3801 Coco Grove Avenue  
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - October 2004

          FRG President's Message: I hope that all of you Blinded Veterans, your wives, and families are dried out after our historical bouts with our Hurricanes in such a short period of time. I am sure that most of you feel like the store owner who wrote on the front of his place of business: 1. Charlie, 2. Frances, 3. Ivan, and 4. sale. For the first time in the history of the FRG, the hurricanes caused us to cancel our luncheon meeting in Orlando September 11th. It was, of course, a very difficult decision to make, especially after all of the hard work Central East District Director Dwight Sayer and his assistants had put it. Dwight informed me later that most of the veterans were relieved that we had decided to cancel the luncheon. They had other things on their mind concerning Hurricane Frances. We are of course planning to rescheduled the meeting in Orlando. Unfortunately, it may have to wait until next year, because of our extremely tight schedule, with our other upcoming meetings. In addition, the Florida Regional Group is hosting the 60th BVA National Convention on Miami Beach in August 2005. If we are able to reschedule the Orlando meeting earlier, we will give you plenty of notice.

          Paul Kaminsky, Membership Committee Co-Chairman, is just about ready to launch our telephone campaign, in order to enlist more Blinded Veterans into our ranks, in order to make us even more instrumental in our never ending battle for benefits and rights for our fellow Blinded Veterans. I would urge all of you who will be receiving telephone calls, from our District directors and Assistant District Directors, to please join and make your FRG an even more effective group of Blinded Veterans. Looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the next FRG Luncheon Meeting in North Ft. Myers on November 6th. Terry King FRG President

          FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Well, so far we did it here in Punta Gorda, who said that prayers aren't answered. Did you hear what the President of Jamaica asked for his people? He said, Everyone pray that the Hurricane goes West." Now, when Castro talked to Ivan, he demanded Ivan not to enter his country or Ivan would be in prison for life.

          Our membership in the BVA Auxiliary is slowly growing. Please help it grow faster. I have applications and so do our Board. I hope that you will be prepared to ask for one when we are at one of our luncheon meetings. In spite of Charlie, Frances, and Ivan, the show must go on. On October 15th in Ft. Myers, we are planning to celebrate our "White Cane Day" with a Walk-a-thon. It will be called "Vision Awareness". The BVA-FRG and its trusty side kick the FRG Auxiliary, will take part and will add a few dollars to our luncheon budget. We plan to have a great time and of course our free lunch at Carrabbas will be the frosting on the cake. Like I always say, if you are going to belong to an organization, it is more exciting if you participate in the organizations affairs. Which brings up another appeal. Remember, in August 2005, we will be holding our BVA National Convention in Miami Beach. I am hoping that we will out number all of the other National Conventions, by having hundreds and hundreds of Florida members attending. I assure you that once you attend one, you will want to attend more. You will be hearing more about the Convention throughout the year. Being with friends and making more friends will make the Convention worth while. Further, add that to all of the new and old information about the BVA, it will be to your advantage to attend. This is a rough beginning to our luncheon season and I am looking forward to being with all of you at the monthly luncheons throughout the state. Hope to see you there. Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.

          FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, November 6th, at the Palms Restaurant at the Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club, 17540 Old Tamiami Trail, North Ft. Myers. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. FRG President Terry King has made the arrangements for this meeting. For lunch, you may have Roast Beef, Garden Salad, Mashed Potatoes,and Vegetable, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee and Carrot Cake. The cost of the luncheon will be $7 per person, including tax and tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge.

          FRG President Terry King will preside at the meeting following lunch. Dr. Robert Mandelkorn, Ophthalmologist at the Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinic, will be Guest Speaker. He will provide information about eye diseases, their origin and treatment. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits of interest to BV's and their families. A National Legislative Up-Date will be presented. Future FRG activities will be discussed. Information about the FRG Auxiliary will be presented.

          The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by November 3rd. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Terry King, in Charlotte County, at: 24243 Pirate Harbor Blvd., Punta Gorda, FL 33955, or call Terry at (941) 505-7747. You may also make your reservations by calling in Lee County: Joyce Thornton, VIST Coordinator, at (888) 513-0045 ex. 6284, or in Ft. Myers contact Chuck Isherwood at (239) 454-0879 or Jim Thompson at (239) 437-1912. In Cape Coral, call Fred Stone at (239) 540-4675. In North Port, call Mike Toomey at (941) 423-9298; In Bonita Springs, call Bob Loft at -(239) 495-1803, in Venice call Frank Drab at (941) 497-7044, in Punta Gorda call Bill Stockslager at (941) 743-8364 or in Collier County call Jim Wu at (239) 461-7422. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.

          To get to the Palms Restaurant, go North on I 75 to Exit 143, then Go West on Bayshore (State Road 78) 6.3 miles to "Old" US 41. Turn right (North) 2.2 miles to the "Shell Factory" and continue on US 41 another 1.3 miles to Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club (a total of 3.5 miles North of SR 78). Turn right or East and continue about 3/4 mile past the guard house. Tell the guard you are going to the BVA meeting at the Palms Restaurant. Going South on I 75, take Exit 158 and go West on Tucker's Grade a short distance to US 41. Turn left (South) and go about 11 miles to the Del Prado Extension, continue 0.5 miles past that traffic light. Sabal Springs will be on your left or East side of the highway. Free Parking is available next to the restaurant. Check with your fellow Blinded veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us on Saturday, November 6th in North Ft. Myers. We look forward to meeting you there.

           Last year, a number of BV's made reservations but did not attend or cancel. Consequently the FRG had to pay $12 for each reservation under our guarantee. Although you only pay $7 for the lunch, the FRG subsidizes it with an additional $5. If someone makes a reservation and does not come or cancel, the FRG must pay the total $12 for each reservation we guarantee. Please make your reservations and if you can't come, please cancel it by November 3rd.

          US Legislative Up-Date: At the writing of this Newsletter, Congress has not yet passed appropriations measures to fund the government for Fiscal Year 2005, which begins on October 1, 2004. With the rush to adjourn and return to their home districts to campaign for re-election, it is probable that Congress will pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government at the FY 2004 level until the end of the year. Due to inflation, this will be an actual reduction in real funding. When specific information is available, it will appear in future FRG Newsletters.


          New BROS in Tampa: In a previous FRG Newsletter, we reported that the Tampa VAMC had agreed to add a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) to its staff to work with VIST Coordinator, Charles Nieberding. We are happy to announce that the position has been filled. On September 8th, after a delay due to Hurricane Frances, Michelle Robinson joined the staff at the Tampa VAMC as the new BROS. A native of Missouri, Michelle's family moved to Illinois when she was a child. After earning a bachelor's degree in Special Education, with a major in Visual Rehabilitation Education, from Illinois State University, she entered Western Michigan University. Upon earning her Master's degree in Blind Rehabilitation, she was employed as a Mobility Instructor at Hines Blind Rehabilitation Center. In all, she worked 18 years at Hines. After a number of years as a Mobility Instructor, she worked several years each as a Manual Skills Instructor and Visual Skills Instructor. Through all of those assignments, she has outstanding skills to be the new BROS at Tampa. Not withstanding the hurricanes, Michelle is looking forward to living in Florida. One of her hobbies is SCUBA diving. She can pursue that hobby year around, something that would be difficult in Illinois. In addition to her contact with the BVA through her work with Blinded Veterans, Michelle is a member of the BVA Auxiliary. Joanne King will welcome her to the FRG Auxiliary. We welcome Michelle Robinson to Florida. Blinded Veterans in the Tampa VAMC catchment area are looking forward to her instruction. Michelle, we look forward to many years of cooperation with you.


          New VISN 8 Director: In the August FRG Newsletter, we reported the resignation of Dr. Elwood Headley, VISN 8 Director, on July 8th. This was a sudden event and one that took many by surprise. During the past two months, Max Lewis, VA Central Office, has served as Acting Director. During that time, a search was initiated and an appointment made. As a result, George H. Gray, Jr., formerly Director of the Little Rock, Arkansas VAMC, was appointed as Veteran Integrated Service Network (VISN) 8 Director. Mr. Gray is a native of Pascagoula, Mississippi. after high school, he entered Mississippi State University, where he earned a BS degree in 1969. Following graduation, he entered the Army where he served on active duty until 1971, including a tour of duty in Vietnam. In 1972, he was employed by the VA and has served in many leadership capacities over the past 32 years. During that time, he has held many responsible positions, through out the Southeast, from Arkansas and Texas to Florida and Puerto Rico. In addition, he has served at the VA Central Office in Washington, D.C. In 1984, Mr. Gray earned a MBA from East Tennessee State University. Over the years, he has been a member of many management and fleadership organizations and has served as President of several of those organizations.

          Mr. Gray will be directing the busiest Network in the VA System. As Director of VISN 8, The Veterans Sunshine Health Care Network, Mr. Gray will oversee the health care delivery at seven Medical Centers, ten Comprehensive Outpatient Clinics, 35 Community Based Outpatient Clinics, eight Nursing Homes,, and two Domiciliaries.

          Mr. gray took his duties as VISN 8 Director in mid September. The VISN 8 offices are located on the grounds of the Bay Pines VAMC. Mr. Gray is married and they have three children.

Library Reaches Out: Across the United States, the number of individuals applying for the free services of the Talking Book Program has declined for the Past several years. During this same period, the number of users in Florida have not declined, but has leveled off to between 41,000 and 42,000 patrons. While the population of Florida and the rest of the United States has increased, there has been a decline in the number of individuals enrolling in the Talking Book Program. In a recent issue of Talking Book Topics, published by the National Library Service (NLS), Director Frank Kirk Silky announced an outreach program that will address this downward turn in enrollment. Veterans, students, seniors, and public libraries have been targeted by the NLS Outreach Program to improve membership. Presumedly, most of the readers of this Newsletter are aware of the many free services available through the Talking Book Program. In addition to Talking Books, there are over 70 magazines currently available in Braille, large print, or audio format, addressing a wide range of interests. The Florida Regional Group has made regular donations to the Florida Talking Book Library to help support unfunded needs. One of these areas of needs has been building a collection of descriptive videos. There is a growing collection of these descriptive videos which can be checked out for a week at a time. It is now possible to get two descriptive videos a week, instead of just one. The collection has greatly increased since the beginning of this service. Your VIST Coordinator has the information and applications needed to receive Talking Book services. However, if you are not currently receiving Talking Book services, you may begin the application process with a telephone call to the Talking Book Library at: (800) 226-6075. The Florida Talking Book service is free to any person who has difficulty reading, due to physical or learning limitations. Michael Taylor, FRG Past President.


          Remember to mark your calendar for Saturday, November 6th. So that you, your family members, and friends, may attend the FRG meeting at the Palms Restaurant at the Sabal Springs Golf and Racket Club in North Ft. Myers. Be sure to call Terry King or the others listed above and make your reservation before November 3rd. make plans to join us in North Ft. Myers.

FRG - BVA Meetings

November 6Palms Restaurant Ft Myers        December 4 Bill Irle's Restaurant Clearwater

January 8               Ocala Plaza Hotel            February 5             E Club MacDill AFB Tampa

March 5                 Elks Club Pompano Beach        April 29-May 1     FRG Convention Daytona Beach

August 16-20         BVA National Convention Miami Beach

Newsletter Staff

Terry King          FRG President                           Michael Taylor      FRG Past President

Joanne King         FRG Auxiliary President George Stocking    Editor