3801 Coco Grove Avenue  
Miami, Florida 33133
NEWSLETTER - December, 2006

     FRG President's Message:  "Tis the Season", so it is said.  I sincerely hope that all had an enjoyable and filling Thanksgiving feast and are well prepared for the rest of the Holiday Season.  Best wishes from the BVA-FRG and hope that you all have a safe and Happy New Year.  Three successful FRG Luncheons are now behind us.  For those who were unable to attend, let me tell you of the gift bestowed upon our Regional Group by the Southwest
District BV's.  In October, Larry Newman, Southwest District Director and Joyce Thornton, Ft. Myers VIST Coordinator, organized their District's third annual Vision Awareness Walk-A-Thon.  Once again, it was well supported by area Blinded Veterans and actually the entire community participated.  Seven organizations joined together to make the fund raising venture a complete success.  At the Ft. Myers Luncheon, Joyce Thornton presented the FRG with a check for $1048 , as the FRG share of the fund raising total.  To all the area FRG members and especially Larry and Joyce, thank you for your efforts.  It took a large amount of work and it is sincerely appreciated.  If other Districts would like to do the same, give me a call at: (904) 291-0576 and I'll get you in contact with your respective District Directors, so particulars can be worked out.  Remember my focus on Ambassador and friend raising?  Maureen, my wife, has been driving me from place to place, throughout the state, so that I can get to meet, not only members of our association, but also potential friends.  Of course, we attend the scheduled luncheons but not all members can attend these activities.  I have traveled to Daytona, Winter Park, and Lake City talking to our Blinded Veterans.  During such contacts, have signed up many new members to our association.  Everyone in this state is an ambassador, with the explicit responsibility to find Blinded Veterans who are not aware of the BVA, VA, or state benefits.  AS an ambassador, when you come in contact with an individual that is legally or totally blind, ask them if they are a veteran.  If they are, then ask who is their VIST Coordinator.  If they don't know what a VIST Coordinator is, then, more than likely, they are completely unaware of the VA or state benefits.  An ambassador doesn't have to know the name of the BV's VIST Coordinator, they just need to ask the question.  If we need to identify who a specific VIST Coordinator is, the information is available on our web site, on the link from the BRS VIST and BROS directory.  If the web site is not available, call your District Director or the BVA National at (800) 669-7079.  Going along with guidelines of my theme, "friend raising" I would like to personally thank Bob Fick of Lakeland, for his bringing our association to the attention of his local veterans group, the Cypress Lake Veterans Association (CLVA).  Bob is a BVA Associate Life Member, and founder of the Cypress Lake group.  Much like the BVA, Bob's veterans  community mission is one of "vets for vets".  Bob introduced the FRG to his group and asked if I would give a presentation on our organization to educate their members of our mission and goals.  After completion of my presentation, Dan Price, Chairman of their Charity Committee, presented me with a check in the amount of $1800.  Mr. Price, noted their association, through community events and fund raisers, collected the funds.  He also noted that this was the first of two donations that their community was planning to present to our association.  Prior to my presentation, I listened to their association conduct their business meeting and I felt proud to witness to how well association had brought together such an outstanding group of individuals who having already served their country , now stand united together and continue to unselfishly serve their friends and community.  Only through the donations received generous contributions such as this and the money earned through our own fund raising, are we able to help veterans and their families meet the challenges of blindness.  Since we are an all volunteer force in Florida, every cent of these donations and fund raising activities go directly to the support of our mission.  To all, keep the mission alive and help one another to help each other.  Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President.

     FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  From the FRG Auxiliary, Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year.  I know that I should say Happy Holiday, but I refuse to cover up the true meaning of Christmas with meaningless phrases.  This is a time of year when every moment seems as though there is something to which we have to attend, not to mention getting ready for our own Christmas and New Year's celebration.  The Christmas music is being played, the advertisements for just the right Christmas gift is pounding on our senses and in general, can be very exhausting and taxing on the nervous system.  In spite of all of the distraction, let us take a moment to remember why we are celebrating.  It is a sacred and joyful time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus.,  It is a time to show our love and kindness for each other and to let our families know how important they are.  It is also a time for me to remember how important all of the Blinded Veterans are to the FRG Auxiliary.  You are the reason we exist.  We are here to support you not just during the Christmas Season but all year.  Remember, if you need us, your FRG Auxiliary is here to help.  Once again, Merry Christmas and the best in the New Year.  Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President.      

     FRG Meeting Notice:  The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, January 6, 2007 at the Quality Court - Ocala Plaza, 3621 West Silver Springs Blvd. in Ocala.  Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator at the Gainesville VAMC, has assisted in making the arrangements.    The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may select between:  Roast Beef Au Jus with Mashed Potatoes or Chicken Cordenbleau with Rice Pilaf, and Tossed Green Salad, Vegetable, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee and Dessert.  The price of the lunch will be $5 per person including tax & tip.

                     FRG President Paul Kaminsky 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 and the 2 Scholarships they offer to the spouse or children of Florida Blinded Veterans.  To get to the hotel, take I 75 North or South to exit 352.  Go East off of I 75.  The hotel is  directly East of the Interstate.  Free parking is available at the hotel. 

          The hotel has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the choice of lunch desired by January 3.  Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Bruce Davis, VIST Coordinator, VAMC, 1601 S.W. Archer Road, Gainesville, FL  32608, or call Bruce at (800) 324-8387 ex. 5560.  You may also make your reservations by calling Central East District Director Gary Sinclair at: (407) 597-0029 or in the Ocala area, call Rick Calissi, Central East Assistant District Director, at: (352) 629-6799.  You may also make your reservations by calling Louise DiGennaro, VIST Coordinator at the Jacksonville VA Outpatient Clinic at: (904) 232-2751 ex 3015 or Judy Hayes, VIST Coordinator at the Lake City VAMC, at (386) 755-3016 ex 2088.  If you need transportation from the Jacksonville area, call Louise DiGennaro or from the Lake City area, call Judy Hayes.  Louise and Judy will try to assist with transportation.  Although the cost of the meal to you is only $5 each meal guaranteed will cost your Regional Group $12.

     National Legislative Up-Date:  Prior to its recess on November 18, Congress passed a 3.3 % Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Service Connected Disability Compensation and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).  Previous legislation resulted in a 3.3% COLA for individuals who receive Social Security benefits and the VA Non-Service Connected Disability Pension.  These COLA take effect in December and will appear in your January 2007  checks.

     New VIST Coordinator - Oakland Park VAOPC: On July 1, Robert Gross, VIST Coordinator at the Oakland Park VA Outpatient Clinic,  retired after ten years of service to Blinded Veterans in the Oakland Park VAOPC area.  A BV himself, Robert came to Oakland Park after many years in the Prosthetics Research Center in Baltimore.  After 4 months without a VIST Coordinator BV's in the Oakland Park area will be happy that April Barnes took up her duties as VIST Coordinator at the Oakland Park VAOPC on November 6.

     A native of Miami, April Barnes and her family moved to the Boca Raton area while she was in elementary school.  After high school she enrolled at Florida Atlantic University where she earned a Bachelor's Degree in Education.   During the next four years, she worked as an elementary school teacher before returning to Graduate School at Florida State University. Upon earning a Master's Degree in Visual Impairment, she was employed two years as an Orientation and Mobility Instructor and Rehab Teacher at the Palm Beach Lighthouse for the Blind.  When the Blind Rehab Center was opened at the West  Palm Beach VAMC, April was employed as an Orientation and Mobility Instructor. Later, she was transferred to Visual Skills Instructor, a position she was filling when she was selected as the Oakland Park VIST Coordinator.  She lives in West Boca Raton.  April enjoys cooking, traveling, and sports.  On behalf of Blinded Veterans in the Oakland Park catchment area and all Blinded Veterans in Florida, we welcome you to your new position as VIST Coordinator and look forward to working cooperatively with you in the coming years.

     Talking Book Library:  For almost 25 years, the Florida Talking Book Library in Daytona Beach has recorded and distributed our FRG Newsletter.  This is just one of the many services provided to print handicapped citizens in Florida.  The Florida Regional Library for the Blind (TB) has the most clients and largest circulation of any Regional Library in the world.  In addition to providing the Library of Congress (LC) Talking Book service in Florida, the Florida TB Library coordinates Sub Regional Libraries serving 16 counties around the State.  We receive probably the best service of any state in the nation.  In addition to coordinating the LC Program and supervising the Sub Regional TB Libraries, the Regional Library provides significant service to print handicapped citizens in Florida unique to our state.  Recording the FRG Newsletter is only one of those services.  Although the LC provides most of the books and TB machines, the coordinating and labor to distribute all of these books is funded in Florida.  Individuals who do not live in one of the Sub Regional TB Library areas receive their service from Daytona.  In addition, the Regional TB Library acts as back up for all of the Sub Regional Libraries.  The Regional Library is funded by the Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS).  Since our TB Library service is excellent, it would be most appropriate for all of us to contact the people who fund the Regional and Sub Regional Library service for us.  Below you will find a list of the Sub Regional TB Libraries.  If you live in one of those areas, pleas contact the appropriate official and voice your support for our TB Library service.  If you do not live in one of those areas, please contact:

Stephanie Wilson, Deputy Director, Florida Div of Blind Services, 325 W Gaines St. Room 1114, Turlington Bldg. Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400, (850) 342-1828.  Brevard County Library System Catherine Schweinsberg, Director 219 Indian River Dr, Cocoa, FL 32922 (321) 633-1813.  Broward County Division of Libraries Robert Cannon, Director, 100 South Andrews Ave Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 357-7377;  Escambia County Library Gene Fischer, Director, 200 W Gregory St Pensacola, FL  32502 (850) 436-5060;  Hillsborough Public Library System, Joe Stine, Director, 900 N. Ashley DR Tampa, FL 33602 (813)273-3652;  Jacksonville Public Library Barbara Gubbin, Director 303 N. Laura Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202 (904) 630-2665;  Lee County Library System  Sheldon Kaye, Director, 2345 Union St, Ft Myers, FL 33901, (239) 461-2900;  Manatee County Public Library System (also serves Sarasota) John Van Berkel, Director, 1301 Barcarrota Blvd. West, Bradenton, FL 34205 (941) 748-5555;  Miami-Dade Public Library System (also serves Monroe County) Raymond Santiago, Director, 101 W Flagler St Miami, FL 33130 (305) 375-1523;  Orange County Library System Mary Anne Hodel, Director, 101 E Central Blvd. Orlando, FL 32801 (407) 835-7323;  Palm Beach Library System:  John Callahan, Director, 3650 Summit Blvd W Palm Beach, FL 33406 (561) 233-2600;  Pinellas Public Library Cooperative: Mary Brown Director 1330 Cleveland St Clearwater, FL 33755 (727) 441-8408;

     Remember to make your reservations for the January 6 FRG meeting in Ocala by calling Bruce Davis or one of the others listed above by Jan 3.  We look forward to meeting you there.


FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule

January 6                                FRG Meeting Quality Inn  Hotel in Ocala

February 10                            FRG meeting MacDill AFB E Club in Tampa                

March 3                                  FRG Meeting in Ft. Lauderdale

May 4-6                                  FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel Daytona

August 14-19                         BVA National Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico