[nagdu] A Message from a Fidelco Volunteer

Larry D. Keeler lkeeler at comcast.net
Sun Aug 21 19:46:53 UTC 2011

Brenda, What state are you in?  I hear Leader has a great mobility 
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Brenda" <bjnite at windstream.net>
To: "NAGDU Mailing List,the National Association of Guide Dog Users" 
<nagdu at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Sunday, August 21, 2011 2:20 PM
Subject: Re: [nagdu] A Message from a Fidelco Volunteer

>     Good morning list.
> I am pleased to see all the concrete info Marion has provided about 
> Fidelco.
> As for Tami's post below, I find in my state the Rehab agency is horrible. 
> I returned items given me as part of my case because I could see my case 
> going nowhere and my only choice was to accept whatever the counselor said 
> which was not what would work for me.  Instead, I had my case closed and 
> figured things out for myself. I later had a separate case to get O&M 
> skills and a retiring supervisor told the O&m guy to close my case ASAP. 
> I wanted help on both instances and the rehab agency would only help me on 
> their terms.  I have heard other horror stories about rehab agencies in 
> other states.
> to me this is relevant to this NAGDU list and the Fidelco topic because it 
> seems that it is acceptable to treat people who are blind this way.  We 
> are supposed to just say thank you and obey those agencies.  When we try 
> to stand up for ourselves we often get slapped down.   These agencies 
> (Rehab and Fidelco) learn by experience that they can continue to do 
> whatever they want.
> I am very glad to see NAGDU dealing with this Fidelco issue and bringing 
> concrete info to light.  Hopefully other guidedog schools who might be 
> tempted to mistreat clients would think twice.  If not, hopefully at least 
> prospective clients will be able to avoid them because of the work that 
> NAGDU is doing.  This is not possible with state rehab agencies as it is 
> often the only way to get expensive equipment and training.  Fortunately I 
> was able to purchase Window eyes myself and continue working and surfing 
> the internet.  Therefore, I have been able to adapt to my vision loss.  I 
> found Leader Dogs has a wonderful Accelerated Mobility class which fit my 
> needs perfectly and of course NAGDU where I am learning about guide dog 
> issues for the day I can get a guide.
> Brenda
> Brenda
> On 8/20/2011 6:38 PM, Tami Kinney wrote:
>> Tracy,
>> It seems odd indeed. It also sounds very familiar to me based on what I
>> have experienced here in Oregon when it comes to the VR agency. Asking
>> questions or presenting documentation of my own case with a question
>> about having the behaviors looked into does not go without risks. Well,
>> for me, the threat that I won't get VR services if I'm going to go
>> around asking questions and wondering if anyone might want to
>> investigate some of those trends is not as daunting as it appears to be
>> meant. So, let's see... You're saying that nothing will change for me at
>> all... Um, wow, I'm shaking in my boots now for sure. Good grief!
>> I haven't yet managed to figure out what is going on that enables the
>> administration of the agency to carry on as they always have, even since
>> they were closed down for mismanagement, then given a last minute
>> reprieve. My career experience has been in corporate. Failing that badly
>> there gets you canned before you get to write your response to the audit
>> your company or division or department just failed. You don't get to
>> stay in the administrative position and keep writing exactly the same
>> winy (as I read it) response to 30 plus more years' worth of audits
>> failed for the same reasons. The Board of Directors will see to that!
>> Well, apparently not in the state of Oregon when it comes to taxpayer
>> funded agencies. We need to protect the people involved, so no
>> questions, no complaining. Go away, because you're the one who sucks!
>> And we'll tell you why!
>> Well, with our agency, a suit does seemto  have managed to get filed in
>> court, with an article in the Oregonian and everything! It's the vendors
>> doing it, and while I'm not involved with that program myself, I have
>> been following what I read on local lists and news because they are
>> experiencing the same patterns of behavior on the part of the agency
>> that I have been asking people to look into. They, as a group, have
>> gotten the same feedback. They need to be less angry. They need to keep
>> losing money because it is more important o protect the agency
>> administration. And so on.
>> Anyway, as a group, they have more power than any individual. So I am
>> thrilled they went ahead with llegal action and went to the press first
>> instead of talking to people who have already not gotten results. I
>> guess there is a working group trying to improve communications with the
>> Oregon Commission for the Blind... Not to denigrate anyone involved in
>> that effort or their intelligence or dedication or anything at all, but
>> it seems to me that when one side communicates what the agency has been
>> communicating all along, and in the way they have been, and has such a
>> long history of stated refusal to change a thing, well... I tend to
>> think communicating directly to the taxpayers who are paying the
>> administration's salaries is a good way to go.
>> So with a situation like the one with Fidelco. When communication is
>> barred by one of the parties, then you have to find another way to find
>> out what's going on and if something needs to be fixed before you can
>> start to decide how to go about fixing it if it does. So you widen your
>> communications net. /smile/
>> Sounds like Marion caught some fish, who have caught more fish. When I
>> say Marion, I mean him in his role as NAGDU President. So, yeah, we're
>> all sort of fishing right there with him. For my part, I would be
>> thrilled if it turns out he -- and thus we -- have all been hoodwinked,
>> that there was a misunderstanding because, I dunno, a whole lot of nuts
>> up and took after this one program and this one new hire in particular
>> for no really good reason.
>> Until we do find that out -- if we do -- I'm pretty proud to know that I
>> am part of an advocacy group; that advocates for the consumer, both by
>> standing with and working on behalf of consumers who believe they have
>> been badly mistreated and on behalf of future consumers by providing
>> enough information that they can consider it or not.
>> As for those who don't want to come forward with their own stories in
>> their own names... If you don't get why they won't do that, try it
>> yourself. Then we'll discuss it again. You might think differently about
>> the matter. /smile/
>> Tami
>> On Sat, 2011-08-20 at 10:39 -0400, Tracy Carcione wrote:
>>> It seems very odd to me that, in times when every non-profit is 
>>> scrambling
>>> for money, that Fidelco should casually tell long-time supporters that
>>> their donations are no longer welcome.  It also seems odd that the board
>>> would not at least investigate when it seems like the actions of one man
>>> are damaging the reputation of their organization.  I'd think that 
>>> either
>>> they have, and are satisfied, or the old boy network is doing its worst,
>>> as sometimes happens.
>>> But I'd think, if they're losing donors, they'd drop the guy causing the
>>> perceived problem, guilty or not.
>>> Tracy
>>>> Dear All,
>>>>      I have frequently referred to correspondence I have received from
>>>> others concerned about the direction of Fidelco. Some believe that I
>>>> exaggerate the concerns, alleging that my criticism of Fidelco is
>>>> designed to, in some way, further my political agenda. For this
>>>> reason, I thought it would be helpful to read what others have written
>>>> on the subject. Pasted below is correspondence I have received from
>>>> one volunteer. I have included the message in its entirety, redacting
>>>> only the individuals names, since I do not have their permission to
>>>> divulge their information. This message was received via email on June
>>>> 30, 2011.
>>>> Mr. Gwizdala:
>>>> We are writing you with regard to your posting and article in the April
>>>> 2011 Braille Monitor.  We are not visually impaired but have been 
>>>> active
>>>> volunteers and donors to the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation for over 22
>>>> years.  We housed a breed dog, raised a foster pup, volunteered in the
>>>> kennel and puphouse areas and participated in numerous events over the
>>>> years as well as knowing both Charlie and Robbie Kaman.
>>>> We followed your posting and article with interest as we have witnessed
>>>> widespread negative  (in our opinion) change in the organization we 
>>>> loved
>>>> and supported for so many years.  On June 10, 2011, we wrote a letter 
>>>> to
>>>> all of the members of Fidelco's Board of Directors (mailed to their 
>>>> homes)
>>>> outlining several areas of concern. We asked only that the Board 
>>>> undertake
>>>> its own independent research and fact finding within the organization. 
>>>> One
>>>> of the areas of concern was what we perceived to be a deterioration in 
>>>> the
>>>> reputation of Fidelco within the visually-impaired community.  We 
>>>> actually
>>>> enclosed a copy of your original posting and your April 2011 Braille
>>>> Monitor item as one of the exhibits in our letter.
>>>> Please understand that we do not have any personal knowledge of the
>>>> training department, placement decisions or decisions regarding the
>>>> repossession of guide dogs from handlers.  We will tell you however, 
>>>> that
>>>> our letter outlining what we felt were legitimate, documented 
>>>> observations
>>>> and concerns was met with a return certified letter to us from Mr. 
>>>> Russman
>>>> stating that "The Board also has asked me to convey that, based on your
>>>> expressed dissatisfaction with Fidelco, it believes it to be in 
>>>> everyone's
>>>> best interest that you cease all activity with Fidelco including 
>>>> volunteer
>>>> efforts and financial donations."  Until receipt of that letter, {my 
>>>> wife}
>>>> had been spending 1/2 day per week volunteering in the Puppy Raiser
>>>> Department at Mr. Russman's request.
>>>> In our case, what we felt were well-thought-out feedback and concerns
>>>> brought forward in a professional, documented way were summarily 
>>>> dismissed
>>>> by management and the Board of Directors and resulted in our 
>>>> "dismissal"
>>>> as volunteers and donors.  We have personally been approached by
>>>> employees, puppy raisers and those housing breed dogs who will not come
>>>> forward with concerns or questions fearing that their dogs will be 
>>>> taken
>>>> from them.
>>>> In short, Mr. Gwizdala, sadly you could not have made a more valid 
>>>> comment
>>>> than "the Fidelco of 2005 is not the same Fidelco with which we are
>>>> dealing today".  We just thought you should know that unfortunately, 
>>>> your
>>>> astute observation appears to us to apply across the board within the
>>>> Fidelco organization.  We are greatly saddened by this development.
>>>>      So, there you have it from someone else's perspective. This writer 
>>>> has
>>>> been the victim of retaliation when the only agenda was to ask some
>>>> questions in an effort to improve the organization.
>>>> Fraternally yours,
>>>> Marion Gwizdala
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