VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA) NEWSLETTER - NOVEMBER 2004
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - NOVEMBER 2004
FRG President's Message: At last the Florida Regional Group was finally able to hold its first informational luncheon meeting. As I had indicated in a previous FRG Newsletter, we, for the first time in the history of the FRG Luncheon Meetings, had to cancel the meeting in Orlando because of massive hurricanes that had swept through Florida. Our meeting in Jacksonville on October 2nd went off without a hitch. Of course our attendance was about half of the Blinded Veterans that attended last year. I think that we are still suffering from the after effects of all of the hurricanes. Our Guest Speaker gave a very dramatic speech, particularly concerning the lack of our citizens turning out to vote. He performed an experiment using the 60 members in the audience. Based on our country's previous turnout to vote, that it was possible to control the entire group with only eight of the members. It definitely demonstrates that we should all exercise our constitutional rights and go out and vote. Even though our attendance was low, it was a very enjoyable gathering of our Blinded veterans. Now that our storms are behind us, at least I hope so, we can return to our normal turnouts to our Informational Luncheons meetings. This Newsletter is being written for mailing just prior to the meeting in Ft. Myers. We hope that area has recovered enough to have a great meeting. You will receive this just after that meeting. So, we are announcing the next meeting at Bill Irle's Restaurant in Clearwater on Saturday, December 4th. We look forward to meeting you there.
I would now like to address all of the Blinded Veterans who are not members of the BVA, particularly those who over the last several months have sent back a request, to receive our FRG Newsletter and the BVA Bulletin. This is going to be a very exciting and busy year for the FRG. Last year, we came up with an idea to ask the VIST Coordinators if they would cooperate by sending out letters under their name offering Blinded Veterans (BV's) the opportunity to be placed on our mailing list. I might add, their cooperation was absolutely outstanding. Due to the Privacy Act, the list the VIST Coordinators use are confidential. Consequently they could not give the list to us. However, they could send the letter permitting the BV to request to be placed on the mailing list. To give you some idea of just how successful this process was, Last year the FRG was mailing about 1400 Newsletters. After the request went out, the number of Newsletters now being sent is in excess of 2200, and those requests are still coming in. Because of this unexpected increase in Newsletter requests, we are now on the threshold of possibly one of the greatest opportunities the FRG has ever had. There are three primary prerequisites for an organization to be effective. 1. Leadership. 2. Number of members. 3. Treasury. There are, of course, many other factors that establishes a strong and viable organization, but the three a-fore-mentioned I feel to be the three most important. By the increasing of our District Directors, and establishing more than 22 Assistant Directors, over the last several years, it is felt that we have a firm infrastructure of leadership.
Now we are addressing even more Blinded Veterans within the BVA-FRG. As most of us realize, when service organization appear before Congress to advocate for legislation that is beneficial for Blinded Veterans, the number of members within an organization is extremely important. As I have indicated above, because of the campaign we launched several months ago, the number of BV's becoming involved has increased. However, we still need to strengthen our organization by increasing the membership.
We now come to the fuel of an organization, most commonly referred to as the treasury. I would first like to add, as I move into my fourth year serving as your FRG President, like many other organizations in which I have served, the FRG Board of Directors are all volunteers and pay their own expenses. There are, of course, other expenses that we are incurring and must pay. For us to continue serving Blinded Veterans, we must maintain a stable treasury. For example, we are now mailing out over 2200 Newsletters. Thankfully, there is no postage, but there is a cost of printing and materials. The seven informational luncheon meetings that the FRG holds around the state plus our State Convention, are being subsidized, from 40% to 50%.
There are many other incidental expenses, but there is one that many of us tend to overlook. That is, the annual filing fee to the Florida Secretary of State, whereby we are able to maintain our IRS 501 C 3 non profit status. This is very important as it allows all contributions to be tax deductible for all gifts and donations to the Florida Regional Group. It also permits the FRG to continue as a sales tax exempt organization.
Our primary source of income is our membership dues. Therefore, when a member pays his or her annual dues, 80% of that comes back to the FRG. The funds received from BV's who pay Life Membership (LM) or Associate Life Membership (ALM) or who are paying toward LM or ALM, goes into the Life Membership Fund. That fund is invested and 100% of the dividends and interest derived from the fund are divided among the Regional Groups according to the number of LM and ALM within each Regional Group. When a BV elects to pay a one time LM or ALM dues, it is not only far cheaper for the BV in the long run, but the dividends and interest from the fund is received by the Regional Groups forever. Therefore, I would advise all BV's to consider LM or ALM instead of annual dues as it is cost effective in the long run. I have become aware that many BV's are unaware of their membership status. Therefore, I would advise you to check whether or not you are presently a member. Next to your name on the envelope in which you receive this Newsletter, is a membership code. If the code is FM or FAM means that you have not paid dues this year. If the code is NM or NAM, it means that you have never joined the BVA.
I have written the National for permission to establish walk-a-thons around the state, to publicize "White Cane day." This was done to comply with the BVA By-Laws, and we have received permission. We started the "Walk-A-Thon" in Ft. Myers in October. It is probable that it will take several years to have this become effective as a viable fund raising event. In the meantime, I would urge all BV's to find out the current status of the dues and if they are not up to date, please join and support the on going services of the FRG. I look forward to seeing all of those who are able to attend the meeting in Clearwater on December 4th. Terry King FRG President.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: Please give me one minute of your time for you to read this important message. The Blinded Veterans Association has an Auxiliary. Our most important job as an Auxiliary member is to support the Blinded Veterans. The Auxiliary is composed of family members and friends of the BVA. It is not a Ladies Auxiliary but is open to all over the age of 18. In the past we have had two National Presidents who were men. The Auxiliary needs you as a member. There are over 1000 BVA members in the State of Florida. My goal as FRG Auxiliary President and Membership Chairman is to raise our membership from 25 to at least 100 by our annual FRG Convention in Daytona Beach Shores next April. Please take the time to join the Florida Regional Group Auxiliary. It only costs $5 per year, However, in order to belong to the FRG Auxiliary, you must be a member of the National BVA Auxiliary which is an additional $10.
In addition to working with Blinded Veterans, the FRG Auxiliary's main project is to provide two $1000 scholarships to the children or spouse of a Florida Blinded Veteran. The child does not have to be a resident of Florida but the Blinded Veteran must reside in Florida. It is a very important project and being a member of the FRG Auxiliary is an extremely important membership for you . (United we stand, divided we fall.) If you reside in Florida and are already a member of the BVA Auxiliary, please take this opportunity to join the FRG Auxiliary. Please send your dues to FRG Auxiliary Treasurer Margaret Toomey at: 6955 Awawa Court, North Port, Florida 34287. You may also get an Auxiliary application at our next meeting in Clearwater on December 4th. Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, December 4th, at the Bill Irle's Restaurant, 1310 North Ft. Harrison Avenue (US Highway 19 Alternate) in Clearwater. As in the past, this meeting at Bill Irle's is shaping up to be another afternoon of good food, good times, and good friends. Please plan to join us there and renew old friendships and make some new ones.
The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have either: Baked Boston Scrod or Wiener Schnitzel and Fruit Cup, Salad, Potato, Vegetable, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Dessert. The price of the lunch will be $7 per person including tax & tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge.
FRG President Terry King will preside at the meeting following lunch. A National Legislative up-date will be presented. Information about the FRG Auxiliary and its programs will be provided. FRG activities for the coming months will be discussed. Representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs will be on hand to provide information about services and benefits for Blinded Veterans and their families.
The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the choice of lunch desired, by December 1st. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West Assistant District Director James Spooner at: 6520 9th Avenue, North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33710 or call Jim at: (727) 347-8042. In addition, you may make your reservations by calling Tampa VIST Coordinator Charles Nieberding toll free at: (888) 716-7787 ex 7674. In Largo, call Rhesa Gostick at: (727) 595-6326 and in Clearwater, call Ben Wells at: (727) 536-1762 or in North Port, Mike Toomey at: (941) 423-9298. It is important for you to make your reservations so that the restaurant may prepare properly for our meeting. If you make a reservation and are unable to attend, please call one of those listed above, and cancel by December 1st so that we might alter our guarantee. The FRG must pay the full price for each meal we guarantee.
To get to the restaurant: From Tampa, take State Road 60 across the Courtney Campbell Causeway, continue West to Ft. Harrison Avenue (US Highway 19 Alternate) go north several miles to Bill Irle's. It is a red building on the west side of the street. Free parking is available behind the building. From the South, take I 275 across the Skyway Bridge to State Road 60, go west on SR 60 and continue as above. From the North, take US 19 south to State Road 60, go west and continue as above. Please mark Saturday, December 4th on your calendar and join us in Clearwater. . .
National Legislative Up-Date: Congress passed a Defense Authorization bill prior to recessing on October 4th. No other Fiscal Year 2005 appropriation bills were passed before that recess. Congress is scheduled to return on November 16. The Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the remaining government entities expires November 20. Prior to that time, Congress must pass those appropriation measures or another CR. At this time, it is probable that Congress will pass another CR until late January. Although, the necessary appropriation bills have not been passed, certain entitlement programs: VA Disability Compensation, NSC Pension, and Social Security will have Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) in January as required by law.
VIST Coordinator Changes: During the past year, many changes have occurred in the VIST Coordinator positions in Florida. First, a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) position was approved for the Orlando VA Outpatient Clinic. Subsequently Bill Wilson, Orlando VIST Coordinator was selected for that BROS position. However, due to a freeze on hiring, Bill filled both the VIST Coordinator and BROS positions until May 2004. At that time Tony Kirksey returned from Arizona and took up the VIST Coordinator position in Orlando. Then, in June, Judy Hayes was selected for the new VIST Coordinator position at the Lake City VAMC. On July 2nd, Trudy Rothenberg retired after 34 years as Miami VAMC VIST Coordinator and on August 3rd, Marilyn Nolan retired after over 12 years as Bay Pines VAMC VIST Coordinator and over 30 years of VA service. In mid August, Amy Jensen transferred from the West Palm Beach VAMC to another federal agency in Virginia.
In mid September, Roberta Goldstein took up her duties as VIST Coordinator in Miami. In a few days, Kathy Wales, an instructor at the Augusta VAMC Blind Center, will take up her duties as VIST Coordinator at Bay Pines. At the writing of this Newsletter, interviews have been scheduled for the VIST Coordinator position at the West Palm Beach VAMC. Watch for more information about these positions in the next FRG Newsletter.
Meeting Reminder: Please join us at the next FRG meeting at Bill Irle's Restaurant in Clearwater on Saturday, December 4th. Remember to make your reservations by writing to Jim Spooner or by calling the numbers mentioned above, before December 1st. Please join us in Clearwater for an informative and enjoyable afternoon.
December 4 Bill Irle's Clearwater January 8 Ocala Plaza Ocala
February 5 E Club MacDill AFB Tampa March 5 Elks Club Pompano Beach
April 29-May 1 State Convention Daytona August 16-20 BVA Convention Miami
Terry King FRG President
Joanne King FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Editor