BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - JUNE 2004
FRG Post Convention President's Message: The BVA-FRG State Convention was not among one of our larger Conventions, but most everyone thought it was one of our best. There is one thing for sure, not only did we picked up new members, but also came away with many Blinded Veterans who are eager to become involved in the rapid innovations that are taking place within the FRG. I believe in part, this enthusiasm is a result of the FRG finally obtaining a membership of 1000 plus. More importantly, we are now going to be sending in excess of 1900 Newsletters. This is an increase of more than 500 Newsletters compared with just a few months ago. Those additional 500 Bv's to whom we will be sending Newsletters equate to a lot of work for all of us in the coming days. We must now go out and attempt to encourage 500 Blinded Veterans to join the BVA and make the FRG a very powerful Group for obtaining legislation and other issues that are always going to confront Blinded Veterans in the future. The following Officers and District Directors will be responsible for the following Committee positions. George Stocking will continue to be Membership Chairman, Convention Chairman, Legislative Chairman, and Editor of the Newsletter. Paul Kaminsky will head up a Sub-Membership Committee, responsible for coordinating and contacting all of the potential members, resulting from a mass mailing that we have just concluded with the cooperation of Florida's VIST Coordinators. Paul shall be responsible for organizing our membership list and making it more accurate. Darryl Goldsmith is to organize Blinded Veterans in the panhandle area to address the serious problems in that area. Mike Taylor will represent the FRG with the Division of Blind Services and the Talking Book Library. Clyde Emery is going to have his hands full in organizing the Tampa-St. Pete areas, as this has been one of our least represented areas. Dwight Sayer is the Fund Raising Chairman for the entire state. Mike Toomey is Chairman of Public Relations for the entire state. Last but not least, Paul Mimms is Chairman of Development and Transportation Committees. The entire membership of the Florida Regional Group will be the members of these Committees. I would like to make one more very important suggestion, As the FRG's development becomes more complicated, we must all have consideration for each other. Most important of all, is not to become angry if one of us inadvertently steps on someone's toes, as this is most certainly going to happen. Let us all work toward that primary goal and don't be concerned as to who receives credit for something that someone else may have accomplished. Terry King FRG President
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: The new year in the FRG Auxiliary has already started . We had our elections in the FRG Auxiliary meeting at the Convention on May 1st. Here are the elected Officers: Joanne King - President; Joyce Thornton - Vice President; Maureen Kaminsky - Secretary; and Margaret (PEG) Toomey - Treasurer. Congratulations to all. Thank you for electing me President again. I have some new ideas that I would like to promote. I, with the support of the membership present, would like to develop our membership in the FRG Auxiliary. We have over 1000 BVA members in Florida but only 28 BVA-FRG Auxiliary members. Don't you think that something is wrong with that? I have found that some of the spouses and friends of the BVA have joined the National Auxiliary and think that they also belong to the FRG Auxiliary, not so. If you would write to Peg Toomey our Treasurer for an application, it will cost you $10 to join the BVA National Auxiliary and an extra $5 to join the FRG Auxiliary. Peg Toomey, 6955 Awawa Court, North Port, FL 34287. Unfortunately, you can't join the FRG Auxiliary without joining the National BVA Auxiliary also. I am sure that I am not reaching for the stars, but I believe that we can have our membership up to 50 by our FRG Convention next year.
We also have a raffle system for each of our luncheons around the state. Last year, we added Jacksonville to our luncheon meeting sites. This year, we will be adding Orlando to the luncheon sites. Make sure to listen for the schedule for luncheon meetings. Thanks to all those who brought prizes for the Auxiliary Convention raffle and thanks to all those who bought the raffle tickets to benefit the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program. Even though I was one of the bartenders in the Hospitality Room, we all had a lot of laughs and a great time. It truly was fun.
Joyce Thornton is heading up a committee for lining up some very interesting entertainment for the 60th BVA National Convention which will be held at the Wyndham Hotel On Miami Beach August 16-20, 2005. So, save your pennies so that you can join Blinded Veterans and Auxiliary from all around the country. Wouldn't it be nice if we can set an all time record of attendance? All I can say is you don't attend, you will be missing out on a lot of fun and good info. Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.
Senior VIST Coordinator Retires: In September 1969, a graduate student started an internship as a Social Worker at the Miami VAMC. Her supervisor assigned her to work with Blinded Veterans in the VIST Program. In July 1970, after completing her internship, Trudy Rothenberg was employed as a Social Worker at the Miami VAMC. She was assigned as part time VIST Coordinator. Although she had other duties, most of her involvement was with Blinded Veterans and the VIST Program. She quickly developed a close relationship with her veterans. In 1975, she planned and secured funding for the first Regional VIST Coordinator Training Program. VIST Coordinators from around the Southeast United States, were brought to Miami Beach to receive comprehensive training. In 1978, when the BVA's efforts to have the VA Central Office establish full time VIST Coordinator positions, Trudy was in the first group of six given full time VIST positions. In 1979, she was the first VIST Coordinator to attend a FRG State Convention, where she facilitated a Spouses Support Group. Over the years, Trudy Rothenberg acted as a mentor for VIST Coordinators and helped to initiate the VIST in-service training held each year at the FRG State Convention. For the past 10 years, she has been the Chairperson of the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Committee. She has received local, state, and national awards for her work with Blinded Veterans. On July 2, 2004, after 34 years of service, Trudy Rothenberg, the most Senior VIST Coordinator in the VA system, will retire. At that time, she will move to the St. Petersburg area to be near other family members. Her concern, knowledge, and hard work have contributed greatly to improving services for Blinded Veterans. she has made significant differences in the lives of hundreds of Blinded Veterans and will be greatly missed. On behalf of the BVA, the FRG, and particularly the Blinded Veterans in the Miami VAMC catchment area, we thank you for your dedicated service and will miss you greatly. Trudy, we wish you good luck and a long and enjoyable retirement.
FRG Annual Business Meeting Minutes May 1, 2004: The meeting was called to order at 9:02 AM by President Terry King in the Ball Room at the Holiday Inn South in Daytona Beach Shores. The pledge to the flag was led by FRG Vice President Mike Nagelberg and the invocation was given by George Stocking. A motion was passed to waive the reading of the 2003 Annual Business Meeting Minutes and to accept them as published in the June 2003 FRG Newsletter. The Treasurer reported a balance of $10935.17, in the FRG checking account on April 20, 2003. This included $5000 in a restricted donation to the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Fund, later transferred to a Certificate of Deposit (CD). This left $5,935.17 in the checking account available for FRG use. During the year, income totaling $11858.30 was deposited in the FRG checking account, with a total of $22793.47 available in the checking account for FRG use. Expenditures during the year, including the $5000 transfer to the Auxiliary Scholarship Fund CD, totaled $18,604.53. Thus the balance in the checking account, available for FRG use on April 20, 2004, was $4188.94. The value of the CD's in the general fund, on April 20, 2003 was $26058.36. Interest on the two CD's during the year was $444.85, leaving a total in the 2 CD's of $26,503.24 on April 20 2004. The total funds available, excluding the Scholarship fund, on April, 20, 2004 was $30,692.18. On April 20, 2003 the FRG Auxiliary Scholarships Fund CD was valued at $6120.88. During the year, an additional $5,000 Scholarship Fund donation was placed in the CD and interest of $139.48 was added, leaving a total of $11,260.36 available for used for future FRG Auxiliary Scholarships. As of April 20, 2004 the FRG had $41,952.54 in total assets. The Convention accepted the Treasurer's report as presented.
The Membership Committee reported the Florida Regional Group had a total of 1024 Members and Associate Members as of April 26, 2004. This is the first time that the membership in any Regional Group in the BVA has exceeded 1000. The Florida Regional Group continues to be the largest Regional Group in the BVA. In addition to those Blinded Veterans who actively support the BVA, there are a total of 694 BV's on the FRG - BVA mailing list who have not paid their dues for 2004. The FRG - BVA mailing list contains a total of 1718 Blinded Veterans in the State of Florida. President Terry King has gained the cooperation of the VIST Coordinators in Florida to offer BV's not on our list the opportunity to have their names added to the mailing list. To date we have added about 400 new BV's to the list. A discussion was held regarding those Blinded Veterans who were not Members or Associate Members of the BVA. Those in attendance were encouraged to become actively involved in recruiting new Members and Associate Members during the coming year. Now that we have reached 1024, let's work for a membership of 1100. The District Directors presented reports regarding activities in their Districts. This included information about their Assistant District Directors to expand contacts with Blinded Veterans in the six Districts.
The Legislative Committee presented information regarding National legislation of interest to Blinded Veterans. All Blinded Veterans in attendance were encouraged to become actively involved in writing to their Senators and Representatives regarding legislation.
Mike Taylor made a presentation regarding activities at the Talking Book Library. The possible closure of the Sub-Regional Talking Book Library in Orlando was discussed. The FRG supports efforts to continue the operation of that Sub-Regional Talking Book Library. Those in attendance made positive comments regarding the library.
President King opened the floor for discussions of Old Business. The six FRG District Meetings held during the past year were reviewed. Announcements regarding the remaining
activities at the 2004 FRG State Convention were made. A discussion was held regarding the program and activities at this year's Convention.
President King opened the floor to New Business. A motion was passed to donate $1000 to the Talking Book Library. A motion was passed to take out a one page ad ($100) in the BVA National Convention Program. A motion was passed to add Orlando as a District Meeting site during the coming year, possibly on September 11th. A lengthy discussion was held regarding the cost of District luncheons. A motion was passed to increase the price charged to those attending to $7 per person for one year. A discussion was held regarding the possibility of obtaining sponsors to help defray the District luncheon cost. The 2005 FRG State Convention will be held at the Holiday Inn, South April 29 - May 1. The arrangements will be essentially the same as this year with an increase to $58 for standard rooms and $65.50 for room with kitchenettes. The membership was encouraged to consider other alternatives for 2006. Due to transportation distances, the FRG State Convention should be held in the center of the state from Daytona - Melbourne across to Tampa - St. Petersburg. If better arrangements and prices can be obtained, such information should be provided to the Convention Committee in time to negotiate contracts prior to April 29, 2005.
A resolution was passed to maintain FRG accounts in the First National Bank of South Miami, with the President and Secretary-Treasurer as co-signers on all of the BVA -FRG accounts.
In a special Business Meeting in Ft. Myers in November 2002, the FRG voted to co-sponsor, with the BVA National, the 60th National Convention at the Wyndham Hotel in Miami Beach, August 16-20, 2005. A discussion was held regarding the plans for the Convention. A variety of fund raising projects including exhibitors, program ads, and solicitation from corporations and organizations were considered. President Terry King nominated George Stocking as Convention Chairman and Paul Kaminsky as Convention Treasurer. A motion was passed unanimously to approve those nominations.
The following Blinded Veterans were elected as Officers and District Directors for 2004-2005
Officers District Directors
President Terry King Northwest Darryl Goldsmith
Vice President Paul Kaminsky Northeast Mike taylor
Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking Central West Clyde Emery
Past President Charles Duncan Central East Dwight Sayer
Southwest Michael Toomey
Southeast Paul Mimms
An election was held to select the Florida Regional Group Delegation to the BVA 59th National Convention as follows: Delegate - Dr. George Stocking; Alternate Delegates: Terry King, Mike (Myron) Nagelberg, Paul Kaminsky, Mike Toomey, Ben Barnhart, William Burgess, and William Barlow. Terry King was elected as FRG Representative on the By-Laws and Resolutions Committee, with the Delegate and/or Alternate Delegates, in the order listed
above as Alternate Representatives on that Committee. A motion was passed to send the Delegation to the BVA National Convention uninstructed.
The Business Meeting adjourned at 11:46 AM.
Respectfully submitted, George E. Stocking Secretary-Treasurer
New Services for Blinded Veterans: The Florida Regional Group continues to work with the VA to improve services for Blinded Veterans. During the past year, three new full time positions have been established in Florida to provide services to Blinded Veterans. Last fall, a full time Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) position was established in Orlando. Due to a hiring freeze, it was not until May 2004, that the position was fully implemented. In April 2004, approval was obtained to establish a full time VIST Coordinator position at the Lake City VAMC. Judy Hayes (more about her later) was selected to fill that position and took up her duties on June 1st. On April 27, 2004, The Tampa VAMC approved the establishment of a BROS position to work with VIST Coordinator Charles Nieberding at the Tampa VAMC. It will take several months to recruit candidates for that position.
At our recent FRG State Convention, our Installation Banquet Guest Speaker was Dr. Elwood Headley, Director of the Sunshine Veterans Health Care System - VISN 8. VISN 8 is composed of all of the VA medical facilities in Florida and Puerto Rico and contains 7 VAMC, 10 Comprehensive Outpatient Clinics, and 34 Community Based Care Centers. During the last several years, VISN 8 has had the largest increase in veterans treated of any of the 21 VISN. In Fiscal Year 2003, VISN 8 got a 12% increase in funding. However this year FY 2004, VISN 8 has received a 17% increase in the budget. During his speech, Dr. Headley indicated that it was his plan to use some of that increase to improve services for Special Disability Programs, particularly those for Blinded Veterans. He also spoke about the CARES Program (Capital Asset Reallocation to Enhance Service), which was recently approved by VA Secretary Tony Princepe. The CARES Plan recommends an increase in the bed capacity at the West Palm Beach Blind Rehabilitation Center from 15 to 24 beds; a full time VIST Coordinator at the Daytona Beach VAOPC; a BROS position for the Lake City - Jacksonville area; a BROS position for the Miami VAMC; and a BROS position for the Ft. Myers VAOPC. The CARES Program will take 10 years to fully implement and cost over $8 billion. Time will tell whether any of those recommendations come to fruition. However, the FRG will continue to work with Dr. Headley and the other VA Officials in Florida to provide needed services for our ever increasing Blinded veteran population.
Telephone News Services: You may obtain information quickly from your telephone with two free services. Anyone can call 1 (800) 555-8355 for the TELL ME line. After a brief welcome to the line, the listener is taken to a menu and given a choice of selecting from stock quotes; News Center; Sports; Entertainment; Travel; and popular short cuts. The system is voice activated. Speaking your choice into the telephone takes you to that area. The service is kept up to date. It is free, easy to use, and the information seems to be accurate. A second service - News Line, is also available. The Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) has paid $50,000 a year for the passed two years for Florida to have News Line. There is an item in this year's budget, seeking continued Legislative support. Currently, over 60 Newspapers and other information sources are offered. The service is free for qualified individuals. If you are already qualified to receive Talking Books, you can call the library at 1 (800) 226-6075 and they can forward your application, certifying your eligibility. You may also contact the National Federation of the Blind Newsline directly, to make application. The number is 1 (888) 882-1629. To clarify, the Tell Me Line (800) 555-8355 is available to anyone. To use the News Line, you must be certified by calling either the Talking Book Library or the Florida NFB. Mike Taylor, FRG Northeast District Director
New BROS and VIST Positions: Earlier in this Newsletter, we announced that new BROS and VIST position have been established in Florida during the past year. In the fall of 2003, a BROS position was approved for the Orlando VA Outpatient Clinic and Bill Wilson VIST Coordinator at that Clinic was selected to fill that BROS position. Unfortunately due to a hiring freeze, the VIST Coordinator position was not filled until May 2004. During the interim Bill Wilson held both positions. We are happy to announce that the Orlando VIST position was filled and the new VIST coordinator started on May 3rd.
New Orlando VIST Coordinator: Tony Kirksey has returned to Florida on May 3rd as the Orlando VIST Coordinator. Tony was born and raised in Oklahoma City. After high school, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Social Work and continued his education by earning a Master's Degree in Social Work also at the University of Oklahoma in 1988. Following graduation, he was employed as a Social Worker at the Oklahoma City VAMC. In 1989, he transferred to the VA Outpatient Clinic in Riviera Beach where he worked in the Mental Health Clinic. In 1991, he returned to the Oklahoma City VAMC as part time Social Worker and part time VIST Coordinator. He continued in that position until 1995, when the BVA secured additional full time VIST Coordinator positions from Congress, Tony was appointed as full time VIST Coordinator. In December 1997, Tony transferred to be VIST Coordinator at the Tampa VAMC. He continued in that position until December 2001 when he transferred to be the Regional Consultant at the Blind Rehabilitation Center at the Tucson VAMC, Arizona. While in Florida before, Tony, who is an avid SCUBA Diver, enjoyed his hobby in the waters around Florida. In Orlando, the Atlantic and Gulf are only 75 miles away. In Tucson, a ride of 75 miles still left him in the desert. We are sure that Tony will be enjoying his hobby again, now that he has returned to Florida. On behalf of Blinded Veterans throughout Florida and particularly in the Orlando VAOPC area, Tony, we welcome you back. We look forward to a long and cooperative association with you.
Lake City VIST Coordinator: On June 1st, Judy Hayes took up her duties in a new full time VIST Coordinator position in Lake City. She will be responsible for VIST services to BV's in the Lake City and Southeast Georgia area. Judy is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas where she attended the University of Arkansas. After earning a bachelor's degree, she continued in graduate school and earned a Master's Degree in Orientation and Mobility (O & M) In 1980. After 2 years at the Lions World Services for the Blind, she moved to Alabama where she worked 10 years as an O & M instructor for the Alabama School for the Blind in Taladega. Then, she went to the VA Blind Center at Waco, Texas where she worked as an O & M instructor. Then, she worked for 2 years as VIST Coordinator at the Hunington VAMC, West Virginia. Next, she traveled to Portland, Oregon where she spent 3 years as VIST Coordinator. Prior to being selected as Lake City VIST Coordinator, she had worked 7 years as an O & M instructor at the Star Center for the Blind in Jackson, Tennessee. Judy's father was a disabled World War II veterans and her husband, Wesley, is totally blind. They have one son who is a PFC in the Army, soon to go to Korea. Judy, on behalf of BV's in Florida, we welcome you to our state and look forward to working with you.
Calendar of Events
August 10-14 BVA National Convention in Reno, Nevada
September 11 Proposed FRG meeting in Orlando
October 2 Proposed FRG meeting in Jacksonville.