3801 Coco Grove Avenue  
Miami, Florida 33133


     FRG President's Message:  Wow!  Time does fly when you are having fun.  it is time again for the FRG State Convention and the election of Officers and time for me to turn over the helm to new leadership.  I hope that I have done well to serve you all.  I have accomplished many of my goals, yet, some need to evolve over time.  In the 11 years I have spent as District Director, Vice President and for the past 3 years as President, we have seen much change for the good.  It has been the work of many, and I played only a very small part in it all.  The biggest thing with wish to leave you all   is the same thing I asked the first minute after accepting the position of FRG President, that is that we all must be Ambassadors for the BVA-FRG and insure that every BV in our state is aware of their benefits.  If you find a blind person, The 2 questions remain: Are you a veteran? and if they are, 2 who is your VIST Coordinator?  If they are a BV and don't know their VIST, then more than likely, they don't know about their benefits through the VA or state.  Some ask me what does the FRG do for our Blinded Veterans.  This is our primary mission in the FRG.  Make sure that we are visible enough to connect our BV's with the services available to them.  We have volunteers in some of the VA medical facilities.  We set up information tables at veteran events, send out these Newsletters, have luncheon, around the state, and anything else we can think of to let the community know about the BVA and the entitlements available to our BV's. Let us all keep this visibility as a primary objective.  Yes, I am standing down but trust that I am not through working on behalf of our Blinded Veteran cause.  Actually, I step over to being the immediate Past President for the term of the new FRG President and that keeps me active as a voting member of the FRG Board of Directors.  I am serving on the Division of Blind Services Rehabilitation Council and will also continue hopefully, to  continue on the Florida Veteran Council and the Florida Vision Summit.  Through these other venues, I will be able to keep open the bridges we have built with our veteran and civilian friends.  Participation in these activities is essential toward letting  other state organizations know that we are the sole Congressionally Chartered organization that represents our nations Blinded Veterans.  I will miss the direct link of communicating to you through these Newsletters, phone links, luncheon, or just running into some of you where the District Directors and I have set up information tables around the state.  I would also like to ask each of you to consider stepping up and playing a part in our leadership.  How can we serve them better?  Please join us to find answers to that question. Keep the mission alive and help one another to help each other.  Hope to see you at the FRG Convention in Daytona Beach.  Paul W. Kaminsky, FRG President.  (904) 291-0576 email        


      FRG AUXILIARY PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: The year is swiftly charging on from month to month and before we know it, we will be meeting again at Daytona Beach for the FRG State Convention.  I personally look forward to this meeting as I have the opportunity to see all of you again.  This year plans are being made for more entertainment, including a pizza party in the Hospitality Room on Thursday evening and a trip to the flea market on Friday morning .  The bus will leave the hotel at 9 AM and return from the flea market at 2:30 PM.  The cost will be $7.50 per person.  I need to have a count in order to make final arrangements.  Call me at (239) 939-3939 ex 6284 or write me VIST Coordinator VA Outpatient Clinic, 3033 Winkler extension, Ft. Myers, FL 33916.  The FRG Convention is important because many BV's are getting older and need us more and more, not to mention younger BV's that have returned from the middle east.  Over the years, the BVA has secured many services for Blinded Veterans and it is up to us to see to it that none of these services are reduced or taken away completely.  Not to mention any new benefits that might be needed.  I hope to see many of you there.  Remember, the FRG Auxiliary will be electing officers and planning our activities for the coming year.  Joyce Thornton, FRG Auxiliary President


     FRG District Meeting:  The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held at the Mesquite Charlie's Steak House, 5901 North W Street in Pensacola on Saturday, April 4.   NW District Director Darryl Goldsmith has made the arrangements for this meeting which will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of socializing, followed by lunch at noon.  For lunch, you may select from an 8 ounce sirloin Steak, Barbeque Chicken, Barbeque Pork, Beef Brisket , or Fried Shrimp and potato, vegetable, rolls and butter, ice tea or coffee and dessert.  Although the cost to the FRG is $15 per person, those in attendance will pay only $5 including tax and tip.  At the 2007 meeting, those in attendance signed a Resolution requesting to have a full time VIST Coordinator assigned at the Pensacola Clinic.  Along with other material, the BVA took those Resolutions to Congress.  Through those BVA efforts, Scott  turner has been selected as the full time VIST Coordinator at the Pensacola VA Clinic.  Mr. Turner plans to join us at the April 4 meeting and will provide an up-date on plans for the VIST Program.  We urge all BV's in the Panhandle to attend this important meeting so that we can provide support for Mr. Turner and organize advocacy for BV's.  Paul Kaminsky, FRG President, will preside at the meeting following lunch.  Information of interest to BV's and their families will be available.  We need to notify the restaurant how many will be attending by April 1.  Please make your reservations prior to April 1, by writing to Darryl Goldsmith, 7190 Rampart Way, Pensacola, FL 32505 or call: (850) 554-7819, email  Scott Turner will also take reservations at (850) 912-2000 ex 2552 as will Paul Kaufman at (850) 458-5881.  If you make a reservation and can't come, please call Darryl Goldsmith and cancel before April 1 so we won't pay $15 for reservation made and not used. 


     FRG State Convention Reminder:  This is your final reminder that The FRG State Convention will be held at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel , 640 North Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32118, May 1-3.  Your Convention Committee secured the low guaranteed group rates of only $79 per day, for 1 to 4 persons per room.  In the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel, all rooms are equipped with refrigerators and microwaves and All rooms have ocean view balconies. These  low convention rates will be in effect 3 days before and/or 3 days after the Convention.  You may come early or stay late for an extended vacation.  The low Convention rates are guaranteed for reservations made on or before April 13th.  Reservations made after April 13th, will be at the low Convention rate but on a space available basis.  We encourage you to make your reservations soon to insure your accommodations as another group is at the hotel that weekend.  You may cancel your reservation and  receive a full refund of your deposit, if you cancel 24 hours before noon on the day you were scheduled to arrive.  Send your reservation to the Hotel along with your check for one night's room rate and 12.5% tax or you may use your credit card number to guarantee your reservation.  Other than your deposit,  the hotel will not accept checks for your remaining charges.  You must have a credit card or cash.  Better yet, as time is short, you may make your reservation by calling the toll free reservation number  at: (800) 874-7420.  There are 24 hotels using that reservation number. Be sure to specify the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel and that you want the guaranteed group rate for the Florida Regional Blinded Veterans Association Convention.  If you have any problem , call George Stocking at (305) 446-8008, evenings.


     Convention Registration Fee:  The Convention Registration Fee will be $35 per person (for each BV, family member, or friend attending).  However, an early registration fee of only $30 per person will be in effect for registration received on or before April 13th.  The registration fee will cover general Convention activities, including the dinner-dance on Friday night, Hospitality Room, and the Banquet on Saturday night.  Please make your check payable to the BVA and send it to:  3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, FL 33133.  Please include the first and last name of each person registering, so that we will be able to make name tags prior to the start of the Convention.  It will be helpful if you will send your registration fee in advance.  This will greatly speed up the late registration at the Convention. 


     For those who get to Daytona Beach on Thursday, April 30, the BVA Hospitality Room will be open from 6 to 10 PM and will host a Pizza Party from 6-8.  If you plan to take part in the Pizza Party add that information to your early registration information so that we can have enough pizza.   See the  Auxiliary President's Message for information about a trip to the Flea Market on Friday morning.  AT 9 AM on Friday, the 3rd annual horseshoe pitching contest will be held on the beach behind the hotel.  If you wish to participate call Bill Burgess at (386) 445-4987.


     The Convention Late Registration Desk will open at 1 PM on Friday, May 1, in the hotel lobby.  If you have not pre-registered, you may pay your late Registration at that time.  If you have pre-registered, please pick up your name tags and Convention Program.  We need everyone to check in so that we can give the chef the proper count for the dinner dance and Banquet.  The opening session will be held in the second floor Ball room at 3 PM on Friday, May 2.  The Informational Seminar will be open with a presentation on Prosthetics and Sensory Aids for the Blind .  Then, Alvin Crummell from the Daytona Beach Social Security Office will provide an up-date on SSA benefits.  The Dinner dance will begin with dinner at 7 PM followed by dancing.  Again, this year, Marsha Summers will provide the music, both during the dinner and for dancing afterwards.  Those of you who have attended before will remember what a great job she does playing music  for good listening and good dancing.  A cash bar will be available for liquid refreshment.  this should be a fun evening.


     Saturday, May 2, The Annual Florida Regional Group Business Meeting will be held at 9 AM in the 2 floor Ball Room.  In addition to reports on the past year and planning the FRG Program for the coming year, you will have the opportunity to share your thoughts and comments on future FRG activities.  Elections for FRG Officers and District Directors, for the coming year, will be held.  According to the BVA guidelines and the FRG By laws, The election and instruction of a Delegate and Alternate Delegates to the 64 BVA National Convention  in August, will also be held.  The FRG Auxiliary will also hold its Annual Meeting at 9 AM on Saturday in the Osprey Room. 


     At 2 PM on Saturday, the second Informational Seminar will be held,  starting with a presentation by Mike Gunde, Chief of the Bureau of Brail and Talking Book Services, who will bring us up to date on Talking Book Program.  Olivia Delgado-Newton VA Regional Liaison for the VIST Program and Jack Stanton, BVA Field Service Representative in Atlanta, will provide information on veterans benefits.  Paul Mimms and Paul Kaminsky will demonstrate some new technical aids for the blind.      


     The Hospitality Room will be open from 5 to 7 PM.  At 7 PM, the Installation Banquet will be held in the Ball Room.  Paul Kaminsky, BVA President will be Master of Ceremonies.  Dr. Norman Jones, BVA National President, will be our Guest Speaker .  The Banquet will close with the Installation of FRG Officers and District Directors and FRG Auxiliary Officers for the coming year.  Join us in the hospitality Room, after the Banquet for more socializing and refreshments. 


     New VIST and BROS:  We are happy to report that an additional VIST Coordinator position has been added to the staff at the Tampa VAMC and that Bill Wilson's vacant BROS position at the Orlando VAMC has been filled. In December 2008, Richard (Rick) Brown was added as a full time VIST Coordinator to the Tampa VAMC staff.  The Tampa VAMC has the largest number of Blinded Veterans in its catchment area of any VAMC in Florida without an Outpatient Clinic.  Rick was born in Maryland where his father was stationed in the  Air Force.  During his youth, Rick and his family lived in a number of locations due to his father's AF career.  Following graduation from high school in Texas, Rick was employed for 12 years  at a Psychiatric Hospital where he worked his way up to supervisor.  During that time, he also played semi pro basketball.  He was married to a woman in the Air Force.  When she was transferred to Germany, Rick went with her and worked several years in the commissary.  During that time, he began having difficulty with his vision and is now legally blind.  When they returned to the US, Rick entered the University of South Florida where he earned a bachelor's degree.  Subsequently, he earned a Master's Degree in Social Work from FSU.  As part of that program, he interned at the Tampa VAMC, where Charles Nieberding was his supervisor.  Upon earning his MSW degree in2006, Rick was employed as a counselor with the Division of Blind Services.  In December 2008, Rick took up his duties as the new VIST Coordinator on the Tampa VAMC staff. It is hoped that he will be transferred to the Newport-Richey VA Outpatient Clinic when the Clinic moves into its new      building this summer.  Rick has 2 daughters.  Rick's wife worked as a counselor at the Pascal Lighthouse for the Blind.  They live in Newport-Richey where Rick enjoys music and the history channel in his free time.  Rick, welcome to your new VIST Coordinator position.  We look forward to working with you in the future.  Orlando BROS:  We are happy to report that Cindy Perkins took up her duties in February, to  replace Bill Wilson as the BROS at the Orlando VAMC.  Cindy is a native of Michigan where she earned a Bachelor's Degree from Western Michigan University.  After 2 years working as a counselor for a Foster Care Agency, she return to Western Michigan where she earned a Master's Degree in Orientation and Mobility.  Upon graduation, she moved to Orlando where she worked 14 months as an O & M instructor at the Orlando Lighthouse.  Subsequently, she returned to Michigan where she worked for 9 years in several O & M jobs, the longest of which was for the Michigan Center for the Blind.  While there, she applied for the BROS position in  Orlando.  Cindy is married and has 2 Children.  They live in the Orlando area where they are active  in their church.  Welcome to your new position and we look forward to working with you.


     Remember to send your hotel reservation slip and deposit to the Plaza Ocean Club in Daytona Beach and your Convention registration  fee to the BVA-FRG in Miami.  Please join us in Daytona beach in May.