Stacy Sells Is the Light Behind Dining in the Dark

Busy public relations executive Stacy Sells is known for her leadership, strategic planning and, most of all, for pushing public education reform. She is on all sorts of boards related to her passion, and she has been much honored for her volunteer work.

Outside of education, she serves on the boards for the Arkansas United Methodist Foundation (she’s a lifelong Methodist) and Arkansas Lighthouse for the Blind.

Sells thought ALB would be very different from her other community work. But the woman with a passion for education is getting an old-fashioned “schooling” when it comes to her latest volunteer opportunity.

She joined the board of Lighthouse for the Blind in 2006 at the invitation of two friends, Dr. Carol Chappell and Chip Chiles. But there was another reason why she was excited about this new volunteer opportunity.

“When I was a young girl, my idol was Helen Keller. Seriously,” she said. “By the fourth grade, I had read every book in the public library written about her life and her work. So I’ve always had an interest in the work and progress by those who work with the visually and hearing impaired.”

According to Sells, the mission of ALB is to employ those who are visually impaired, in order to help improve their self-sufficiency, independence and quality of life. It goes without saying that those who are blind or visually impaired find themselves “employment challenged.”

“This is unfortunate, as there’s a wide range and diversity of jobs that can be performed by those with visual limitations,” she says. “It’s the hope of Lighthouse to also serve as a model for employing this special group who are often not recognized for the many employable skills they possess. It’s a real treat to spend an hour at the Lighthouse facility, to see the employees engaged in their work and feeling very proud about their contributions and economic independence.”

Sells is the chairman of a new event in Arkansas, Dining in the Dark, which is a 70th anniversary event for ALB. First Lady Ginger Beebe is the honorary chair, and also has a long interest in the visually impaired, recently producing an audio tour of the new Mansion Gardens for those without sight.

“For both of us, planning this event has been an enlightening opportunity, especially a trip we took to Kansas City to participate in another Dining in the Dark event. It’s difficult to describe the experience of spending an evening without the gift of sight,” she said.

“And I won’t even go into the butter and gravy found all over my sleeves. For the Arkansas event, I’m definitely wearing short sleeves.”

The tickets were sold out before they were even printed. That’s quite a feat, especially for an inaugural event.

In a sort of ironic twist, Sells told us that when she talks to groups about the need to give low-income youth a dream for their future, she often says, “You cannot be what you cannot see.”

“In some ways, the work of Lighthouse is very different from my other community work,” she said. “However, in the end, the ultimate goal of school reform is very similar to the mission of Lighthouse —to help people realize their full potential and receive the education and training they need to pursue a productive life as an adult. The job training aspect of Lighthouse is life changing.”

Dining in the Dark

when/  6:30 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. dinner and program, Thursday, March 4
where/  reception: Rogers House,
400 W. 18th St,   dinner: Governor’s Mansion
tickets/ SOLD OUT!
info/  Jessica Szenher, (501) 413-9212

Q&A

Typical day? 
There is nothing typical about my day. 

What do you love most about what you do?
I love creating change. 

Are you a blogger, a Facebooker and/or a Tweeter?
I enjoy all aspects of social media. Facebook is like a 24-hour online class reunion. I’ve reconnected with hundreds of folks I don’t get to see much — long-ago classmates, old friends and former colleagues. Twitter is an extraordinary tool for real-time updates by citizen journalists. I’m considering a blog, more of a resource site for parents, educators and community leaders with tools to merge our worlds for a common purpose of enhanced community development. 

Latest book you read?
“Liberating Learning,” about the radical ways technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives; but more classrooms today look almost identical to the classrooms of 50 years ago.

Favorite quote?
Being a lifelong Methodist, it’s a quote from John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”  best advice you’ve ever received?  People don’t remember what you said or did, or how smart or accomplished you are. At the end of your life, people only remember how you made them feel about themselves. 

Hobbies?
After long days that combine work and community service, I find home a great respite. It’s where I get my emotional center. When I’m at home, I’m usually cooking, entertaining friends, watching crime shows or working on my genealogy.

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