“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 NIV
That scripture is what Joseph Drenth has lived by and guides his attitude and approach to everything he does. “It means that everything I do is considered service to Him, above all, so no task is too small or the earthly reward too insignificant to warrant my best efforts. I also strive to treat everyone equally, since everyone is created in God’s image.”
At around six years old, Joe was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor on his optic nerve—a craniopharyngioma—which was detected during a routine vision screening when Joe was just a kindergartner. The screening revealed that Joe wasn’t seeing at all through his left eye. By his sophomore year of high school, the tumor also caused optic nerve damage to his right eye, leaving only a tiny portion of peripheral vision in the upper-left corner of his right eye’s visual field.
But he continued his education and even won a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind in 1994. At that time he was living in Michigan and used the scholarship to attend Michigan Technological University.
The scholarship would prove to mean more to Joe than providing financial assistance. “It introduced me to successful blind individuals who overcame the same challenges I was facing. I previously had no blind role models or examples of anyone who shared my positive philosophy toward blindness. It was refreshing and encouraging!”
Joe’s family later relocated to Pennsylvania and in 2008, he attended his first Keystone Chapter meeting. He would faithfully pinch-hit as secretary or provide audio assistance with the presidential releases.
The following year, Joe volunteered as a counselor at NFB’s Youth Slam. Youth Slam is a week-long program geared towards blind and visually impaired high school students interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The program also aims to dispel perceived barriers students may have about excelling in science careers.
While Youth Slam was undoubtedly a rewarding experience, perhaps the greatest reward for Joe was meeting Marsha, his wife now of over ten years.
Joe and Marsha still consider the Keystone Chapter their “home” chapter; but he became more involved at the affiliate level when in 2011, Joe was nominated as the affiliate’s treasurer. In 2017 he was elected to his current post as First Vice President, providing overall support to the President but also having a lead role in specific projects.
“One of my main duties is helping the President plan, organize, and manage the state convention. I also chair the Technology and Convention Planning committees, which means I help plan and facilitate the technology sessions.”
Joe is the affiliate’s go-to resource for all things tech related. Through his efforts, the Pennsylvania convention has been livestreamed for over four years, making it one of the lead affiliates providing this capability. This is a much-appreciated resource for those unable to attend in person.
The convention has also become much livelier thanks to Joe’s creative and clever use of various audio accompaniments. He has also upgraded the affiliate’s website and email distribution lists. Now members can seamlessly register to the convention online and join targeted email distribution lists that best suit their interests. On the national level, Joe helps to ensure the affiliate has a strong presence at the convention’s competitive exhibit hall.
In addition to his affiliate duties, Joe is a longtime board member of the Pennsylvania Board of Vocational Rehabilitation, which oversees the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. As the only blind member of the 10-member board, Joe provides a genuine voice for the blind and visually impaired community as program policies are implemented. Prior to this position, Joe served on the advisory committee for the Blind of Pennsylvania, which oversees the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services within the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Joe holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Eastern University and is pursuing a Master’s in Business Administration. He is a senior engineer at a global manufacturer of various self-guided automated vehicles. He also writes software in multiple programming languages for a variety of platforms and purposes.
An avid drum player since his youth, Joe plays for the worship team at his church. He enjoys cooking, and especially likes to experiment with different cultural cuisines.
He and his wife Marsha live in Bucks County along with two other family members who are also visually impaired.
Contact Joe at:
vp at nfbp dot org
Written by Lisa Bryant