VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - September 2005
Note: This Newsletter is being written prior to the FRG meeting in Orlando on September 10. Consequently, although you will receive it after that meeting, it will not contain information about that meeting.
FRG Presidents Message: The FRG hosted the 60th National Convention at the Wyndham Hotel on Miami Beach, August 16-20. I overheard several people say that it was one of the most enjoyable Conventions that they had personally attended. For the totally Blinded Veteran, it was very convenient, as to the lay out. In most cases, after you stepped off of the elevator, you only had to turn right or left to enter the meeting rooms, exhibits, and registration. There were, of course, some stairs around the hotel but after one knew the location of the stairs, they were no problem. One of the amenities that the hotel provided for the Convention was the pent house, at the top of the hotel, for our Hospitality Room. The two major attractions turned out to be very enjoyable. The Friday evening pool side party was moved inside to leave the heat, humidity, and rain showers. By doing that, many of us enjoyed the picnic dinner and dancing with the excellent live band. As for the gambling ship that cruised out into the Atlantic, everyone seemed to be happy after leaving behind the money they brought aboard. The ship provided a continental breakfast, a large buffet lunch, and entertainment on the way back to the port. The only major complaint was that the hotel restaurant prices were on the high side and there were no other restaurants within walking distance. As for the high prices, they were similar to other hotel prices. The hotel contract was completed several years prior to the Convention. No one can predict what the cost of living will become. The prices in the restaurant is one item that cant be included in the contract. The following are your newly elected Officers for the Blinded Veterans Association: President
- Larry Balote, San Antonio, Texas; Vice President - Dr. Norman Jones, Union City, Georgia; Secretary - Dr. Sidney Ordway, San Antonio, Texas; Treasurer - Paul Kaminsky, Middleburg, Florida. Congratulations go out to Paul Kaminsky, as he assumes the office of Treasurer. Im sure that he will be an asset to the National Board of Directors. Dr. George Stocking, prior to the Convention, was re-elected as District 5 Director. This now gives the FRG, two positions on the BVA National Board of Directors. At the Awards Banquet on Saturday night, the FRG received the Gold Gavel Award for the second consecutive year. The Gold Gavel is awarded to the Regional Group with the largest numerical increase in membership during the past year. LeUs fry to win the Gold Gavel again next year. Before closing this message, I would like to address something that was disturbing about the attendance at the Convention. The FRG has 1323 members, but we only had 27 people that were in attendance. When you compare the 27 with the low attendance from the other Regional Groups, it looks good. However, when you take into consideration that we have a voting membership of 1323, it was not a very good showing. Next years Convention will be held in Buffalo, New York. I look forward to seeing you all there. In closing, once again, congratulations to Paul Kaminsky as you assume your new duties as Treasurer of the BVA. Terry King, FRG President.
FRG Auxiliary Presidents Message: Unfortunately, we had only 27 Florida Blinded Veterans at the BVA National Convention on Miami Beach. Those who couldnt come, for one reason or another, missed a very exciting week. We had more exhibitors there, showing their new products, than any other Convention. Several from Florida won prizes at the Convention There is one person that I would like to mention and that is one of our Florida Auxiliary Members, Claire Damery, who won the $5250 sweepstakes first prize. Congratulations to Claire. Kathy Barry was the raffle winner for a hand made Afgan made by Elena Martinez. Congratulations to Kathy, also. On behalf of the FRG Auxiliary, I would like to extend our congratulations to the FRG for receiving the Gold Gavel for the second year. We have a great new Auxiliary National Board and you will be learning about them in the next BVA Bulletin. The Awards Banquet was one of the best. For those who like to eat, you missed out on Filet Mignon and Chicken Filet. I almost forgot about our gambling cruise. It was worth far more than the $15 we had to pay for it. This was the case, especially when it included a buffet and entertainment, as good as on a 7 day cruise. Our Wednesday and Saturday Auxiliary meetings were, not only interesting, but very productive. Need I say more? I am certainly glad that nothing stood in our way to attend this years Convention. Just being with old friends and the opportunity to make new ones, to me, was the highlight of my being there. Hope that next year you will have the opportunity to understand what I am expressing to you. Next year, the BVA National Convention will be in Buffalo, New York. I hope to see you there. Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.
FRG Meeting Notice: The second meeting of the year for the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, October 1st at the Holiday Inn, 6802 Commonwealth Avenue in Jacksonville. Paul Kaminsky, FRG Vice President, has made the arrangements for this meeting. The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have Meatloaf, Salad, Potatoes, vegetable, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and Dessert. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip.
FRG President Terry King will preside at the meeting following lunch. A National Legislative Up-Date will be presented. A discussion will be held regarding FRG activities for the coming months. 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 FRG Auxiliary will also provide information about their activities.
To get to the hotel, take 110 East or Highway 301 North to I 295. Continue East on I 295 to exit 22, which is Commonwealth Avenue. Exit there, the hotel is a short distance on your right. From the South take US 17, US 21, or 195 North to I 295 and continue as above. From the North, take I 95 South and merge with I 295 at exit 360 B to exit 22. Keep left at fork in ramp, turn left on Commonwealth Avenue and the hotel will be on your right. Free parking is available at the hotel. Contact your fellow Blinded Veterans and get a group together to attend this meeting. Join us on Saturday, October 1 at the Holiday Inn Commonwealth Avenue in Jacksonville.
The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending by September 27th. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Paul Kaminsky at: 4295 Powderhorn Court, Middleburg, Florida 32068 or call Paul at (904) 291-0576. You may also make your reservations by calling: Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator, Gainesville VAMC, at (800) 324-8387 ex. 5560, Louise DiGennaro, VIST Coordinator Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic, at: (904) 232-2751 ex 3015, Judy Hayes, VIST Coordinator Lake City VAMC at: (800) 308-8387 ex. 2088 or Teresa Sanchez, VIST Coordinator Daytona Beach VAOPC at:
(386) 323-7528. Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5, each meal guaranteed will cost the FRG more than $13. If you make a reservation and cant come, please call Paul Kaminsky and cancel it by September 27. Otherwise the FRG will have to pay over $13 for each meal guaranteed, whether or not it is used.
In Memoriam: It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Charles Duncan (1926-2005) FRG President 1999-2001. Journeys End: Charles I. Duncan better known as Chuck, ended our 18 year old journey together on August 12,2005 at 2 AM, when Chuck was released from his tortured body and went into the arms of our Savior. Chuck Duncan and I met in 1984 in my Social Work office at the Ft. Myers VIP Center where I worked as the VIP Social Worker and Counselor. Ralph Geiger, BVA Member, had contacted me and told me that a long time resident of Miami, Charles Duncan, was moving to Ft. Myers and would I do what I could do to help hint When Chuck walked into my office, he declared that he had already walked around the city and since his mobility skills were excellent, and at that time, he had only one request. Could I help him find a small pub near his home, where he could walk in the evening and have a couple of cold ones with the guys. Unfortunately, I was not an expert on the location of the local bars and couldnt help him. However, we talked for some time and I encouraged him to join the VIP organization and the Social Club. He joined our square dancing group and attended every square dance the VIP4s held at that time. He stated that he loved to dance and my co-worker and I enjoyed dancing with him. Our relationship began when I mentioned to my co-worker that the dances at my mobile home park, required a partner, as they were mainly geared to the big band sounds of the forties. She suggested that I ask Chuck to be my partner. She was sure that he wouldnt get the wrong idea, if I asked him. My love for dancing over ruled my hesitation and one night at square dance practice, I said, Chuck, I dont suppose you would care to come to a dance at Horizons with me, I need a dance partner. To my surprise, he said that he would love to. Our relationship got off to a rocky start on the night of the dance. I had invited him to dinner before the dance. I loved to cook and was always taking the opportunity to prepare a meal for someone. I was very proud of my unique recipe of French Lasagna and spent hours in the kitchen preparing it. When Chuck tasted it, he asked what box I got it out of. That remark almost caused the dance to be forgotten, as I was ready to ask him to leave. After that, however, he would call and ask when there was another dance at horizons and how he would like to come again. It was the first thing that we had in common. The second was our independence as blind people. I had little patience with dependent blind people and enjoyed the fact that he and I could go anywhere in Ft. Myers and do what we wanted, without sighted help and simply have a good time with each other. My German Sheppard became very fond of Chuck. Whenever he would get off the bus to come to my mobile home, she would jump at the door. I would let her out and she would run up the street, wrap her large mouth around his wrist, and bring him to my door. I
didnt do anything else! If I wanted to save my hand, said Chuck. He accused me of training her to do that, but honestly, it was her idea. When I became VIST Coordinator at the Ft. Myers VA Outpatient Clinic, Chuck was there to support me, becoming my VIST volunteer. When Blinded Veterans came into the Clinic, Chuck would escort them to their stations, while talking about the BVA all the way. He also attended my VIST Support Group. As a couple, we were able to help other couples who were facing the challenge of blindness. He would quip some lines and I would answer, make people laugh, and have a very relaxed group that did their best to follow in our footsteps. Independence was the strongest feeling that we both had. I am grateful to Chuck for the 18 years we had together. We had our ups and downs but most nights we slept in each others arms, that is, until he could no longer put his arms around me and I could not touch him because his skin was so fragile that he would bleed and cry out in pain. So, then, we laid together and held hands. Because of Chuck, I have made a long term commitment to the BVA and its supporting Auxiliary. I will serve as actively as possible and work for the benefit of the Blinded Veterans. I will remain a VIST Coordinator as long as I can, working for a greater quality of life for every visually impaired veteran and the Florida Regional Group. That is my pledge to Chucks memory. It was an exciting and roller coaster journey. Chuck and I are grateful for every moment of it. Chuck was buried at sea, according to his wishes, with his children, my son, my pastor, and myself on board the Ft. Myers Coast Guard Cutter on September 10, 2005. He was very proud of being a Coast Guardsman and Blinded Veteran. Joyce Thornton
Remember the next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held at the Holiday Inn, Commonwealth Avenue in Jacksonville on Saturday, October 1. Be sure to contact Paul Kaminsky or the others listed above and make your reservations by September 27. If you make a reservation and cant come, please call Paul and cancel it so we wont have to pay for meals not used. We look forward to meeting you there.
Florida Regional Group Meeting Schedule
September 10 Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando
October 1 Holiday Inn, Commonwealth Jacksonville
November 5 Palms Restaurant North Ft. Myers
December 3 Bill Irles Restaurant in Clearwater
January 7 Quality Inn in Ocala
February 4 Proposed meeting in Tampa
March4orll Proposed meeting in Oakland Park
May 5-7 FRG State Convention Daytona Beach
August 15-20 BVA National Convention in Buffalo, New York
Joanne King FRG Auxiliary President
Joyce Thornton FRG Aux Vice President & Ft. Myers VIST
George Stocking Editor