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FRG Newsletter - June 2009


     FRG President's Message:  Well, here we are in the first week of May, and we have just tucked away another BVA-FRG State Convention.  This year saw the return of the tried and trusted and the advent of the new.  Not only did most of the District Directors win reelection but the Horse Shoe Pitching Tournament was repeated from last year.  This year's  Convention marked the debut of the BVA-FRG pre-Convention Pizza Party, which was sponsored by Florida Reading and Vision, one of our Florida technology vendors.  The Pizza Party was held on Thursday night in the Hospitality Room to welcome those early arrivers and offer an opportunity to socialize before the schedule and deadlines of the Convention, including the opening of the Hospitality Room bar.  Following the party, reports are that a good time was had by all attendees.  Friday, hot hors d'oeuvres were served by Eye Focus, another state vendor, during the lunch hour until the start of the opening session.  Yet, Optilec another vendor, served hot hors d'oeuvres, Saturday,  over the mid day luncheon break.  All three vendors stated that their efforts were successful, and that they appreciated the opportunity to meet more of the Blinded Veterans attending the Convention, to demonstrate the products they sell and that Blinded Veterans need.  All three stated that they are looking forward to coming to next year's FRG Convention.  Another new thing that happened at the Convention was my election as your FRG President.  I have provided service to Blinded Veterans in Florida since 2000 as a CATS instructor and VIST Coordinator.  April 30, marked the date of my retirement from the VA, and the beginning of the next phase of my life and service.  What I take with me from those years are memories of a satisfying career in Florida's VA Blind Rehab Program.  One goal that I have is that the West Palm Beach VA Blind Rehab Center is providing services to Florida's Blinded Veterans that can compare with the services provided at any other VA BRC.  My honest observation is that Florida Blinded Veterans do not feel their BRC is up to that task.  One of the purposes of the BVA is to advocate for the provision of quality services to Blinded Veterans, but we in the FRG must do more Than we have done to meet that goal.  So, I hope to be a leader in those efforts.  The low attendance at the Convention, this year, was an indicator of the effect of the economy on all of us.  One of my closing comments at the Banquet Saturday night, was the suggestion that every Blinded Veteran present, try to bring another Blinded Veteran member with them next year.  We had a convention with a lot of demonstration of Blinded Veterans helping Blinded Veterans.  I hope that this is a springboard to an increased membership and the development of a stronger and more stable organization in the coming years.  We look forward to working with you during that time.  I am enclosing the names and contact numbers for the six District Directors  for your use.  Northwest District Darryl Goldsmith - Pensacola (850) 554-7819, email; Northeast District Bill Burgess -Palm Coast (386) 445-4987 email; Central West District Gigi Mathis - Lakeland (863-255-9275 email; Central East District Kirk Harmon -Orlando (407) 380-3371 email; Southwest District Donald Werth - Ft. Myers (239) 267-9494 email;  Southeast Jerry Abney Miami (305) 270-1739 email;  or BVA National at (800) 669-7079.  Paul Mimms, FRG President.       

FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  I would like to thank those who voted for me at the Saturday, May 2, FRG Auxiliary Annual Meeting.  My goal for this year is to increase our membership to 150.  Why is it, that we have over 1300 BVA members in Florida and only 35 FRG Auxiliary members.  Part of the reason is that we have a lot more National Auxiliary members from Florida than we do in the FRG Auxiliary.  I believe the reason is that National Auxiliary members don't realize that, the Florida Auxiliary has a yearly dues of $5 in addition to the $10 for the National.  Our $5 helps to support our Scholarship Program.  The dues and the raffle that we have are basically for the scholarships.  I believe that is the easiest goal.  The second goal is to have a more active Auxiliary and have the best recognized chapter in the National Auxiliary.  Now I am in need of a Membership Chairperson and a Raffle Chairperson.  Any Takers?  As far as the Raffle Chairperson goes, that is the easiest because we have 8 luncheons around the state and fortunately, each city has a Raffle Assistant.  That raffle assistant makes sure that they have tickets to sell and at least one door prize.  I believe that the assistants are still in place.  You can count on them.  I would also like to have Auxiliary Members to contact me by telephone at (941) 505-7747 or by email at: with announcements of achievements in your town, events of happenings or anything interesting that might be interesting to our embers.  Also if you have any questions, please contact me .  I also have membership applications and I can mail them or email them to you.  Perhaps, you can make copies to hand out in your area.  We have a great group of BVA members and BVA Auxiliary members.  Our support to these fine military veterans isn't only our duty as Auxiliary members but is in our minds and hearts that it is the right thing to do .  Lets show our gratitude.  Here are your FRG Auxiliary Board Members for the coming year:  President - Joanne King;  Vice President - Fran Thomas;  Secretary - Pat Taylor; Treasurer - Maureen Kaminsky;  and Scholarship Chairperson - Trudy Rothenberg.  We had a great Convention, wish you were there.  Joanne King, FRG Auxiliary President.


     FRG Convention Wrap-up:  The FRG State Convention activities began at 6 PM on Thursday, April 30, with a Pizza party in the Hospitality room.  The annual in-service training program for Florida VIST Coordinators and BROS started at 8 AM on Friday.  At 9 AM, the annual Horseshoe Pitching Contest was held on the beach.  A spirited competition was held. Awards were presented to David Dixon for the totally blind group and Tim Thrift for the legally blind group.  The opening Informational Seminar was held at 3 PM, with a presentation on Social Security and Medicare by Alvin Crummell Daytona SSA Manager.  As in the past, Marsha Summers provided the music for the dinner-dance on Friday evening.  This was a most lively event and 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 Talking Book Library, announced that  The testing for the new Digital format will start in May.  It should be completed by the fall when the new machines will enter production.  Veterans will have preference to received this new CD format.  Be sure to call the TB Library at 800) 226-6075 to have you listed as a veteran to get priority service.  Next, Olivia Delgado-Newton, VARO Liaison Representative with the Florida VIST Coordinator presented a program on veterans benefits.  Jack Stanton, BVA Field Service Representative in Atlanta, joined in the presentation.  The Seminar closed with a demonstration of several sensory aids by Paul Kaminsky and Paul Mimms.  Following a period of socializing in the Hospitality room, the Installation banquet was held with DR Norman Jones, BVA National President, as Guest Speaker.  then, the  FRG Officers and District Directors and FRG Auxiliary Officers were installed by Bruce Davis Gainesville VIST Coordinator.  Following the FRG Auxiliary Scholarship raffle, President Mimms adjourned the Convention.  Many moved to the Hospitality Room for a final period of socializing.


     FRG State Convention Business Meeting Minutes:  The meeting was called to order at 9:05 AM on May 2, 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 2008 FRG Newsletter.  The Treasurer reported an opening  balance of $17633.88 in the FRG checking account in April 2008.  During the year, income totaling $26747.46 was received, making a total of $44381.34 available in the checking account for FRG use.  Expenditures during the year totaled 22060.55, leaving a balance in   the checking account, prior to the 2009 Convention, was $22320.79.  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 $1098.  The value of the CD's in the general fund, in April 2008 was $93310.40.  Interest on all General Fund CD's was $2588.41.     The total funds in General account CD's as of April 2009 was $95898.81.  The total funds available, excluding the Scholarship Fund, in April 2009 was $118219.60.  in April 2008.  the FRG Auxiliary Scholarships Fund CD , a restricted account, was valued at $11936.65.  During the year $338.39 was received in Interest, leaving a balance of $12275.03  available for future FRG Auxiliary Scholarships.  The total assets including the checking account and all certificates of deposit in April 2009 was $130,494.63.  The Convention accepted the Treasurer's report as presented.


     President Kaminsky called upon the District Directors to present reports regarding activities in their Districts.  This included information about their Assistant District Directors and their plan to expand contacts with Blinded Veterans in the six Districts.    


     The Membership Committee reported the Florida Regional Group had a total of 1375 Members and Associate Members as of April  2009.  This is an increase of 73 Members and Associate Members since the time of the 2008 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 make continued increases in our membership.  In addition to those Blinded Veterans who actively support the BVA, there are a total of 1101 BV's on the FRG - BVA mailing list who have not paid their dues for 2009.  The FRG - BVA new mailing list contains a total of 2476 Blinded Veterans in the State of Florida.  The VIST Coordinators have assisted in notifying BV's not on our mailing list, of the opportunity to receive the BVA Bulletin and FRG Newsletters.  As a result, we have increased our mailing list by over 500 during the year.  Four VIST Coordinators are still in the process of making this notification.  In July, a special informational Newsletter will be sent to all BV's who have not joined the BVA, requesting that they add their support to the work of the BVA.


     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 changes in 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 2009 FRG State Convention.


     The floor was opened for New Business.  A motion was passed to make the elections as the first order of New Business. 


The following BV's were elected as Officers and District Directors for the coming year: 


           Officers                         District Directors

President                  Paul Mimms           Northwest            Darryl Goldsmith

Vice President         Terry King            Northeast             William (Bill) Burgess

Secretary-Treas.        George Stocking        Central West               Gilda (GIGI) Mathis

Past President         Paul Kaminsky        Central East           Kirk Harmon    

                                     Southwest              Donald Werth

                                     Southeast             Jerry Adney


     An election was held to select the Florida Regional Group Delegation to the BVA 64 National Convention in Portland, Oregon  in August, as follows:  Delegate - Dr. George Stocking;  Alternate Delegates:  1.  Paul Mimms, 2.  Terry King, 3. Paul Kaminsky, 4. William Burgess, 5. Myron (Mike) Nagelberg , and 6. Darryl Goldsmith. Paul Kaminsky 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.


     After the election, the floor was open to other New Business.  A Resolution was passed to maintain the FRG funds in the First National Bank of South Miami and to have the President and Secretary-Treasurer as co-signers on all accounts.  Further, the Resolution gave the President and Secretary-Treasurer the responsibility to move the funds to another bank if more advantageous interest rates can be obtained, with the Board's approval.  A motion was passed to donate $1500 to the Talking Book Library, each year until the membership changes this donation.  A motion was passed for the FRG to take out a one page ad ($100) in the 64 BVA National Convention Program.  An amendment to that motion was passed authorizing the FRG to take out a one page  ad in the BVA National Convention Program, each year, until the membership changes this decision.


     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 the same with the rates continuing at $79 per day for rooms from 1 to 4 people.  A motion was passed authorizing the Convention Chairman to sign the contract with the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel for the 2010 FRG State Convention.  At 12:05 PM the President adjourned the 2009 Annual FRG Business Meeting.


Respectfully submitted,       George E. Stocking,                     Secretary