Nenana Wellness Coalition


October 13, 2009

The Nenana Wellness Coalition is an alliance of representatives from various organizations, government agencies, community groups and individuals that meets weekly to discuss, evaluate, coordinate, consolidate, celebrate and help implement plans for improving the wellness and quality of life in Nenana Alaska.

There were 19 in attendance today, Including: Bonnie Reed, Brian and Gabrielle Blair, Maryellen Robinson, Rebecca & Bill Troxel, David Poppe, Donald Charlie, Virginia Young, Jenny Irwin, Irene Martin, Bill & Kennedy Packee, Terry & Art Thompson, Kat McElroy, Merrily Verhagen, Tim Horn, and Andrea & Walter Tommy. We had pasta and meatballs marinara with Ritz crackers, sliced cheese, sliced apples and home-made fudge for lunch.


PRAYER was lead by Mr. Walter Tommy, followed by the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIENCE


APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Submitted last week per usual: posted at on the WIN link and sent electronically to the WIN e-list.

Introduction of guest


Dance Presentation: Nenana Student Living Center cultural dance group, also known as The Frybread Shakers, did a spirited 20 minutes dance presentation for us. They have been rehearsing at the living center and their good work effort shows in their energetic performance, which was much appreciated by the audience.

Assistive Technology for the Vision Impaired presented by Bill Packee of the Fairbanks chapter/National Federation for the Blind, who was accompanied by his son, Kennedy, and his assistance dog, Rio. He told us that he was wearing many hats in his presentation today. He is in the business of helping people to access assisted technology. Basically this is providing devices to aid reading, talking, and learning, for people who are experiencing a wide variety of disabilities. Part of this consists of evaluating people who may be blind or visually impaired, deaf/blind, or true deaf, to find what will best assist them. Other disabilities include mobility issues, attention issues, and learning disabilities. “Independence,” he said, “ Is our goal. Independence through technology, through education and training and through employment.” He told us a bit about being blind himself, the adjustment he had to make to his vision loss. His wife is deaf/blind; she is teaching him tactile sign language, which he said we might notice him using as he spoke to us today, “So I can practice learning this,” he explained.

Another hat he wears, he was recently elected president of the Alaska chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. NFB has information for people who are losing their sight and provide networking and organization for people who are visually impaired. There are two active chapters in our state: Anchorage/Kenai and Fairbanks. It is his goal to build a Juneau chapter so as to be able to have direct access to the governor and to lobby the legislature. He directed those interested in learning more about this organization to their web site where there is information about their activities in the Fairbanks area, across the state of Alaska, and nationally.

Mr. Packee said that assistive technology does not need to be expensive and high-end to make a huge difference for people who experience some disability. He showed us examples of very simple devices including a talking watch, a Braille watch, elastic shoe laces that only have to be tied one time (for people with fine motor control issues), and magnifying glasses that can enlarge print as much as ten times. He said that there are magnifying glasses that are built into a flexible arm stand so they can adjust to any need, leaving one’s hands free. He said that people can use a blind compass and that there are even talking GPS’s. “There is no reason for people to say, ‘I can’t. I’m blind. I’m wheelchair-bound. I’m deaf, or learning disabled. There’s no reason with the technology we have available.” He demonstrated a program called Jaws which will read computer screens. His has adjustable speed and voice, to allow himself access to any information on the internet or downloaded files.

There are cushions for wheelchairs, portable lights, even fans, laptops, any of which can hook into a battery pack, for comfort, and assistance. He showed us software programs for people with learning disabilities that are word predictive and have automatic spell check/correct built in. Another would highlight text to help readers with attentional issues. There is a program called Super Nova which can magnify the screen, isolate various items on the screen, or read aloud the text.

He demonstrated a device that will read blood samples for the diabetic, called Prodigy Voice, a blood glucose monitoring system designed for the blind and people with low vision. He sees it as his mission to inform people about the assistive technologies available to them and to assist people in accessing same. He said Alaska has a huge population of people who have vision issues and unfortunately are unaware of the resources available to them. Access Alaska has a deaf/signing luncheon each Tuesday in Fairbanks, 11 A.M. through 1 P.M. There is a VIP (Visually Impaired People) meeting the first Tuesday of each month.

Lastly, Bill said that Federation for the Blind has a Face-book page that is open to anyone interested in friending them.

WELLNESS THOUGHT: Inch by inch, row by row, that’s the way our gardens grow.


Bonnie: There will be a community dinner tonight (Tuesday) at the Nenana Student Living Center, 5P.M.

Rebecca: Free-cycle, Saturday, 5 P.M., at George Hall. Everyone is invited. She’ll be making soup. Pot luck for those who have something to bring. There will be a movie and pop corn. Everyone is invited.

Book Fair at the school all week, in the library. Don’t forget Bingo for Books Thursday night in the Pit.

Merrily: The Verhagens will be hosting a family friendly Hallowe’en celebration next door to Kristie’s Cuisine. They will be setting up the ping pong table and will have food treats and games.

Open floor for comments/questions/discussion:


Adjournment at 1:50 P.M.