The Central Kansas Association for the Visually Impaired meets at 1 p.m. of the fourth Wednesday of each month at Great Bend Coffee, 2015 Lakin Ave. There is no December meeting. For more information call 617-8980 or 793-5645.
Dominican Sisters Bazaar
The Dominican Sisters of Peace of Great Bend’s Annual Mission Bazaar will be held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Motherhouse, 3600 Broadway Ave. For more information call 792-1232.
Sister Corona’s room at the Dominican Sisters of Peace Motherhouse in Great Bend is filled with stacks of handmade pot scrubbers, stick horses and tea towels for the convent’s upcoming annual bazaar. There’s also a big sack of pop cans to sell, and her collection of notes, photos and newspaper clippings from over the years.
“It looks like Fibber’s closet,” she said.
Fibber McGee’s overstuffed hall closet was a running gag that began on the “Fibber McGee and Molly” show circa 1940, four years before Sr. Corona joined the convent.
Friends have convinced the sister, who is in her late 80s, to ease up on some of her fundraising responsibilities. However, she still finds plenty to do, when there’s a need.
Years ago, a local need prompted the creation of the Central Kansas Association for the Visually Impaired — CKAVI.
After teaching Braille to blind students for several years, another Dominican, Sr. Camillus, saw the need for a support group to advocate and encourage the blind and visually impaired in Barton County.
“We started Sept. 22, 1985,” Sr. Corona said, opening a notebook filled with the group’s history. “We felt there was a need for such an organization.”
With a $400 donation to start the group, she and Sr. Camillus traveled to the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Topeka. They wrote their local group’s constitution as they rode the bus.
Before becoming Dominicans, Sr. Corona and Sr. Camillus were sisters by birth, two of 12 children from the Bayer family in Kingman County. Sr. Camillus came to the convent in 1943 and Sr. Corona joined a year later. Sr. Camillus became a registered physical therapist and registered nurse.
Once CKAVI started it grew to more than 50 members, including several who did not have vision problems but had loved ones who did, said Trella Berscheidt. Trella and her husband Paul have been active in the group for years.
“CKAVI helped start the low-vision section of the Great Bend Public Library,” Berscheidt said. For many years, the group was also instrumental in helping people get loaner equipment for their homes.
“When we started the organization we didn’t have any money,” Sr. Corona said. “One sister picked up pop cans and sold them to Acme.”
“She always got a special ‘sister rate’ for her pop cans,” Berscheidt said.
For many years, the group held a craft sale as a fundraiser. It started as a two-day sale. There were plenty of members to help, but it wasn’t easy to keep up with Sr. Corona.
“She would start baking weeks before the sale,” Berscheidt said. “She would set times for us to come help her, and we would get there and she’d already have it done.”
Sr. Corona also found herself in a friendly competition one year to see who could crochet the most netted pot scrubbers for the sale. She made 2,100.
“We had fun doing that,” she said.
Before Sr. Camillus died in 2002 she asked Sr. Corona to promise to carry on her ministry, and she has. In 2015 friends persuaded her to slow down. They no longer have their annual sale, although Sr. Corona still makes items for the Domincans’ sale.
CKAVI’s membership was waned, but the group is still active.
“CKAVI is not just a support group,” Berscheidt said. “It is an advocacy group that helps the visually impaired root out resources and works to educate the public on the constantly changing technology and assistive living aids that are available to the blind and visually impaired.
“CKAVI directed a visually impaired Olmitz resident to apply for and receive a $1,000 scholarship to complete her master’s degree and continue teaching,” she said. “Most recently, a Hoisington resident came to a CKAVI meeting and learned that he was eligible for VA benefits because of his visual impairment.”
Past President Paul Berscheidt and current President George Strobel were part of the Bike and Hike task force in Great Bend. Through their input, the city now has crosswalks with sound alerts for the visually impaired at K-96 and Broadway and at 24th and Main St.
Sr. Corona is a permanent CKAVI board member. Asked what she would like the future members to do, she answered, “Just help people if they need help.” She added that she’d like the group to find new members, “because the more we have, the better we are. I’ll keep on working wherever I can.”
This story was updated on Nov. 7 to correct the location of one of the audible crosswalks in Great Bend, at 24th and Main.