AVRT Awards

The 2020 Award Ceremony

Dr. Linda Fugate, CVRT

Charlyn Allen worked in the field of rehabilitation for the blind for over 35 years. She was a pioneer in our field and worked in many areas including conferences! Ms. Allen was a remarkable woman who happened to be blind. Each year AVRT honors a member with the award named for Ms. Allen. There are certain unwritten traditions associated with this award. The nomination must come from the field and be supported by others who know the recipient. The applications are reviewed, and the awardee is selected – but not told! This is one of the things I remember most about the year I was honored.

We all sit here every year listening to the nomination being read trying to see if we can figure out who they are talking about, and then at some point it clicks – wait a minute, they’re talking about me!

So, let’s see how we did this year:

This person was nominated as someone whose dedication, skill, compassion, and encouragement have helped not only their clients but also their fellow colleagues. Perhaps her greatest gift is her ability to inspire others to believe in themselves. She often shares how her mother is the person in her life who never gave up on her in spite of dire predictions of her future from medical professionals. She graduated from the University of Arkansas Little Rock with a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation of the Blind and successfully earned certification as a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist. She has also earned certification in Deaf Blind Rehabilitation through a program at Northern Illinois University.

Her dedication to advocacy and service to persons who are Deaf/Blind is shown through her work to have House Bill 1244, which establishes a program to broaden the availability of support service providers (SSPs) in the deaf-blind community, passed by the Oklahoma legislature and signed by the governor on April 30, 2018.

It was my pleasure and honor to announce Jeri Cooper the 2020 Charlyn Allen Award winner. Her nomination was submitted by Sharon Shipe. Another difference this year was presentation of the award. For Jeri it is my understanding that it will be presented to her by her colleagues in Oklahoma. The board of directors of AVRT wish to extend our congratulations to Jeri.

An Expression of Thanks from Our 2020 Charlyn Allen Award Winner, Jeri Cooper:

This was truly a surprise and honor! It brought tears to my eyes! I am so thankful to God and my co-workers for all the professional and personal support they have given me for so many years that has empowered me to hopefully carry on the privilege to give others hope, no matter the situation. So many people that deserve the greatest heartfelt thanks for all they’ve done for me! As Jennifer said, I am retiring from DRS but will always be in the field of Deaf Blind! Thanks to AVRT, the greatest organization for VRTs! God bless! . . . Jeri Cooper, CVRT

www.avrt.org

Breaking Barriers

Jeri was featured in the latest edition of Breaking Barriers!

DRS’ Jeri Cooper was named the 2020 winner of the Charlyn Allen Award at the Association of Vision Rehabilitation Therapists Virtual Conference on Nov. 12.

The award honors outstanding vision rehabilitation therapists whose dedication, skill, compassion and encouragement helped both their clients and colleagues. Charlyn Allen worked in the field of rehabilitation teaching for the state of Missouri for approximately 35 years and exemplified dedication and service. This award is presented annually.Cooper, who is a rehabilitation of the blind specialist, is from Tulsa and is herself Deaf-Blind. As an infant, Cooper did not respond well to light and sound.

“Doctors wanted her to admit me to Hissom Mental Institute because they said I was ‘Mongoloid,’ never would reach a mentality of 5 years of age and wouldn’t live past 20 years old,” she said. “Mama refused, and with her faith in God, she took me home. To me, she became my Anne Sullivan.”The obsolete medical term Mongoloid referred to a specific type of mental deficiency, associated with the genetic disorder now known as Down syndrome.

She attended the Oklahoma School for the Blind from 1969 to 1976 when she graduated. She was a Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired client and has said working for DRS is her dream job.“Jeri is a treasure,” SBVI Administrator Tracy Brigham said. “She is small in stature but mighty in action. She takes every challenge head on and doesn’t take no for an answer when it comes to getting results for DRS clients. She is very passionate about our work and is always ready to lend a hand wherever needed.

”In nominating her for the honor, co-worker Sharon Shipe wrote, “As a vision rehabilitation therapist and Deaf-Blind Specialist, Jeri goes above and beyond to help those she serves with compassion and respect.“Perhaps her greatest gift is her ability to inspire others to believe in themselves. Jeri often shares how her mother is the person in her life who never gave up on her in spite of dire predictions of her future from medical professionals. I feel Jeri honors her mother by doing everything in her power to help persons who are Deaf-Blind believe in themselves to be all they can be,” she wrote.

http://www.okdrs.gov/breaking/2020-11-24/cooper

A Note From Jeri…

Yesterday marked the 16th year since Mama went home to be with her Lord and Savior! Still so very weird! There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her! We say our Mama’s give us life? Well, you got that right! Because of her faith in God, prayers, wisdom, perseverance, discipline, protection, guidance, common sense, dedication and love, I am alive and prayfully carrying on her legend through Jeri’s House! So many fond memories, some hilarious, some sad, but all teaching moments in the name of encouraging me to be all I could be! She gave me room to grow and do for myself, whether good or bad,   but just like our Lord, was always watching from a distance, and near by if I needed her. She knew that she was not always going to be here to help me or do for me, and that I had to learn to stand on my own feet. I’m eternally greatful for God giving me Norma Lynn as my Mom because I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for her giving her life for me. Sounds a lot like Christ, doesn’t it? she didn’t do everything right, no, not at all! but she had a heart after God! Through that heart of gold, she taught me to live life to the fullest, keep striving forward! Don’t give up! Thank you, Mama! And thanks to you all for always letting me share my heart about my Mama! I’ve got the greatest family! You might think you do but you’re wrong! (smile!) I am truly so blessed! Hugs!

J.H. Fundraiser Postponed

It is with a prayerful heart that we have decided to postpone our comedy Murder Mystery fundraiser September 12, 2020 for Jeri’s House until early next year. This event is meant to be an entertaining and educational experience and to empower DeafBlind! It is an event that you won’t want to miss and it is worth waiting for! So please continue praying for Jeri’s House and check out our website or here on FB for updates! Thanks so much for your support financially but most of all thank you for your prayers!

Keep the faith! Hugs!

AVRT Summer Newsletter

Jeri was featured in the Summer 2020 Newsletter of the Association of Vision Rehabilitation Therapists! See the article below:
Meet an AVRT Member…Jeri Cooper
By Susan M. Dalton, CVRT
While thinking about AVRT members who have done outstanding work in our field but, additionally, have gone above and beyond to make an impact on others, one of the first persons to come to mind is Jeri Cooper. A beautiful lady who radiates warmth and charm, Jeri has dedicated herself to the profession, the clients that she serves, and the overall good of her community. Read on to meet Jeri Cooper as she shares her story.
Jeri currently works as a DeafBlind specialist through the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In her job she travels throughout the state of Oklahoma teaching persons who are DeafBlind how to live independently. Jeri describes her duties as follows: “…to support the consumer as well as their families and our staff by providing resources, advocacy, counseling and guidance, and educate the public about DeafBlind. I also administer the FCC I Can Connect program which provides equipment and training to utilize distance communication for eligible DeafBlind Oklahomans.”
How did Jeri get to where she is today?
When she was young, she always wanted to help others in some way, possibly as a teacher or in other areas. Being a person who was legally blind and hard of hearing she felt she could help others who shared these conditions. A big part of her success comes from the support of her mother, her personal faith and determination. Jeri shares, “My Mama had faith in God and she empowered me to be all I could be, never giving up. Doctors wanted to put me in an institution when I was born because they said I was mongoloid. Mama said, ‘No’ and I still tear up when I think where I would have been if it hadn’t been for Mama. I give her and God thumbs up every time I am able to empower another person in any way. I want to give back to society because I was given so much and was blessed to have the opportunity to live life to the fullest!”
So, Jeri went off to college and earned her bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University and her Masters at the University of Arkansas Little Rock. She was then certified in DeafBlind Rehabilitation through a program at Northern Illinois University. Jeri Cooper trivia:
During her career, she had a fun encounter with some well-known celebrities. The Oak Ridge Boys contacted her to Braille a book for them to present to the Blind Boys of Alabama. She jumped right in to take on this task and in exchange, got to see their show and go back stage to meet and HUG each one!! What a great compensation for services rendered!
In her leisure time, Jeri’s “absolute most-loved TV show” is The Andy Griffith Show, where she proudly states, “I know every line by heart of every episode!”
Some other favorites… Book: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.Movies: Sound of Music, It’s a Wonderful Life, War Room and Overcomer.If she could have dinner with a famous person, Jeri says, “Oh goodness! Toss-up between Dennis Higgins who is the radio announcer for the Tulsa Drillers AA baseball team, or Joyce Meyer, Bible Teacher. We would go to either First Watch which is my favorite breakfast place, or Goldie’s which is my favorite hamburger place or Rincon Mexican. All good!” Sounds yummy!
What others are saying about Jeri:Elyse Heinrich met Jeri for the first time recently at the AVRT conference in Jacksonville, Florida. She says, “Jeri is such a sweet lady who I was able to say hello to and chat with during a break between workshops. I noticed Jeri using ASL and I was able to communicate directly with her for our interaction, which really made it personal. Turns out, we connected (again) through a mutual contact in the field of DeafBlind. Jeri’s passion and energy for learning, connecting and advocating shone through in her personality the moment we spoke. I am glad to have had the chance to meet her and can’t wait to talk again in person.” AVRT President, Jennifer Ottowitz, one of Jeri’s biggest fans, comments, “I remember Jeri giving a presentation at an AVRT conference on working with people who are deaf-blind. The information she shared was so helpful. She is a true wealth of knowledge. Her openness about her own personal experiences and ‘tell it like it is’ style added greatly to my understanding of the challenges faced by our clients and co-workers who may have a dual sensory loss as well as what we can do to enhance our work with them. I always enjoy connecting with her at conferences. She has a fabulous sense of humor and loves the opportunity to learn new things. She lives by example and is a true role model.”
Jeri’s accomplishments:
Since she is now totally blind and severely hard of hearing, she feels that she can closely relate both professionally and personally to others who are DeafBlind. “That’s where my passion is!”
Jeri has great plans for the future, and the personal accomplishment of which she is most proud will be taking place after December when she retires. She’ll be continuing on in the field of DeafBlindness through a non-profit faith-based program she is starting called Jeri’s House. Jeri says that the goal for the residential training facility is, “to empower DeafBlind to be all they want to be.” You can learn more about this at her website: http://www.jerishouse.org
Yes, this IS quite an amazing accomplishment. Looking forward to hearing more about this from Jeri in the future as well.
Jeri’s advice to others:When asked what she would like to share with others in our profession, especially those who are new to the field, Jeri imparts the following words of wisdom: “Be flexible and remember every single consumer is different. Meet them where they are and help empower them to reach their goals, not yours. Sometimes I think we get too focused on what we would like to see them accomplish. It’s not about us, but rather, about them. And, above all, keep the faith!”Amen!
Check out the entire newsletter here: http://www.avrt-blog.com/newsletter/

What do you see? What do you hear?

Close your eyes for a moment. Plug up your ears, too! What do you see? What do you hear? Wouldn’t it be great just to touch someone? Yes! Nothing like a touch from a friend to know you’re not alone! Many Deafblind rely on touch for their environment and although I know we need to be cautious and informed, but we do not need to be over taken with fear and anger to where we lose sight of connecting in a real way! Isolation is a horrible thing and I don’t wish it on anyone. Think about it! Like the old commercial, “Reach out and touch someone!” Hugs!

Happy Independence Day

Thank you, Lord for the privilege of being a Christian American! This says it all!

God Bless the U.s.A.! by Lee Greenwood

If tomorrow all the things were gone

I worked for all my life

And I had to start again

With just my children and my wife

I thank my lucky stars

To be living here today

‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom

And they can’t take that away

From the lakes of Minnesota

To the hills of Tennessee

Across the plains of Texas

From sea to shining sea

From Detroit down to Houston

And New York to L.A.

Where’s pride in every American heart

And it’s time we stand and say

And I’m proud to be an American

Where at least I know I’m free

And I won’t forget the men who died

Who gave that right to me

And I’d gladly stand up next to you

And defend Her still today

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt

I love this land

God Bless the U.S.A.

Today is Helen Keller’s Birthday!

Today is Helen Keller’s birthday and we celebrate by continuing to let her light shine! She truly is a great role model of overcoming obstacles and changing stumbling blocks into stepping stones through her determination and perseverance!

The first Support Service Provider, Ann Sullivan, empowered Helen by being her “eyes and ears” which opened the world to endless opportunities! I, too, had such an SSP who was my Mom, Norma Lynn! We appreciate so much those who are dedicated to empowering the DeafBlind to be empowered and be all they wish to be!

I am so blessed to have the opportunity and privilege to be a part of so many Oklahomans who are DeafBlind! This disability is no respecter of person! You can be totally sighted and hearing and living life and all of a sudden, contract spinal meningitis and become totally DeafBlind over night. Can you imagine? Or you can be born Deaf and lose your vision or be blind and lose your hearing. It happens, but yet, we overcome! Helen Keller is a testimony to overcoming!

Society thinks that seeing and hearing the world is all it takes, but I believe we miss so much by not realizing the other senses God gave us. One of Helen Keller’s greatest quotes says it so well: The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched but rather felt with the heart!”

Thank you for celebrating Helen Keller DeafBllind Awareness week with me and so many Oklahomans who are DeafBlind. I pray it has enlightened you and the next time you meet someone who has both a vision and hearing loss, you will remember, “We want to live life to the fullest just like you!

Below are just a few of Helen Keller’s famous quotes:

“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world”.

“Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content”.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision”.

www.jerishouse.org

Feeling Through Live Stream – June 25, 2020, 6pm CT

In continuing the celebration of Helen Keller DeafBlind Awareness Week, Feeling Through is doing a live stream tomorrow! See the details below!

Making Meaningful Connections!

June 25th at 6pm CT

In honor of Deaf-Blind Awareness Week
Get your FREE e-ticket at feelingthrough.com

A FREE Accessible Live stream Event in 3 Parts:

A screening of the short film Feeling Through
The making-of documentary Connecting the Dots
Live Panel Q & A

#FeelingThrough