VETERANS ASSOCIATION (BVA)
FLORIDA REGIONAL GROUP, INC.
3801 Coco Grove Avenue
Miami, Florida 33133
FRG NEWSLETTER, June 2008
FRG Convention Wrap-up: The FRG State Convention activities began at 8 AM on Friday, May 2 with the annual in-service training program for Florida VIST Coordinators and BROS. At 9 AM, the annual Horseshoe Pitching Contest was held on the beach. A spirited competition was held with two categories: Legally Blinded Veterans and totally Blinded Veterans. The BV's and their coaches had a great time. Richard Cassidy won the legally blind category and Bob Creech won the totally blind category. Trophies were presented to the winners at the Installation Banquet Saturday night. The opening Informational Seminar was held at 3 PM. Charleen Szabo, Director of the West Palm Beach VAMC, location of the Blind Rehabilitation Center, described some plans to expand services to low vision veterans. The BVA supports providing additional services to low vision veterans (those with vision between 20/70 and 20/200 vision). However, considerable concern was expressed that such a plan not reduce the services to Blinded Veterans. This concern was particularly directed toward maintaining staff and bed capacity for Blinded Veterans and not using them to provide service to low vision veterans . Following Ms. Szabo's presentation, Barbara Hill, Chief of the Prosthetics Service at the Gainesville VAMC, provided information regarding prosthetics and sensory aids for Blinded Veterans. As in the past, Marsha Summers provided the music for the dinner-dance on Friday evening. This was the most lively dinner-dance in many years. Considerable comradery and socializing permeated the gathering and all had a great time.
The Annual FRG Business meeting was held on Saturday morning. The Minutes of that meeting will appear at the end of this Newsletter. At 2 PM, the second Informational Seminar was held. Mike Gunde, Chief of the Bureau of Braille and Talking Book Services, provided information about Talking Book services. The planned introduction of the new CD format, planned for this spring has been delayed twice and is now scheduled about May 2009. Veterans will have preference to received this new CD format. Although the Talking Book Library has a record of veterans they serve, it may not be complete. Mr. Gunde recommended that if you wish to have priority in receiving this new format that you call the library at (800) 226-6075 and let them know that you are a veteran and wish to receive the CD player and books when they become available. Next, Olivia Delgado-Newton, VARO Liaison Representative with the Florida VIST Coordinator presented a program on veterans benefits. Jack Stanton, new BVA Field Service Representative in Atlanta, joined in the presentation. The Seminar closed with a demonstration of several sensory aids by Paul Mimms. Following a period of socializing in the Hospitality room, the Installation banquet was held at 7 PM. Nevin Weaver, newly appointed VISN 8 Network Director was Guest Speaker. Mr. Weaver supervises medical services at 8 VA Medical Center, 8 comprehensive Outpatient Clinics, and 32 Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Florida and Puerto Rico. He described plans for services in VISN 8 and offered his support for services for Blinded Veterans. Following Mr. Weaver's presentation, FRG Officers and District Directors and FRG Auxiliary Officers for the coming year were sworn in by Bruce Davis Gainesville VAMC VIST Coordinator. Following the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship raffle prizes, the President adjourned the Convention. Many BV's, family members, and friends moved to the Hospitality Room for a final period of socializing.
FRG Auxiliary Convention Activities: On Friday evening at the dinner dance, the FRG Auxiliary conducted a raffle of donated items. The proceeds from the raffle were used to pay for the music at the dinner-dance.
On Saturday morning, FRG Auxiliary President Joyce Thornton opened The Annual Business Meeting. She welcomed new members of the Auxiliary. Reports on Auxiliary activities for the past year were made. Auxiliary activities for the coming year were planned. Cathie Cotton, FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Committee Chairperson, sent a report on the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship Program for this year. The two winners who will each receive $1000 Scholarship for the 2008-2009 academic year were Lilly Bean from Ft. Myers and Peggy McCloud from Cape Coral. On Saturday night, the Auxiliary conducted a 50-50 raffle at the Banquet to raise funds for the Scholarship Program. A discussion was held regarding expanding social activities at the 2009 FRG State Convention. Many BV's and their families arrived on Thursday. The Auxiliary will work with the FRG to arrange some type of additional activities next year.
The FRG Auxiliary Business Meeting concluded with the election of Officers for the Coming year. The following were elected: President - Joyce Thornton; Vice President - Joanne King; Secretary - Patricia Taylor; and Treasurer - John Cotton. They were installed at the close of the Banquet Saturday night, along with the FRG Officers and District Directors.
FRG State Convention Business Meeting Minutes: The meeting was called to order at 9:15 AM by President Paul Kaminsky in the Ball Room at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona Beach. The pledge to the flag was led by FRG Past President Terry King and the invocation was given by George Stocking. A motion was passed to waive the reading of the 2007 Annual Business Meeting Minutes and to accept them as published in the June 2007 FRG Newsletter. The Treasurer reported a balance of $26242.03 in the FRG checking account on April 20, 2007. During the year, income totaling $28219.67 was received, making a total of $54461.70 available in the checking account for FRG use. Expenditures during the year totaled 17560.87. In addition, $,19266.95 was transferred from the checking account to General Fund Certificates of Deposit. Thus the balance in the checking account, on April 20, 2008, was $17633.88. During the year, one fund raising events occurred . John Thomas, Southwest District Director coordinated, with the help of Joyce Thornton VIST Coordinator and Terry King, a White Cane Walk-A-Thon in Ft. Myers raising $1332. The value of the CD's in the general fund, on April 20, 2007 was $70291.15 . During the year $19,266.95 was transferred from the checking account to CD's. Interest on all General Fund CD's was $3752.30. The total funds in General account CD's as of April 20, 2008 was 93310.40. The total funds available, excluding the Scholarship Fund, on April, 20, 2008 was $110944.28. On April 20, 2007 the FRG Auxiliary Scholarships Fund CD , a restricted account, was valued at $12,650.98. During the year $1300 was transferred to pay 2007-2008 scholarships. Interest for the year was $585.66, leaving a balance of $11,936.64 available for future FRG Auxiliary Scholarships. The total assets including the checking account and all certificates of deposit on April 20, 2008 was $122,880.92 The Convention accepted the Treasurer's report as presented.
The Membership Committee reported the Florida Regional Group had a total of 1302 Members and Associate Members as of April 30, 2008. This is the same membership as of the time of the 2007 FRG State Convention. The FRG continues to have the largest membership of any Regional Group in the BVA. It will take a significant effort on the part of all BV's in Florida if the FRG is to exceed the 1350 we had at the end of the 2005 BVA Fiscal Year, June 30, 2005. In addition to those Blinded Veterans who actively support the BVA, there are a total of 799 BV's on the FRG - BVA mailing list who have not paid their dues for 2008. The FRG - BVA new mailing list contains a total of 2101 Blinded Veterans in the State of Florida. A discussion was held regarding those Blinded Veterans who were not Members or Associate Members of the BVA. Those in attendance were encouraged to become actively involved in recruiting new Members and Associate Members during the coming year.
The District Directors presented reports regarding activities in their Districts. This included information about their Assistant District Directors to expand contacts with Blinded Veterans in the six Districts.
The Legislative Committee presented information regarding National legislation of interest to Blinded Veterans. All Blinded Veterans in attendance were encouraged to become actively involved in writing to their Senators and Representatives regarding legislation. All BV's with computer access were encouraged to add their name to the BVA-FRG Distribution List so they can received information on legislation as it is being considered by Congress. In addition to important legislative information, BV's on that list also receive other current information of interest to BV's in Florida.
The floor was opened for the discussion of old business. The format of the FRG Newsletter was reviewed. There were no recommendations regarding the Newsletter. Consequently, it will continue with the same format as in the past. The FRG District meetings were discussed. No recommendation was made to change the schedule or location of the District meetings. A discussion was held regarding the remaining activities at the 2008 FRG State Convention.
The floor was opened for New Business. A motion was passed to donate $1500 to the Talking Book Library. A motion was passed for the FRG to take out a one page ad ($100) in the 63 BVA National Convention Program
The 2009 FRG State Convention was discussed. The Convention Chairman George Stocking, reported on contacts with the management of the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel. The proposed arrangements for the 2009 FRG Convention will be essentially the same with an increase from $77 to $79 per day for rooms. A number of other hotels in the central part of Florida were contacted with similar or higher prices. A motion was passed authorizing the Convention Committee to negotiate with the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel and accept the contract if it continues to meet the FRG needs.
A discussion was held regarding establishing a restricted Endowment Fund with the principle being maintained, and only the interest and dividends of which would be used for FRG operating expenses. a notion was passed to transfer a $20,000 certificate of deposit to this restricted Endowment Fund with a By-Law Amendment to be considered by the 2009 FRG Convention outlining the composition and operation of that fund.
A motion was passed establishing a $500 emergency expense fund for the FRG President. Reimbursement to the president will be made by the Treasurer upon the certification of the need for and amount of each expense. The following motion was passed: Annually, from the FRG Treasury, a donation of $100, for each participating FRG member, will be made to the VA sponsored Iowa TEE Tournament, Winter Sports Clinic, and National Golden Aged Games. Maximum donation, per sponsored event, shall be $500. A fund raising committee should be formed to identify ways to cover this additional cost.
A discussion was held regarding when Officers and District Directors take office. The following amendment was made to the BVA-FRG By Laws: Officers and District Directors will assume the duties of their respective offices at the close of the Business Meeting at which they were elected. Formal Installation of Officers and District Directors shall take place at the close of the Installation Banquet. The Oath of Office shall be administered as prescribed in the appropriate Article in the Blinded Veterans Association National By-Laws.
A resolution was passed to maintain FRG accounts in the First National Bank of South Miami, with the President and Secretary-Treasurer as co-signers on all FRG accounts.
At 12:05 PM the President called a 15 minute recess. The meeting was called back to order at 12:35 PM.
The following BV's were elected as Officers and District Directors for the coming year:
President Paul Kaminsky
Vice President Paul Mimms
Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking
Past President Terry King
Northwest Darryl Goldsmith
Northeast William (Bill) Burgess
Central West Gilda (GIGI) Mathis
Central East Kirk Harmon
Southwest John Thomas
Southeast Jerry Adney
An election was held to select the Florida Regional Group Delegation to the BVA 63 National Convention as follows: Delegate - Dr. George Stocking; Alternate Delegates: 1. Myron (Mike) Nagelberg, 2. Darryl Goldsmith, 3. Gilda (Gigi) Mathis and Kirk Harmon. Nike Nagelberg was elected as FRG Representative on the By-Laws and Resolutions Committee, with the Delegate and/or Alternate Delegates, in the order listed above as Alternate Representatives on that Committee. A motion was passed to send the Delegation uninstructed, to the BVA National Convention in Phoenix, in August.
The Business Meeting adjourned at 1:05 PM.
Respectfully submitted, George E. Stocking, Secretary