SIOUX CITY JOURNAL
By Joanne Fox Journal staff writer
LYON COUNTY REPORTER
by Kathy Reinke
THE DOON PRESS
Video of Ardis speaking before Innovators, Inc. in Gatlinburg. Tennessee, August 2007. Also shown on www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qRHevYktg4
"Alvord Native Authors Books Despite Loss of Sight"
When Ardis Bazyn graduated from West Lyon High School, Inwood, Iowa, in 1969, she did not foresee what changes would take place in her life. Four years later, literally, she was blind. However, that loss of sight did not inhibit her from starting her own business and authoring two books.
Born in the small community of Alvord, Iowa, to Arie and Gert Kiel, she applied for work immediately after graduation. She was offered a position as a bookkeeper-receptionist at The Book Store in Sioux Falls, S.D., and in 1970, as a proof dispatcher at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Life changed dramatically when she lost her sight in a car accident in
"I had gone to a rodeo in the De Smet, South Dakota area, with my then-boyfriend," she said in a telephone interview from her home in Burbank, Calif. "It was about 10:30 at night and we were on an unfamiliar gravel road. He went off the road and into a deep ditch." Bazyn was seated in the middle of the front seat of the 1962 Chevy. Her head hit the dash and the impact smashed her glasses into her eyes. "They didn't expect me to live," she said. "I was in the hospital for 21 days recovering."
She returned home to Alvord and had to seriously re-think her career options.
"It was a pivotal moment for a 20-year-old," she said. "I had to learn to read all over again."
Adding to the tragedy of the situation was the fact that Bazyn's youngest sister had been killed in a car accident just six months prior to her crash.
"In the long run, that was probably beneficial to me," she speculated. "I was bound and determined to show my parents that I could handle anything." "I could handle anything." became Bazyn's personal anthem. After completing food service management training, she was given the opportunity to manage a small snack bar in the Argus Leader for employees. After three years, she moved on to other food service facilities in South Dakota and Iowa.
"I heard stories from other blind people who took 18 months to several years to work through their life changes," said the oldest of six siblings in the Kiel family. "I never felt that. I wanted to learn and learn quickly."
Over the years, Bazyn had been active in volunteerism both in local churches and a variety of other organizations. She was frequently asked to speak on different topics and to work on writing projects. She joined the American Council of the Blind in 1985 and became involved at the national level in 1990.
As the wife of a husband with multi-disabilities and parent of two pre-teen daughters, she took on the additional challenge of going back to college while working full time in the food service business. "I toyed with the idea of returning to school, until a blind friend of mine decided to return to law school for his degree," Bazyn explained. "I decided if he could do that, I could handle that."
In 1996, she received two B.A. degrees, in public relations and speech communications, from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and in 1998, she was awarded a master's degree in Arts in Teaching from Coe College. "As I spent my time volunteering, I realized I enjoyed helping others learn how to improve what they were doing and I wanted the necessary skills to become a more accomplished speaker and writer," said the Lyon County native. "I had been speaking to Christian women's clubs and talking at schools about disabilities and giving advocacy talks to legislators." After leaving the food service management field, Bazyn decided to start her current business as an inspirational and motivational speaker and writer. She moved to Burbank, Calif., in 1999, and established Bazyn Communications to help businesses, organizations, churches, and individuals realize their full potential. The company has its own website at www.bazyncommunications.com. She found a demand for printed materials on the subjects of her speeches.
Her work came to fruition this spring when she published her first book, "Building Blocks to Success: Does the Image of Your Church Attract Members?"
"I grew up in a family filled with faith," said the former member of First Christian Church in Doon, Iowa; "and I did my master's project on 'The Needs of a Membership Organization.' The professors told me back then to consider writing a book. I decided I could handle that."
The book addresses the issue of church attendance. Strategies for recruiting and retaining membership includes: improving attitudes toward newcomers, positive visitor follow-up methods, publicizing church functions and activities; promoting the church in the community and setting realistic goals for church attendance.
"I think it's important to be connected to a church community," Bazyn said. "I think people lose out if they aren't connected with the fellowship of a church."
Her second book, "Building Blocks to Success: Does the Image of Your Organization Attract Members?", went to print on July 1. She also plans to offer books on tape and CD.
"People wonder how I do it," Bazyn said of her talks, her books, her lifestyle. "I have a computer with a speech synthesizer and a laptop with a braille keyboard and display."
Her presentations are primarily in the Burbank area, although she has plans to market the company in Northwest Iowa. Her mother, Gert Van Roekel, now lives in Boyden, Iowa and several family members reside in the land of corn and soybeans.
Bazyn explained her motivational talks focus on coping with challenges and change in one's life. They should be subtitled, "I think I could handle that."
When Ardis Kiel graduated from West Lyon High School in 1969, little did she know what paths her life would take and the bumps in the road along the way.
Following graduation, the Alvord native took a position as a bookkeeper-receptionist at The Book Store in Sioux Falls and then moved to the job of proof dispatcher at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader in 1970.
Life dealt Ardis a cruel blow in 1971 as a result of a car accident in DeSmet, S.D. She was in a car with friends on a gravel road that was not familiar to them. County maintenance crews had not replaced a dead-end sign that had been knocked down by farm equipment. It was dark and the driver did not realize it was a dead end at a top of a hill until it was too late.
Ardis was rushed to a Sioux Falls hospital in very critical condition and not expected to live through the night. She did survive but lost her sight as a result of her injuries.
At this point she felt she had to rethink her career options and elected to take a course in food management. After completing the course, she was given the opportunity to manage a small snack bar utilized by employees in the Argus Leader building. After three years she moved on to other food service facilities in South Dakota and Iowa.
In 1984, Ardis and her family ‐ husband David Bazyn and daughters Gwen and April ‐ moved to Cedar Rapids where Ardis began operating a vending facility at the post office there.
Through the years, Ardis has volunteered in local churches and a variety of other organizations. Often she was asked to speak on different subjects and to work on writing projects.
It would appear that Ardis' plate was full ‐ the wife of a husband with multiple disabilities, the parent of two pre-teen daughters, and working full-time in her own food service business ‐ however, she took on the additional challenge of going back to college.
In 1996, Ardis received bachelor of arts degrees in public relations and speech communications from Coe College in Cedar Rapids and, in 1998, she received her master¹s degree in arts in teaching.
While volunteering, Ardis realized that she enjoyed helping others learn how to improve what they were doing and she wanted the necessary skills to become more accomplished in speaking and writing.
Therefore, the decision was made to leave the food services management business and to start her own business as an inspirational and motivational speaker and writer.
Following divorce from David, and April¹s marriage in May 1999, Ardis decided that a change of scenery would be nice and made the decision to move to Burbank, Calif., an area she had visited and in which she had many friends.
Another deciding factor for the move is that California has many more blind residents and the organization for the blind was more active and more involved in advocacy there.
After moving to Burbank, it became apparent that there was demand for printed materials in the subjects on which she speaks. Since she had written many articles and manuals on a variety of subjects in the past, she felt compelled to start this new phase of her life.
All the hard work paid off this spring when her first book, BUILDING BLOCKS FOR SUCCESS: Does the Image of Your Church Attract Members? In her book Ardis offers unique strategies for keeping members satisfied with the church.
For a sighted person to author a book is a challenge; for an unsighted person the challenges are multiplied many times over. Ardis uses a computer with speech synthesizer and she has a notetaker with Braille display and speech. When a book is completed, she gets assistance from her sister, Laurine Gerritsen, and a couple hired proofreaders.
Not wanting to stop with just one book, Ardis has also recently completed her second book that is at the publisher ready to be printed, BUILDING BLOCKS FOR SUCCESS: Does the Image of Your Organization Attract Members? She plans to offer her books on tapes and CDs in the future.
The first book is available at Crossroads Book and Music in Sioux Falls, S.D., or from the author at 866-476-8538 (toll free) or on her website, www.bazyncommuncations.com.
In addition to her sister Laurine of Rock Rapids, Ardis has other close relatives living in the area: Gert Kiel Van Roekel, mother, Boyden; Gert DeVries, grandmother, Inwood; Barb Arends, sister, Lester; Russell Kiel, brother, Alvord, and Char LaFrenz, sister, who previously lived in Rock Rapids and now resides in Cass Lake, Minn. She remains close to her family and visits five or six times a year.
Gwen, 22, graduated from University of Northern Iowa and is employed in Cedar Rapids. April, 20, and her husband, Matthew Gallagher, and their nine-month-old daughter, Rebecca, live in Marion. April is pursuing her CPA degree.
It has been through the strong support of family and friends in good times and in bad that Ardis has been able to accomplish all that she has, and for that she is extremely grateful.
Through all the bumps in the road, she has discovered her own BUILDING BLOCKS FOR SUCCESS: Hard Work and Determination.
The following is an Interview by Doon Press.