The Vision Resource Center: Serving the visually impaired

10 1 People with plantsThe Vision Resource Center has been around since 1936, but it incorporated in 1939. In 1936, a group of Sunday School teachers got together and decided they were going to become The Association for the Blind. In 1939, they incorporated and worked with the Department of Social Services to become The Center for the Blind. The Vision Resource Center was one of the first four United Way of Cumberland County agencies. Since then, the organization has worked to make life for the visually impaired in the community better.

“Currently we have 676 blind and visually impaired adults and kids in Cumberland County,” said Terri Thomas, executive director of the VRC. “Right now, we are actually working with 250 of those individuals; 230 of them are adults, and 20 of them are kids.”

Thomas added that there are a lot of blind and visually impaired individuals in the county that the VRC does not know about as those individuals are not on the blind registry.

These are exciting times for the VRC, as the organization moves from the Dorothy Gilmore Recreation Center to its new home on Cedar Creek Road. “I would like to thank the city for allowing us to be in the Dorothy Gilmore Recreation Center for 10-plus years,” said Thomas. “Without them, we would not have been able to expand into what we have become now.” 

VRC was previously housed in a 199-square-foot facility at the Dorothy Gilmore Recreation Center. The new facility is a 2,700-square-foot building on 7 acres of land located at 2736 Cedar Creek Rd.

“Now we are going to be able to provide more things within our own location,” said Thomas. “We will have assistive technology skills training, our own gym, a kitchen for cooking classes, a conference room and more.”

10 2 people with horsesThomas added that the benefit of the VRC having its own facility is that the blind and visually impaired will have more opportunity for freedom and independence. They will be able to enjoy a cup of coffee, play games, listen to music, sit in a rocking chair and listen to the birds chirp. They have a place they can come to that’s outside of their homes, where they can stay as long as they want to and go home when they want. Thomas noted that this is one of the benefits of having a house — the therapeutic nature of the space.
“We now have a conference room area for the National Federation for the Blind to meet in, and we have families with support groups,” said Thomas. “Our blind and visually impaired members have a place that they can come and hang out instead of … sitting at home by themselves.”
Thomas has been executive director of the VRC for nine years and has fought for many of the things these individuals have needed.

“I came to the Vision Resource Center in 2010 by way of one of my blind friends at church who told me that she had a job for me working with the blind,” said Thomas. “I ended up at the Vision Resource Center with no (experience working with people who are blind) and just a will to help people.

“Everything that we do to enhances their lives deals with mind, body and spirit.”

Thomas added that VRC believes in wellness and in incorporating a lot of physical fitness for those who are physically able to participate. “We do exercise classes, ensure they do their elliptical, treadmill, ride bikes, walk at the John D. Fuller Recreation Center and other activities,” said Thomas.    

“Our next thing is socialization, which is key (for) people who are visually impaired because they don’t really get out, and they are not around people like them,” said Thomas. “They talk about how their family does not get it and (how) being around other blind people is something that they strive to do.”

10 3 People with GoKartsSome of the activities with VRC include going to plays, eating lunch at various restaurants, visiting the beach, surfing, horseback riding, arts and crafts, making pottery, and visiting the Cape Fear Botanical Garden, Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, PNC Arena in Raleigh and more.

“The core of all of it is more about the socialization and camaraderie between people that have a (similar) disability,” said Thomas. “We’ve made the things that seem impossible possible by doing whatever we can to make whatever activity they enjoyed when they had sight, the same way without sight.”

Some of the assistive technology equipment that blind and visually impaired individuals use includes 20/20 pens, Bump dots, iPhones, iPads, Wi-Fi service, Ruby magnifiers, CC TVs, Penfriend Audio Identifiers and other items. “People can have low vision but can’t see well enough to drive,” said Thomas.

The VRC will host Out of Sight Night at the Park Saturday, Sept. 21, from 6-10 p.m. at Segra Stadium. It’s the seventh annual “Out of Sight” fundraising event for the organization.

“We will have heavy hors d’oeuvres, vendors, activities, the Guy Unger Band, and a Game of Chance,” said Thomas. “Cocktail attire will be the attire this year.”

Thomas said there will be a different spin on the silent auction this year called the Game of Chance. Participants will be able to pick their fate with what kinds of gifts they like instead of writing down how much they want to pay for it.

10 4 People in Auditorium“This year, instead of individuals wearing blindfolds, we are going to purchase glasses that have different levels of visual impairments; a sponsor will be supporting those,” said Thomas.

“As you walk around with your glasses, you will be able to see what it is like with different visual impairments. We have to educate people on what blind and visually impaired is not,” said Thomas. “It is my duty to make sure the Fayetteville community knows all about it.”

Tickets for Out of Sight Night at the Park cost $75. Segra Stadium is located at 460 Hay St. For more information, visit the website at
www.visionresourcecentercc.org or
call 910-483-2719.

Can North Carolina afford Medicaid expansion?

07 child medicaidNorth Carolina’s recent budget standoff in Raleigh called into question whether the state could afford Medicaid expansion. Republicans offered a Medicaid expansion compromise bill, but Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., and Democrats wanted full expansion of Medicaid to provide health insurance to an estimated 600,000 poor North Carolinians, many of whom are eligible children.

CNBC reported this month that North Carolina had built one of the country’s strongest business climates over the past two decades, fueled by low business costs, incentives and a young, educated workforce, many of whom have been trained at the strong universities in the state and Research Triangle Park.

Three years ago, Forbes ranked North Carolina’s economic development No. 1 in the country. No state’s economy is on more solid ground than the tar heel state. The state attracted $2.6 billion in venture capital in 2018, the sixth highest figure in the nation. It is also attracting skilled workers, who are moving to North Carolina in droves. But the tar heel state is no exception to push for Medicaid eligibility expansion, which is growing at a rapid clip nationwide.

In Ohio, for example, Medicaid rose 35% from $18.9 billion in fiscal year 2013 to $25.7 billion in 2017. Ohio Medicaid spending has grown 88% over the past decade, more than double the rate of growth in total state spending. Medicaid was already the largest category of state spending a decade ago, and currently the program consumes an even greater share of the state budget. In 2017, Medicaid consumed more than 29% of total state spending, up from 20% in 2008.

In 2008, North Carolina beneficiaries grew to a grand total of 1,407,257 who were covered by Medicaid — or Health Choice, for children who do not qualify for Medicaid. By 2015, that number had increased to 1,911,918. Over the same time period, the state’s population grew at an annual rate of 1.2%, a rate of growth that’s less than Medicaid eligibility is growing. Matt Salo, head of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, said about one-third of all kids in the country are covered by Medicaid as are more than half of all births.

Forty-one percent of North Carolina’s kids are covered under Medicaid or Health Choice, which is higher than the national average. Salo said the good news is that kids are less expensive to cover. Analysts like Steve Owen, senior fiscal analyst for the North Carolina General Assembly, have told state legislators several times over the past year that part of North Carolina’s success at holding down Medicaid costs is due in large part to the increase in the number of children enrolled, because their coverage is cheaper than adults and families.

Thirty-six states and Washington, D.C., have opted to expand Medicaid over the years. North Carolina is one of the 14 states that have not expanded coverage. Medicaid spending is the largest budget category and has grown at a faster rate than all other areas of state spending including education, public safety, and infrastructure. “By restraining spending growth to an average of 3.5% over the two-year budget, North Carolinians get to keep more of their money,” wrote Becki Gray, senior vice president at the conservative John Locke Foundation.

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Why do we thrill-seek?

12ThrillSeekingI just returned from a motorcycle adventure ride that was so challenging I actually feel shorter. While most motorcyclists were heading to Rolling Thunder, a few crazy guys were traveling across Virginia and West Virginia on what I was told would be “a pretty easy off-road ride with mostly graveled forest roads.” I was thinking Jeep trails, which for the most part it was. It’s the parts that are not Jeep trails that make "adventure riding" adventure riding. Little did I know I would be experiencing narrow trails almost like jungle canopy, red-clay slippery mud, 400-foot drop-offs and many water crossings.

At moments, I asked myself, “What am I doing this for? I’m tired; I hurt. Should I sell my dual-sport bike, get me a nice traveling bike and stick to the roads?” Getting stuck in what I will call mud quicksand took us two hours to get out of and required us to build a makeshift bridge in the middle of nowhere.

My wife watched my exploits on Facebook and said to me, “There is no way that looks fun at all.” Every night, I agreed with her. Strangely, the day after I got back home, my body was in full-on travel mode. I wanted to get back on that bike and ride. Then I found myself wondering what my next trip would be. Crazy, right?

Most of my life has been in and around military, firemen and policemen. All of these jobs are high-risk jobs. Their friends and family worry every day if they will get back home. They, in turn, go to work every day and dream of some sane job doing something safe — but they choose to get back on it.

Thrill-seeking and risk-taking varies. For some, going to a scary movie is enough. For many, it is jumping on a motorcycle and going for a ride. For others, it is parachuting or tickling a bear’s belly. So, where does this motivation come from?

The amygdala is the answer. It's a small, almond-shaped set of neurons in the brain's medial temporal lobe, which is kind of the center of the brain. Here, our mind processes a convergence of inputs of chemicals the body produces. These chemicals are generated based on what our senses tell our mind, and the body produces respondents. If danger is perceived — real or not — it triggers our instinct to respond to the situation. Part of our instinct is stimulated by our body’s ability to produce adrenaline, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Together, they produce substances that stimulate positive and even euphoric feelings. Our body gets high from accomplishing or surviving something.

Adrenaline is the chemical that gets us ready for action when we perceive danger. It is that moment that often defines success or failure.

Endorphins keep up our endurance. It is the runner’s drive and ultimate will to keep going when their body tells them to quit or walk.

Serotonin feeds brain cells related to mood, sexual desire and function, appetite, sleep, memory and learning, temperature regulation and some social behavior. Serotonin aids a wide variety of tasks in the body and is often called the “happy chemical” because it works for our wellbeing and happiness.

Dopamine comes up when we are attempting to accomplish a challenge. It’s that decision-making process that says “Hey, let's go jump in the ocean, feed sharks and take pictures.” Together, these chemicals are highly addictive and connive to drive us to seek out that thrill or scary challenge.

Thrill-seekers often operate in unpredictable situations. Thrill-seekers are usually not good with being deliberate, focused, concentrated or patient. They overcome these things by being prepared, training for situations, doing mental rehearsals or having an excellent medical plan.

To keep us in check, the brain's frontal lobe acts as an internal control panel that gives us cognitive skills like problem-solving, language, judgment, sexual behavior and emotional expressions. It gives us our personality and ability to communicate. It is also the part of the brain that tells us, “Danger. Stop. This is not safe.”

I deduce that the most significant challenge for the thrill-seeker is between their amygdala and frontal lobe. They have to calculate the amount of risk, gain and loss they're willing to give for their next adventure.

If there is a topic you would like to discuss, email motorcycle4fun@aol.com. RIDE SAFE!

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