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Church members prepare books in Braille

Three times a week, parishioners from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Scotia gather to create books that are indecipherable to them. The books, various Bible stories at different grade reading levels, are in Braille.

We're part of a national organization of Lutheran churches making the books, said the Rev. Dennis Meyer, pastor of the church. "We've had volunteers working on the project since 1972."

Church member Elma Phillips started the work, which has now included as many as four generations of volunteers. The books, printed on oversized, thick, vellum paper, are also in different Braille languages, including Portugese, East African, Japanese, and forms of Hindu.

"That's the amazing part; we have no idea what the books say," said Janice Seefold, working assembly line style along with her son, Ted, on a recent weekday morning. "The worst case scenario is to get the pages out of order, because it's very difficult to figure out how to fix them."

Creating the pages, printed on both sides of the paper, begins with sliding zinc plates out of their neatly stacked rows. The plates, which hold up indefinitely with proper care, must always be handled with clean hands, never bent, and never dropped.

"The trick is in the flip," said Ed Kaufmann as he lined up the plates, working with his wife Virginia.

The pages are fed through a decidedly low-tech press, dated 1949, then hole- punched to fit into a binding piece. Working upstairs at the church, the group moves along quickly.

"It gets to be a rhythm," said Ed Kaufmann.

"There's a lot of camaraderie here," said Karen Smith, the group's coordinator. "We even have kids one or two nights a month come in to help; it's a project that involves the entire congregation." When a book is completed, the volunteers ring a bell, and on Tuesday nights, break out into a little victory dance.

"That's why I don't work Tuesday nights," said Vicky Gogis. "I'm not into the dancing."

In an adjoining room, Bert Brown packed the completed books into boxes with pre-printed labels. The labels showed shipments to Malawi, Bangladesh, and Brooklyn. The U.S. Postal Service sends all the books free of charge. The Braille worker's center, as they are known, produced 594 books last year alone.

"It's just really cool, it makes you feel good," said Smith.

"Now that you've seen what we can do, you'll want us to print your newspaper here," joked Ed Kaufmann.""

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