She found them in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, but none for those living in rural settings.
So, O’Connell is starting one.
She is the executive director of finance for the Beeville Independent School District.
“It got me thinking,” she explains. “The regular world out there doesn’t know what vision-impaired people go through. They can’t drive; they can’t get to places; they become hermits.”
O’Connell hopes to change all that with STRIVE, her new organization. The acronym stands for “South Texas Rural Impaired Vision Encouragers.”
The first meeting is April 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Fashing United Methodist Church.
Activities include dinner, a guest speaker, musical entertainment, games, fun and fellowship.
“I’ve even ordered some braille dominos and dice,” O’Connell says.
“Sometimes, vision-impaired people just want to be with others like them. It’s a chance to talk,” O’Connell says.
People who are not vision-impaired also are urged to attend, particularly the elderly. “Look how many elderly people who may be facing cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma or are diabetic,” O’Connell says.
Members of the Fashing church congregation are donating food for the first meeting, under the direction of Rev. Rhonda Troll, the church’s pastor.
Ideally, O’Connell hopes for a STRIVE meeting every month, each time at a different church, to help promote the organization and to gain membership.
A guest speaker at each meeting would discuss resources, special needs, social opportunities and logistical information that rural vision-impaired people might know nothing about.
“I want it to be Christian based,” she says.
Constraining her enthusiasm with difficulty, O’Connell says “The important thing is that I want to know what they want. Do they need help training a seeing-eye dog? I can do that.”
O’Connell also is a licensed dog trainer.
“Would they like to drive? I know blind people who have never known what it is like to drive. We can take them out on the ranch where they can get that experience, just to feel what it’s like to drive.”
She hopes that members of whatever church where STRIVE is meeting will volunteer to drive the support group’s members to the meetings.
O’Connell stresses the need for fellowship.
“I’m a people person,” she says, “I love talking to people of that age; they have so much to tell. And most people don’t know how to talk with a blind person,” she says, “because many people avoid talking to blind people; they find it awkward. But I consider it a mission.”
Bill Clough can be reached at beepic@mySouTex.com.