Meet the Houston Area Visually Impaired Network

 

Board of Directors

 

President: Ron Graham,
Visually Impaired People of South East Texas (VIPSET)
Ron Graham is one of the founding members of HAVIN. He has been the President of HAVIN since we became a nonprofit organization in 2017. He is also the founder and facilitator of the Visually Impaired People of South East Texas (VIPSET) support group that serves the Humble/Kingwood area in the northeast part of Houston. Ron has earned his B.S. in Behavior Psychology (2001) and his M.A. in Clinical Psychology (2004), both from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. He has lived in Kingwood with his wife and son since 2006.

Vice President: Victoria Hillard,
Blind Professionals Network
Victoria Hillard is the Vice President of HAVIN. She has been a part of HAVIN since 2018.  She is also the Founder/Executive Director of Blind Professionals Network, a NPO that provides training, support and resources to individuals in the blind and visually impaired community. Victoria is a native Californian and currently resides in Houston, TX.

 

 

 

Secretary: Stacie Gallegos,
National Federation of the Blind – Houston chapter
Stacie serves as the secretary of the Houston Area Visually Impaired Network. In addition, she is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind. She currently serves as the President of the Houston Chapter, secretary of the Texas Association of Guide Dog Users and secretary of Texas Parents of Blind Children, (TPOBC). Stacie has a strong passion for ensuring all blind people have access to the tools and services they need to live full and independent lives.

 

Treasurer: Naomi Panarella,
Foundation Fighting Blindness
Naomi Panarella is the Senior Administrative Assistant to the Vice President of Finance and Treasury and Chief Risk Officer of Risk Management at Cheniere. Ms. Panarella joined Cheniere in May of 2018. Naomi has worked in many industries including, publishing, advertising, private equity, insurance, sports entertainment and currently oil and gas in Houston and New York City. She attended the University of Houston and graduated with a degree in Communications.  Naomi became a member of HAVIN in 2018 serving as a board member representing the Foundation Fighting Blindness Houston Chapter and has served as the HAVIN Treasurer since 2020.

 

 

 

 

Members at Large

 

Sara Freeman-Smith,
iBUG Today
Sara is an active disability advocate and community volunteer. She joined the HAVIN team in 2020 as the Board representative for iBUG and a member since 2015. Sara was appointed by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in 2017 to serve as Commissioner on the Houston Commission on Disabilities which provides a broad exposure to a wide variety of disabilities both seen and hidden and how they impact our community. Sara actively participates in numerous committees with several blind support organizations on the national, state, and local level-American Council of the Blind (ACB), ACB of Texas, HCB, and VIA. She is a former board member of Texas Rehabilatation Association (TRA) which provides support for vocational services & training for people with disabilities.    Sara has worked in the employment/recruiting profession all her career and work diligently assisting individuals find employment with disabilities.  She is passionate about helping others and speaking out for those who can’t speak for themselves.  She works full-time and is also an author and motivational speaker.

Nelly Martinez,
Houston Council of the Blind
Nelly is a board member and the representative to HAVIN from the Houston Council of the Blind. Nelly first joined the HCB in 2015 and serves on various committees within the organization including public relations and the Scholarship committee. Since 2018, Nelly has worked at Houston Museum of Natural Science. She  started her employment with Visitor Services and is now currently a manager in the Youth Education department.

Carmen Mullins,
Dan Arnold Center for Vision Rehabilitation Support Group
Carmen Mullins joined HAVIN in 2022 as a representative. She is an occupational therapist who serves individuals in the Houston area who are visually impaired. She works at Robert Cizik Eye Clinic located in the medical center. Carmen is the leader for the low vision support group at Dan Arnold Center for Vision Rehabilitation.

 

Talana Townsend,
Visually Impaired Advocates (VIA)
Talana Townsend is a board member and the VIA representative to HAVIN. talana serves as the president of the Visually Impaired Advocates-Houston Organization (VIA). She also serves as VIA‘s Hospitality Chairperson and Communication person. Talana participates with several visually impaired organizations, as well as other local organizations in the greater Houston area. She strives for success and excellence while serving with love and dedication!

Paul Williams,
Blinded Veterans Association Greater Houston regional group
Paul Williams is the president of the blinded veterans greater   Houston charter. Paul  was elected January 2022. This followed him serving as   vice president for two years. Paul   also serves as   the second vice president of the visually impaired advocates. Paul is newly married and will reside on the east side of Houston  with his wife.

 

Karen Eitel,
Houston Council of the Blind AR*
Karen is currently the alternate representative on the HAVIN board, and was previously the representative, for  the Houston Council of The Blind, the local Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind of Texas (ACBT). She is also the past President of The Braille Revival League of Texas, also an ACBT Affiliate. Karen currently lives in Kingwood and was a founding member of the Visually Impaired People of South East Texas (VIPSET) support group.

Cynthia Fobbs,
Blind Professionals Network AR*
Cynthia is the alternate representative on the HAVIN board for the Blind Professionals Network. She has earned both her Bachelors degree in Psychology and Masters degree in Counseling from the University of Houston. Cynthia’s goal is to get her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology or Family and Marriage Therapy. She is an active member of the blind community in Houston, a member of the Visually Impaired Advocates, the Houston chapter of the NFB and is the membership chair for the Blind Professionals Network.  She also currently works as a Program Specialist IV for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. She previously worked as an Independent Living Worker for Legacy DARS. Cynthia is married and the proud mother of 2 children.

 

Advisors

 

Dr.Nicole Hooper, O.D.
Center for Sight Enhancement,
University of Houston College of Optometry
Dr. Nicole Hooper was born and raised in the great state of Wyoming.  She received her BA from the University of Wyoming in molecular biology.  Her OD was received at  Southern California College of Optometry.  Dr Hooper is an adjunct professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry.  She is also a member of the American Society for the Aging. She has been an advisor to the Houston Area Visually Impaired Network since 2013.

Dr. Swati Modi, O.D.
Center for Sight Enhancement,
University of Houston College of Optometry
Swati Modi, OD, FAAO is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Houston. She teaches clinically in the University Eye Institute’s Center for Sight Enhancement and is the Director of the Service. Dr. Modi is the Course-director of the Low Vision Rehabilitation didactic course and laboratory for optometry 3rd year students and is the Director of the Low Vision Rehabilitation Residency program. She has presented on low vision rehabilitation, both nationally and internationally, and is the recipient of the Texas Optometric Association Educator of the Year Award (2022), the Corning Low Vision Award and the Feinbloom Low Vision Award. Since 2013, Dr. Modi is an Advisor to the Houston Area Visually Impaired Network (HAVIN) non-profit organization.

 

 

Raul Gallegos
RGA Tech Solutions
Raul Gallegos is an assistive technology trainer and consultant. Originally from Denver Colorado, he now resides with his wife Stacie, in Houston Texas, where they own and operate RGA Tech Solutions, a small business whose primary purpose is to provide blind and low-vision customers with individualized assistive technology training. RGA Tech Solutions is an approved vender with several companies and organizations including the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEP), Vispero Group, and most recently, Aira Tech Corp. In addition, RGA Tech Solutions has and continues to acquire many private clients.

 

 

Mendy Graham
Mendy Graham has been involved with HAVIN since its initial inception. She began helping out with the inaugural Insight Expo and has been active with HAVIN ever since then. She regularly helps out at HAVIN events, both behind the scenes and in-person. Whatever role Mendy plays, from staffing the HAVIN table to overseeing hospitality and door prizes, she is always there to help people and offer support with a smile. She has earned both her B.A. and M.A in Home Economics Education from Sam Houston State University. Mendy retired from Channelview ISD after a 32-year teaching career and now lives in Kingwood with her husband and son.

Chelsea Nguyen
CN Vision Image Consulting, LLC
Chelsea Nguyen has been a proud member of HAVIN for the past 7 years and is the Volunteer Coordinator for the Insight Expo.  She is also a local business owner in Houston, Texas and Founder of CN Vision Image Consulting, LLC. Her company and Team of Career Coaches empower people of all abilities by teaching them the soft skills necessary to become more independent, self-sufficient and successful in their careers and daily lives. Her in-person and online trainings include non-visual and adaptive make up application, grooming and hygiene techniques as well as public speaking and interviewing skills for blind or disabled individuals both nationally and worldwide.

 

 

*AR indicates Alternate Representative

 

(Updated 09/27/2022)