News Report: Stones River’s Banks Are Swelling with New Members While Tagdu Uses the Media to “Hup- Up!
By James Boehm
From the editor: These days James Boehm wears numerous hats. First of all, he is the secretary of our Tennessee affiliate; next, he is the president of the Stones River Chapter; and finally, he is the president of the Tennessee Association of Guide Dog Users. Here is the James Boehm update.
The writer Arnold H. Glasgow once said, “Make life a mission, not an intermission.” Our NFB chapters and division in Middle Tennessee have been on a “mission” lately! How? By spreading the word about equality, reaching out to visually impaired students, and fighting for the rights of service dog users, to name a few.
Stones River, a predominantly student driven chapter of Murfreesboro, has been on “a mission!” The zeal and active participation by its members has drawn the attention of students and the community in the Murfreesboro area. Stones River is also sporting a new look! Four of its five, newly elected board members have been part of the chapter for less than 6 months! Further, the membership of Stones River has doubled in the past 3 months! How exciting! Our chapter meetings have included NFB trivia with gift card prizes, the establishment of Stones River Facebook and Twitter pages, and the organization of new committees. Various guests have been impressed by our positive atmosphere and welcoming spirit! Stones River will soon become a recognized student organization, which will open doors in building our chapter and make a difference in our community.
Many fundraising and community outreach projects are in the works. The Broad Street Chili’s restaurant in Murfreesboro sponsored a fundraiser on Memorial Day that provided many opportunities to bring awareness of our chapter and educate the community about the NFB. The Chili’s manager and staff expressed sincere appreciation and support from their establishment.
Stones River’s success is not by accident! Exemplary mentors and energetic members drive the growth and unity in Murfreesboro. I would like to thank all of Stones River’s members for their support, leadership, and fine example, modeling what being part of an NFB chapter is all about!
Stone’s River of Murfreesboro is not the only group in Middle Tennessee on a “mission.” In January 2014, The Tennessee Association of Guide Dog Users, or TAGDU, was formed and has flourished to become a strong affiliate of the NFB. As a proud division of The National Association of Guide Dog Users, TAGDU’s 25 members have, as a united front, worked vigorously in order to make a difference in Tennessee! How so?
In March 2014, James Brown and I were featured in a well-written article by the Tennessean about guide dogs and the newly implemented access laws; the article was picked up by other papers nationally, including USA Today, The Commercial Appeal, and other community newspapers. During this same period, TAGDU was contacted by a gentleman named George from Athens, Tennessee. George was distraught by policies established by his county’s school system that discriminated against guide dog users. TAGDU’s public relations director, Katherine Womack, as well as many other members of TAGDU, spent countless hours writing and contacting key individuals within the system, advocating for service dog users. These school officials, DLAC, and the TN School Board Association gave TAGDU the cold-shoulder, and were unwilling to further discuss these policies. Research exposed other school systems in Tennessee with policies that must be updated. Did TAGDU lose its fire due to the lack of support? No! After providing McMinn County, the School Board Association, and Blount County a reasonable time to respond, TAGDU decided action was needed. TAGDU began a vigorous press release that was shared with many media entities. To date, Channel 6 of Knoxville and the Sentinel of Knoxville have exposed the outdated guide dog policies and discrimination as top stories in their broadcasts and newspaper. As a result, both McMinn County and Blount County schools have stated that their policies will be amended in order to comply with state and federal ADA laws. It’s great to see how the persistence of a united, strong division can make! Be sure to check out the links at the end of this writing to see these recently published articles.
What future “missions” await TAGDU? We will continue to access various media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and com