn more about our field, to meet outstanding volunteers and supporters, and to join in and help advance listening and spoken language. I know that together, we can continue to make a difference in the lives of children who are deaf and hard of hearing and help them achieve their dreams.
Until next week,
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.