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Braille for Life Alliance: Profiles

Bill Raeder | Margaret Roman | Carol Gillespie | Mary Lou Phillips

Bill Raeder

"It is in my nature that things must fit together right," asserts Bill Raeder in his usual forthright manner. "I liked running a business and I wanted to improve the human condition on a societal level, so my work at NBP was a perfect fit." Thus, for 32 years, Bill's vision ensured that National Braille Press continually made new advances in braille production, publishing, and marketing, all for the promotion of literacy for the blind.

"It is good" he says "to hold nonprofits' feet to the fire to be responsive to market forces. But, given the vagaries of the market, it is senseless for a nonprofit to rely solely on hand-to-mouth annual revenue. Long-term financial planning is key." acting on this thought and furthering his legacy, Bill gave a challenge gift upon his retirement for the establishment of a planned giving program.

The Board of Trustees has enthusiastically responded to the challenge by establishing just such a program to receive and manage gifts from wills as well as gifts that generate income-such as charitable gift annuities, remainder trusts, and lead trusts. Bill is now the first to establish a gift annuity with the Press. In exchange for his gift, he will receive a fixed annual income of 8.4% for the rest of his life. "I may no longer have the endurance to make a difference in day-to-day operations, but I can make this contribution to build financial strength for the future. I am not wealthy, so my gift may not seem earth shattering, but it can be the seed for growing the planned giving program and ensuring a long-term revenue plan for national Braille press."

Margaret Roman

"When you are young, you don't always think about where things come from," Margaret Roman says reflectively. "I always had Braille books. I didn't think a lot about where they came from, or the trouble that it took to create them." She continues, "In Washington, D.C., where I grew up, there was a volunteer Braillist group. They helped me and other children of the 50s and 60s - the first generation of blind children that was truly mainstreamed -- by dedicating their efforts to making sure that we had the books we needed. But we always had to give the books back."

And then, one day, something changed. "I remember that I had to read St. Exupery's Wind, Sand and Stars. It was so beautiful and it was the first time that it struck me that I desperately wanted to keep it. Braille books were precious, and they were transitory. I remember begging to keep that book. They said 'yes'."

Margaret's story, like many, is rooted in a family's love and encouragement. "I was blessed to come from an educated, literary family that wanted me to be exposed to everything. When I was in the 9th and 10th grades I attended a boarding school for the blind in England. I remember the library - I had never seen so many books in one place! There, I could bury myself in books," says Margaret, describing her immersion in literature, her lifelong joy of poetry (both English and German) and a passion for collecting books that defines her to this day.

Having a lifelong career working with the state department, Margaret relied upon the National Braille Press to keep her informed. In 1976 (1975?) when it began printing the Braille version of the New York Times, the Press gave Margaret a "constant companion on the bus and at work." She describes with eloquence how access to the Times' current news and information supported her professional life as she "felt an imperative to keep up with world affairs."

As you can imagine, much of her library came from the presses at 88 St. Stephen Street. "I became more and more aware about the Braille literacy issue and began to pay attention to what National Braille Press is doing - particularly the scope and breadth of the material they put out despite the severe limitations they face to funding, space and staff. With one or two exceptions, I have every cookbook and every computer book they have put out, not to mention the literary materials."

Earlier this year Margaret decided to join National Braille Press's Braille for Life Alliance, a community of individuals who support the future of the Press by naming it as a beneficiary in their estate plans. There are many ways to accomplish such a goal, ranging from a simple bequest, to naming NBP as a beneficiary of a retirement plan, life insurance policy or trust. Other ways include planned gift arrangements, such as charitable gift annuities and charitable trusts.

Carol Gillespie

One need spend only a few minutes with Carol Gillespie before it becomes clear that she is a woman of extraordinary faith, an adventurer with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and experience. Carol's holiday letters are filled with the details of a life spent in joyful exploration, from annual visits to the "Big E" to retreats for the blind at the Villa Maria House in Stamford. She describes with zest adventures in Little Italy and Chinatown. "I went to Harney Tea Company. . . and had an informative tour, learning how tea is grown, processed and packaged. It smelled and tasted exotic!"

She spends her life in service to others in many ways, serving on the Advisory Committee for the Library for the Blind, recording for the Blind and Dyslectic until 2007 and, most recently, being appointed as a Director on the Connecticut Board of Education and Services for the Blind.

What might be considered overwhelming adversity by many are the challenges that frame her faith - as well as her life's choices. Since childhood, Carol has had three encounters with cancer. At age ten doctors discovered a malignant tumor on her chin. Five years later retinal blastoma claimed her vision; and, at age fifty-two, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. Yet, nothing suppresses her joy. Some would say that she has the "gift of discernment," a unique way of bringing good common sense, rooted in prayer, to helping others with their challenges.

In the summer of 2009 Carol fulfilled a long-held wish to visit the Braille Press in Boston. Her first impressions were powerful. "First of all, I liked the idea that they hire blind people and provide employment. I saw how they are opening doors to other people so that they can be employed." After a thorough tour "upstairs and down," Carol experienced the mission first-hand. She continues, "I especially liked the fact that they value an education, because, yes, I love to read books on cassette and do digital, but to find the way to become truly literate you have to be able to read and write and spell."

"I have been a lector at my church for twenty-six years. Every Sunday I read in a mass. I need Braille! I need Braille!" Braille nourishes her spirit.

Earlier this year, Carol notified the Press that she had named it as a beneficiary of a charitable trust she and her late husband, Buck, had established. Carol will receive income for life. At her passing a number of organizations will receive the remaining funds to advance their missions. In making this provision Carol becomes a founding member of the National Braille Press's Braille for Life Alliance, a community of individuals who support the future of the NBP by remembering it in their estate provisions.

Mary Lou Phillips

Long time Our Special subscriber leaves NBP a lasting gift. Mary Lou Phillips, 78, passed away on February 25, 2012. Mrs. Phillips bequeathed a mutual fund to NBP which will go to the endowment. "NBP is honored to receive Mrs. Phillips' estate gift," said Brian MacDonald, President, "Her thoughtful planning helps to ensure that NBP can continue our work to support braille literacy."

Mary enjoyed classical music and loved to play the piano for family and friends. She and her husband Elbert were avid travelers and found pleasure in being with their friends. Often you would find them at the local bowling alley as a part of a blind bowling league in Lansing, their home town. Mrs. Philips worked at the Michigan Commission for the Blind vending stand for more than 20 years.

A donor and customer of NBP for over 20 years, Mrs. Phillips is the newest inductee to the Braille for Life Alliance. The Braille for Life Alliance is a special community made up of individuals who have included NBP in their will or other planned gifts. NBP has benefited from estate gifts ranging from $100 to $1,000,000; no matter the size, an estate gift is a remarkable way to protect the future of braille and establish a legacy in support of literacy for blind people. It is the gift that keeps on giving. If you would like to join the Braille for Life Alliance, or learn more about it, please call Joseph Quintanilla at 617-425-2415 or email

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