BLINDED VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - November, 2006
FRG President's Message: The monthly FRG Luncheon Meetings have begun, and me and my better half, Maureen, are traveling around the state looking for friendly faces. Not an easy task when you can't see faces, but talk happy and I'll know that it is a friendly face. By the time this message hits the street, the Ft. Myers meeting will be past history and we'll be looking ahead to the Clearwater meeting in December. At our last State Convention, in my first talk with the Regional Group Membership, I mentioned my personal vision of reaching out to spouses, family members, friends, other groups and making the "Ambassadors", for us. In our last Newsletter, I also wrote of the absolutely exhilarating time I had with the social aspects of the Iowa TEE Tournament. At the Jacksonville luncheon, I elaborated further on the putting together of "Friend-Raisers" and support groups in our local areas, in lieu of "Fund Raisers". The former is what I believe our civilian counterparts organizations have going for them. These local organizations tend to be more social in nature therefore, tend to help each other solve, or know where to go to solve, local problems. This last item is even spelled out in our FRG By-Laws under duties of the District Directors: Attempt to establish social groups where ever practicable. At the State Convention, I outlined my Ambassador dream and the social aspects of our group. My recent experience with the National and the TEE Tournament have now made me realize, more than ever, we need to have more members so that we get a bigger piece of the annual dues apportionment so that we can have a larger pool from which to draw our future leaders. My philosophy is: 1. Ambassador Program, 2. Socialize, 3. Friend-Raisers, 4. An united and single group within Florida. Since the last Newsletter hit the streets, I've received a bunch of phone calls, wanting to do here in Florida the things I talked about. I've been on the phone with persons who have already set up Blinded Groups doing bowling and horse shoes. We always talk about people coming early to the State Convention to relax, but there is rarely any activities to draw them. Let's brainstorm for some activities. My number is (904) 291-0576, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If anyone out there has a past life as a events coordinator, please give me a ring. I'm an old retired Commander, and can design one heck of a battle plan, but find it very difficult to coordinate even the simplest of picnics. Paul Kaminsky, FRG President.
FRG Auxiliary President's Message: My request has been listened to in some areas. Ms. Joanne King is almost in daily contact with Blinded Veterans in the Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte areas. she finds that she learns as much as the Blinded Veterans and it keeps the BV population closer and informed. In Ft. Myers, White Cane Day was celebrated by a "Walk-A-Thon". The BVA-FRG was represented and will be able to receive around $1000 for taking part in this "Walk-A-Thon". The day was perfect, people were having fun, and many prizes were given out, including a complementary lunch at Carrabbas Italian Grill. Our theme, this year, was "Pedestrian Safety". We also sold reflector bracelets and zipper pulls so that people who are walking at night and early morning can be seen by the driver of the motor vehicle. Several people have been struck by careless drivers and we hope our effort to make the community more aware of the problem, will be successful. Remember, in January you can expect a letter from the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Chairman inviting you or a member of your family to apply for the FRG Auxiliary Scholarships. Watch for your letter after the first of the year. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Sincerely yours, Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President and guide dog Amy.
FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, December 2, 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 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 $5 per person including tax & tip. Beer, wine, and mixed drinks will be available for an additional charge.
FRG President Paul Kaminsky 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 November 29. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West District Director Bill Geden at: 622 East Foresthill Place, Hernando, FL 34442 or call Bill at (352) 341-6875. In St. Petersburg, You may call Bay Pines VIST Coordinator Jody Teper at (727) 398-6661 ex 4516 or Tampa VIST Coordinator Charles Nieberding at: (813) 631-7140 or James Bennett in Newport Richie at (727) 372-6022. In Clearwater, call Ben Wells at: (727) 536-1762. It is important for you to make your reservations so that the restaurant may prepare for our meeting.
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 2 on your calendar and join us in Clearwater for an enjoyable afternoon.
National Legislative Up-Date: In Joyce Thornton's Auxiliary President's Message, she reported on the White Cane Walk-A-Thon held in Ft. Myers to publicize the White Cane Law. Just prior to its recess in October, the US Senate passed the Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCON) 71, the BVA White Cane Act of 2006. It had previously been passed by the House of Representatives. Although, as a Concurrent Resolution, it does not require the President's signature. As a result of the Concurrent Resolutions, the President made a Proclamation emphasizing the importance of the White Cane Laws around the country. Since all states have White Cane Laws, this measure requests each states to include information about the White Cane Laws in their drivers manuals and to add questions about the White Cane Laws on all driver's licensing exams in each state. In this way, it is hoped that this will increase awareness on the part of the general public regarding the need to be vigilant when driving around individuals using a White Cane or Guide Dog.
The other measure upon which the BVA has been working in this session of Congress is the Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist (BROS) Act of 2006. Some time ago, the Senate passed S 1182 which includes 35 new BROS positions over the next 3 years. HR 3579, the BROS bill in the House of Representatives, has been held up by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer's refusal to report it for a vote. It is understood that S 1182 has been lumped together with about 27 other Veterans measures and is now being considered by a joint Senate and House Conference Committee. The staff from the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees are working on this package of bills while Congress is on recess for the elections. BVA Governmental Affairs Director Tom Zamparie has been in contact with William Cahill, Staff Director of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Bill Cahill says that Senator Craig is pressuring Representative Buyer to act favorably on this package of Veterans legislation. Our BROS bill would fund 35 additional Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist positions over the next 3 years. We were concerned that Chairman Buyer's refusal to bring it to a vote would end our prospects for this year. Consequently, the BVA is still requesting Blinded Veterans around the country to urge their Representatives in the House to co-sponsor HR 3579. Florida BV's should contact the local District Office of their US Representatives and request that they sign up as co-sponsors of HR 3579 the BROS bill in the House. If you don't know the name and number of your US Representative you may obtain it by calling your local Elections Office. The more pressure which we bring on Representative Buyer the better chance we will have to get our BROS Bill passed this year. While Congress is still in recess, Tom Zamparie continues to work with the staff of the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees. When Congress reconvenes after the elections, they will take up the various appropriation bills. Hopefully, the package of Veterans legislation mentioned above will be included in the appropriation bill for the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In Memoriam: It is with sadness that we report the death of Mike Toomey our FRG Vice President. Mike was born in Ogdensburg, New York in August 1931. After graduating from Camden NY High School in 1949, Mike work 2 years. Then, served two tours in the Air Force (1951-53 & 1957-1960) where he was assigned duty as a Russian language translator. During the Korean War, he was stationed in Germany and Japan. In 1956, he married Margaret Gaffney. Following the service, Mike earned Bachelor's and Master's Degrees. Subsequently, he taught American and World History and Russian in the Parma, Ohio High School. After 25 years there, he retired from the Public Schools and worked as a Counselor at the Southwest Christian school in Parma. Following his second retirement in 1996, he and Peg moved to North Port, Florida. In 2001, Mike lost his vision. Then, he took training at the Mana-Sota Lighthouse and the West Palm Beach VA Blind Rehab Center. Subsequently, he became a facilitator at the Mana-Sota Lighthouse and still later, taught clients of the Lighthouse on the adaptive devices for the computer. Mike was active in the FRG serving as Southwest District Director and Vice President. Mike died on September 5, 2006. He is survived by his wife Peg, 6 children, and 15 grandchildren. Mike was a wonderful person and deeply concerned about his fellow blinded Veterans. We extend our deepest sympathy to Peg and their family.
NFB Newsline Reminder: Experience a free electronic text to speech National Network that delivers both national and local newspapers, using synthetic speech, over conventional local telephone lines. Newsline now offers more than 230 national and local newspapers on your telephone, 7 days a week- 24 hours a day. Twelve Florida newspapers, including 4 Spanish newspapers, are now available to all subscribers. You will have access to today's , yesterdays, and the previous Sunday's issue of each newspaper on the system. There are two ways to register for this service. If you are registered with the Florida Talking Book (TB) Program, call your local Talking Book Librarian or the main Talking Book Library at (800) 226-6075. Just tell the Librarian that you want to register for the NFB Newsline. If you are not registered with the Talking Book Program and wish to become a TB user call the same number, tell the Librarian you are a Blinded Veteran, and request to be placed on the TB register. In most cases, your VIST Coordinator can get you registered with the Talking Book Program. If you are legally blind or print handicapped, you may also call the NFB at (800) 603-8578 for an application. You will need a letter from a qualified professional attesting to your eligibility.
New FRG Vice President: As indicated above, Mike Toomey, FRG Vice President passed away in September. According to the FRG By-Laws, a vacancy in Regional Officer positions, other than President, will be filled by a nomination by the Regional Group President and approved by the FRG Board of Directors. FRG President Paul Kaminsky nominated James Gamberton to fill the vacant Vice President's position. The Board of Directors approved that nomination and Jim was sworn in at the FRG meeting in Jacksonville on October 7.
James Gamberton was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Pennsylvania. After graduating from high school, he attended LaSalle College for a year. Then, he entered the Navy where he served from 1962 to 1969. Upon discharge, he used his GI Bill training benefits to attend Stanford University and graduated from the University of California in Berkley with a bachelor's degree in math. In 1973, he moved to Florida where he spent almost 30 years in the restaurant management business. Over the years, his vision deteriorated and he has been legally blind since 2002. Since losing his vision, he developed his own web site www.blindplace.org, which provides information about veterans benefits and services for disabled individuals. Jim and his wife live in Highsprings. They have 2 children and one grandchild. We welcome Jim to the BVA-FRG Board of Directors. If you wish to contact Jim, you may call (386) 454-2624 or write to James Gamberton, P.O. Box 48, Highsprings, Florida 32655.
Please join us at Bill Irle's Restaurant in Clearwater on Saturday December 2 for an interesting and enjoyable afternoon. Get a group of your fellow Blinded Veterans together and bring them with you. Remember to make your reservations before November 29 by calling those listed above. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call and cancel your reservation so that the FRG will not have to pay for lunches not used. We look forward to meeting you in Clearwater on Saturday, December 2.
Schedule of Events
December 2 FRG meeting at Bill Irle's Restaurant in Clearwater
January 6 FRG meeting at the Quality Inn in Ocala
February 3 FRG meeting in Tampa
February 17 FRG meeting in Orlando Area
March 3 FRG Southeast District meeting
May 4-6 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona Beach
August 13-19 BVA National Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Paul Kaminsky President
Joyce Thornton FRG Auxiliary President
George Stocking Editor