Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

Orientation Newsletter
Summer 2004
Vol 24, No. 1


Table of Contents

Aloha From Des Moines
Introducting ... Jodi
Hello Everyone
Chicago and Milwaukee
A-Maze-ing Trip
A Class is a Class is a ...
A Taste of Spring
Fun With Alice


Warm sandy beaches, palm trees shade, smells of coconuts and flowers, thirst quenched with tropical fruit drinks—Aloha!

Aloha is a great word covering both warm greetings and heartfelt farewells. How appropriate for Alumni Day when current students host the festivities welcoming alums as they return to renew old acquaintances and make new friends.

Over the past few years many of the staff of the Ho’Opono Center for the Blind in Hawaii have come to us for training as they strive to make their Center more like Iowa’s. In recognition of all their hard work, the theme for this year’s Alumni Banquet will be Aloha!

Saturday, October 2, is the date for this year's Alumni Day, and once again we will kick it off with a luncheon in the rec room from 11:00 to 1:00. The Library and Aids and Devices Store will be open for business for a part of the day. Doors to the Assembly Room will open at 6:00 p.m. for the Alumni Banquet, which will feature a Hawaiian-themed menu. Following dinner the festivities will move to Anna’s in the Savery Hotel for the dance that brings the traditional close to the evening.

This year we have such a large current student body that we have very few rooms available for guests in the building. Consequently, we would like to call on those of you who live in and around the Des Moines area to open your homes for an overnight guest or two. If you have room for guests or if you are looking for a place to stay, please call Mark at 281-1302.

If you would prefer to rent a room at a nearby hotel, rates at the Savery are $89.00 + tax for a room with one king-size or two full-size beds (phone 1-800-514-4706). The same rates apply at the Marriott (phone 1-800-228-9290). At Quality Inn Suites (phone 515-282-5251), rates are $74.95 + tax for a single with king-size bed or $89.95 + tax for a double with two full-size beds.

Remember to make your reservations and purchase your tickets as soon as possible so we can get an accurate count for the banquet. To make your reservations, call 1-800-362-2587 and ask for Rebecca at extension 1-1254 or Jodi at extension 2-5746. Tickets are again $12.00 per person for the entire day and may be purchased either by stopping by Rebecca's office when you are in town or by sending your check--made out to The Orientation Alumni Banquet--to the attention of Rebecca Swainey, Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309.

This is the only reminder for Alumni Day that we will be sending out, so be sure to circle the date on your calendar, remind old friends to do the same, and join us October 2. ----Aloha


By Sandy Tigges

I am pleased to announce that, this January, we hired a secretary for the Orientation Center and our new Transition Mentoring Program. A recent graduate of the Center, Jodi has the right attitude about blindness and great sense of humor that are necessary to fit right in with the Center's staff and students. Be sure to meet her when you come in for Alumni Day--and don't forget to ask her about Spam dancing.


By Jodi George

I'm Jodi George. I was born and raised on the south side of Des Moines but have lived in Earlham for the past 14 years. My husband and I will be celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary in September. Our daughter and her husband live right around the corner and just recently presented us with a new grandson. I also have three stepchildren and another grandson.

I was a student in the Orientation Center for approximately ten months and then had the fortune to have been hired as the first secretary for the Orientation Center and the Pathfinders Mentoring Program. I'm proud to be a part of the Iowa Department for the Blind. The training that I received here has helped me to realize that the sky's the limit.


By Corey Overton

In May the Orientation Center took a trip to tour programs and services for the blind in Chicago, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We left Des Moines at 5 a.m. and, with the exception of a few quick stops, drove straight through to Chicago.

After lunch we went for our first tour at the Hines V. A. Medical Center. Hines is a place for blind veterans to get rehabilitation services. Our tour lasted about two hours. They talked about their program and then divided us into two groups to take us on a tour of their facility. At Hines they offer many of the same classes we have here, such as Braille and cane travel, but their training differs from ours in that students can choose among the classes and can opt not to wear sleepshades for some of their training. Also their program is much shorter--lasting only about six weeks--after which the veteran can return for more training if he or she wishes.

That night we went to a restaurant called Iberico, where they serve Brazilian cuisine. A fun thing about this restaurant was the way you order your meal. They have what are called "tapas," which are individual item selections. You can order one, two or three tapas from the menu to create your own meal. After some initial confusion, people had a lot of fun putting together their own combinations.

Tuesday we began bright and early with the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. This was a very good tour. The guides were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their Center and they did a good job of making us feel welcome. The high point for me was their school for children. Several of the students had other disabilities along with their blindness. I thought they did a great job working with the children. I especially liked the artwork that was on display because it was tactile. I thought the teachers had a great attitude as well. For adults, there is a sheltered workshop at the Lighthouse where they make clocks, but they said the overall goal is for people to get into competitive employment. I think in general the Lighthouse seems to be headed in the right direction.

Next it was on to the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation Education or ICRE. I did not care much for this place. I thought they had a very poor attitude about blindness. The staff led the tours, and we had very little opportunity for any interaction with the students. In fact, this seemed to be discouraged. From what we could observe, they didn't teach them to use good cane technique, they didn't push Braille and they enforced a curfew at night. In short it seemed they promoted dependence rather than independence.

That evening we had another great supper, this time at an Italian restaurant called Lucca’s. It was definitely a delicious fine dining experience.

On Wednesday we left Chicago and headed for Milwaukee. There we divided into two groups and took turns touring WISCRAFT and the Badger Center for the Blind. At Badger they had apartments filled with accommodations for blind people, like rails to follow along in the hallways. They also had a store kind of like our aides and devices. WISCRAFT was a sheltered workshop. One of the things they made there was Harley Davidson motorcycle handlebars. On the tour they made it sound like the workers were paid a lot of money, but when you thought about the cost of living, there wasn't much to live on.

After lunch we went to Wisconsin Industries for the Blind. This was another sheltered workshop. This time instead of handlebars, they made pens, pencils, and other such stuff but, like WISCRAFT, there wasn’t much money to be made. Between apartments for the blind and workshops for the blind, there didn’t seem to be much opportunity for independence for the blind in Milwaukee.

Our last night in Milwaukee was May 5, Cinco de Mayo, so, naturally, we went to a Mexican restaurant. The place was very, very busy and very, very noisy; the service, however, was great. Next morning we got up bright and early to return to Des Moines. I think the number one thing I got from this trip is that I’m glad I live in Iowa! 


By Craig Jensen

On Tuesday, June 29th, about 27 of us traveled to Clear Lake where we went through the Fort Custer Maze, ate lunch at the Town Pump and toured the Surf Ballroom.

Fort Custer Maze was developed by a local family who were downsizing their vegetable farming business. They hired a woman from England known for designing intricate mazes to build yet another of her famous labyrinths. The maze covers about two acres and has almost two miles of twists and turns. Going through the maze was fun, hot, neat, a challenge and/or a great learning experience--depending on which individual or group you asked. Quite often it was all of the above, although most of the time comments of neat and fun came once people found their way out!

It is said that The Town Pump Restaurant started out 100 years ago as a bar. For the last several years, various owners have kept the ambience alive while, little by little, making it more a family-friendly eatery rather than a "watering hole." They’ve done this by shortening the bar area, opening for breakfast and closing most evenings. We all enjoyed a good lunch while taking in the colorful atmosphere of this popular establishment.

Speaking of popular local color, our next stop ranks as one of the best-known tourist attractions in the state. The Surf Ballroom was a step back in time to an old style ballroom, which has been continually in operation for most of the time since the early 1900’s. The Surf has 30,000 square feet of entertainment area, containing a large stage, a 6,000 square foot dance floor, hand-painted wall murals and life-like palm trees that make you feel you’re dancing on the beach under the stars. Autographed pictures of artists who once played The Surf adorn several of the walls. Off stage a small artists’ waiting room, in show biz terms called the “Green Room," has been kept up, along with the many sayings and signatures that cover its walls.

As the bus left Clear Lake it stopped to let me off to enjoy an extra long weekend at home with my family. When I returned to the Department the other students were still talking about the trip and what a good time they had in Clear Lake. I was glad to know they enjoyed visiting my hometown as much as I enjoyed showing it to them. 


Georgeann Voigt

April Fools day some of us students decided to show up in our pajamas for a joke on Sandy and the teachers. I showed up in my zebra print pajamas. Sandy had asked us to have $25 with us for the day, so we each handed her $25 dollars—in Monopoly money. That was really funny. After we played our joke and had a good laugh, we were told we had 10 minutes to change and, wearing our sleepshades, get on the bus out front.

Ric drove and drove the bus for a long time, while we were all trying to guess where we were going or what the teachers had up their sleeves. Finally, Dave asked, "Does anyone know where we are?" Julie guessed it right. So Dave told us we were going to tour a hausbarn near Manning.

The hausbarn is a 300-year-old farmhouse that had been brought over from Germany. It had housed both the family and the farm animals under one roof. The building is made of wood with a thatch roof. It was divided into living space for the people and barn space for the animals. In some hausbarns, the family lives above the animals. Other times, as in the style we saw, the interior is divided so the people live at one end and the animals at the other. The building had everything that a barn would have, such as troughs, stalls and haylofts. It also had living quarters for the family. There were large fireplaces for heating and cooking. The floors were compacted dirt. There was ventilation in the roof.

Along with the hausbarn, there is also a two-story Victorian house filled with antique furnishings that one can tour. Nearby is a visitor’s center with a gift shop and a very nice German restaurant where we ate lunch. The food was extremely good and our surprise excursion lots of fun. I highly recommend a visit to the Manning hausbarn.


By Crystal Vorgert

This spring, we went to Ames to celebrate two students' graduation from the Center. After eating a very good lunch at Hickory Park Restaurant, we went to Reiman gardens. Our guide was a former student of the Center named Shelley. He told us the garden was started six years ago. They have roses, irises, tulips, and many other beautiful flowers. It was neat to smell them and feel how big or small they were. We also saw an herb garden. After the gardens we went into the butterfly house where we learned some very interesting things about butterflies. They had butterflies from all over the world! Before we left the enclosure, we had to be inspected to be sure no butterflies were on our clothing so they wouldn’t get released into the environment.  


By Janet Quam

When you go into work you probably don’t expect to find a mannequin sitting in your chair. Well, neither did the staff at the Orientation Center until some of us got together and created Alice. Composed of panty hose stuffed with cotton batting, a long raven-haired wig and a truly grotesque wrinkled ashen-gray face, Alice wears a floral print dress, gloves on her hands and knit house slippers on her feet. Standing close to six feet tall she is truly an imposing figure!

Alice was first created to play a practical joke on Mark Edge. He found her one morning sitting at his desk when he went into his office. Soon after her visit to Mark she was christened “Alice French." She was named for an obscure Iowa author Sandy Tigges had done a dissertation on for her doctorate. At the staff’s instigation, we had played a practical joke concerning Alice French on Sandy during our camping trip in Wisconsin, so it seemed only right to have her appear in Dave Hauge’s office with a note that said, “We have dug up Alice French and you have been replaced!”

After that she started making appearances all around the building. She would be in people’s offices when they arrived for work. She was found sitting in the bathroom in home ec. after a long weekend. She attended a Department staff meeting where she “requested services.” She even began showing up outside the Department.

On Alice French’s birthday, she paid a visit to Sandy’s house for a surprise party. To pull this off, we had some help from Sandy’s husband, Dan. We got Alice ready in her “new” second-hand dress accessorized with bottle-cap earrings and escorted her to the Tigges home. Dan took over from there, and when Sandy came down to breakfast the next morning, she found Alice sitting in her chair at the kitchen table with a hostess cupcake in front of her. Her note to Sandy read, “I wanted to spend my birthday with my biggest fan.”

Having developed a taste for travel, Alice went with us to Chicago and Milwaukee where she surprised Cip when she returned to her hotel room one night. It just goes to show you, you never know where or when Alice may show up next. 

Return to Table of Contents

Return to Newsletter page.

The Orientation Center Newsletter is published by the Iowa Department for the Blind. Please direct questions and suggestions to the Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309-2364, 515-281-1333.