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FRG Newsletter - October 2009



     FRG President's Message:  As FRG President, my messages will be directed toward providing information about services and benefits available to Blinded Veterans (BV's) and what the BVA and FRG are really all about.  That means that you shall be receiving information that is relevant to you as a BV.  Therefore, I would most urgently urge you all to read your Newsletters for important information that concerns all Blinded Veterans.  We will also have the contact information for the entire Board of Directors.  This is being done for any and all Blinded Veterans that are experiencing difficulties with the VA system.  Therefore, please feel free to contact any member of the Board and that includes me.  We may not have the answer, but I assure you that we will try to find the correct answer for you.  On the other hand, if you are looking for leisure reading, as most of you are aware, there are Talking Books readily available through the Daytona Beach Talking Book Library. 


     Although George Stocking was the FRG Delegate to the BVA National Convention and will provide information about the Convention, I will steal some of his thunder in this message.  Some of you may be aware that approximately 6 months ago, with the unanimous cooperation of our VIST Coordinators and with no breech of the confidentiality being broken, letters went out to BV's with whom we had no contact and who were not on the FRG mailing list.  To date, we have received approximately 500 responses, requesting our FRG Newsletter.  In that way, we could legally contact those, here-to-fore, unknown BV's.  Now, the fruit of this massive operation not only on the       part of the VIST Coordinators, but also, your entire Board of Directors and Assistant Directors, have once again, given the FRG the coveted Gold Gavel Award.  AT the Awards Banquet which closed the BVA National Convention in Portland, Oregon, the Gold Gavel Award was presented to me as President of the FRG.  The Gold Gavel is presented, each year, to the Regional Group which had the largest numerical increase in membership during the past year.  The FRG membership increased from 1305 to 1387, an increase of 82, over thee past year.  The last time we attempted this type of membership drive was approximately 5 years ago.  Unlike the way we carried it out them, this time we are currently following up the return responses, by calling the BV's by telephone.  The FRG District Directors and Assistant Directors are busy on the telephone and are having success, as our membership is continuing to increase.  Thanks to their efforts, we may receive the Gold Gavel again next year.  Currently we are sending out 2425 FRG Newsletters.  We have a long way to go to get all BV's in Florida to add their support to the BVA by joining.  Let me conclude this President's Message by explaining why we must concentrate on striving to increase our membership.  The BVA, along with other Veterans Service Organizations, appear before Congress and explain to them the ever increasing need, not only for expanded health care, but for the many other services and benefits, including the aids and devices available that make our BV's, day      to day, lives just a little bit easier.  Now politicians being politicians, they take a look at the size of the membership and count votes.  Obviously, the larger the membership the more likely they are to listen and support our needs.  Let me assure you that if it were not for the BVA's hard work in Washington, throughout the years, there would never have been VA Blind Rehab Centers, VIST Coordinators, BROS and all of the aids and devices for our Blinded Veterans.  In conclusion, let us all work diligently to increase our numbers and thereby help ourselves at the same time.  Like the old saying goes, "the more the merrier".  Next is a list of the FRG Board of Directors and their contact information.  President Terry King (941) 505-7747 email; Vice President Bill Stockslager Punta gorda (941) 743-8364 email; Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking (305) 446-8008 email; 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 Don Werth Ft. Myers  (239) 267-9494 email  Hope to see you in Clearwater Nov. 7.  Terry King, FRG President                          


     FRG Auxiliary President's Message:  Many of our FRG Auxiliary members participated in the 6th Annual Walk-A-Thon in Ft. Myers.  The goal was to raise enough money to charter a bus from Southwest Florida for the FRG State Convention in Daytona Beach next spring.  Congratulations to your workers.  I hope that many of you have used our web site  In this year's Newsletters, I will try to include FRG Auxiliary members who are participating in special events.  Let's congratulate Nancy Geden for her efforts with the Food Pantry in Citrus County.  She and her husband Bill collect donated food and distribute it to veterans who are experiencing financial problems.  In the 3 years they have operated the Food Pantry, they have served 295 veterans and their family members.  Keep up the good work.  Joann King, FRG Auxiliary President.      


     BVA National Convention Wrap-Up   The 64 BVA National Convention opened with the President's Reception Tuesday Evening, August 18.  Those in attendance were greeted by BVA President Dr. Norman Jones.  A number of Iraq and Afghanistan BV's and their family members were in attendance and were introduced by BVA Executive Director Thomas Miller.  At the opening session of the Convention on Wednesday morning, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric  Shinseki was key note speaker.  Following Secretary Shinseki's comments, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and US Senator Ron Wyden  also spoke to the Convention.  In addition to BV's, family members, and friends, there were 330 VA VIST, BROS, and Blind Rehab Service staff in attendance.  Following the opening ceremonies, the BVA members began the opening Business Meeting and the VA staff began their training sessions.  The Board of Director's Annual Report and FY 2010 Budget were approved by the membership.  On Wednesday afternoon, the By Laws and Resolutions committee met and made a report which was considered at the final Business session on Saturday.  Thursday was a day of relaxation.  Some more adventurous souls went white water rafting while other took bus tours to the aviation Museum, Rose Garden, and through the mountains.  Following those outings, there was a period of socializing in the Ball Room.  Several informational seminars were held on Friday morning and were followed by the Father Carroll Memorial Luncheon.  Colonel Donald Gagliano, director of the Military Visual Disability Center of Excellence was Guest Speaker.  Several years after the BVA got this Center authorized by Congress, The Department of Defense is finally getting it established.  The VA has also authorized funding and staff to work cooperatively with this Center of Excellence.  In his comments, Col. Gagliano related some of the problems which have arisen during the struggle to get the Center open and staffed.  He has a great deal of experience as an ophthalmologist and researcher.  The Center should help greatly in the transition from the military to the VA and civilian life for our OIF and OAF BV's.  Friday evening, BV's and their Guests were invited to the Portland's  AAA baseball game.  The first item on the agenda at the final Business Meeting on Saturday morning was the Report of the By-Laws and Resolutions Committee.  At the request of our Auditors, the BVA Board recommended that the term Subordinate be changed to Affiliate in several Sections in Article XIV Regional Groups.  This Amendment was made to comply with IRS guidelines for Non-Profit Organizations and was passed with one negative vote.  Twenty-five Resolutions passed by the 63 National Convention were  considered in a block and passed unanimously.  One Resolution postponed by the 62 National Convention was considered.  If passed it would have changed the method of distribution of the Life Membership Fund.  At the time of the 62 National Convention there were 1328 Life and Associate Life Members with undeliverable addresses.  By the 64 National Convention there were only 200 Undeliverable LM and ALM on the list.  If passed, it would remove those Undeliverable BV's from the list and divide the apportionment for that number by the 51 Regional Groups, rather than by distributing  the LMF proceeds by the number of LM and ALM in each Regional Group.  It would have also required an additional accounting step in the BVA National Office.  After brief discussions, the Resolution was defeated with only one affirmative vote.  The first issue under New Business was the proposals for future National Convention sites.  The 2010 Convention in Washington, D.C. was reviewed.  The Mid Atlantic Regional Group will host that Convention.  At the 63 National Convention, the Greater Houston Regional Group's proposal was approved for the 2011 Convention.  That group requested to delay their Convention until 2012.  The membership approved that change.  Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Reno, and San Francisco were discussed.  The Southern Nevada Regional Group had a relatively complete proposal from the Golden Nugget Hotel in Las Vegas, to host the 2011 Convention.  The membership tentatively approved holding the 2011 Convention in Las Vegas contingent on the hotel being accessible and having all of the necessary arrangements.  The Business Meeting closed with the election of Officers.  Dr. Roy Kekehuna from Southern Nevada was elected President.  Sam Huhn from Pennsylvania was elected Vice President, Mark Cornel from South Texas was elected Secretary, and Steve Beres from Michigan was elected Treasurer.  Steve Beres is the first BV elected to the Board of Directors from the conflict in Iraq.  Regional Group Leadership and Legislative Seminars were held on Saturday afternoon.  The Convention closed with the Awards Reception and Banquet.  The Major General Melvin J. Maas Achievement Award was presented to Roy Kekehuna, the Irving Diener Award was presented to Bill Case, and the David Schnair Volunteer Service Award was presented to Ron Lester. As indicated by President King, the Gold Gavel Award for the largest numerical increase in membership was presented to the Florida Regional Group and the Silver Gavel Award for the largest percentage increase in membership was presented to the Spokane Inland Empire Regional Group.  The Convention closed with the Installation of BVA and BVA Auxiliary Officers.  


     FRG Meeting Notice:  The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, November 7, at the Sam Seltzer's Steak House 18409 US Highway 19 north in Clearwater.

This will be our second year at Sam Seltzer's. The meeting will begin at 11:30 AM with a period of

socializing, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have either: Prime Rib or Chicken Picatta

and Salad, Baked Potato, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea, Coffee, or Soda, 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 Terry King 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 4. Please make your reservations prior to that date by writing to Central West District Director Gigi Mathis at: 2852 Chapsworth Lane, Lakeland, FL 33813 or call Gigi at (863) 701-9389, email . In St. Petersburg, You may call Bay Pines VIST Coordinator Jody Teper at (727) 398-6661 ex 4516 or Tampa VIST Coordinator Rick Brown at: (813) 903-2442 : or 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: Take I 75 north or south to I 275. Take I 275 across the Howard Franklin

causeway to Ulmerton Road (State Road 686). Go west about 2-3 miles to US 19. Then, go north on

US 19 about 1.5-2 miles to intersection of Bellaire and US 19. Sam Seltzer's Steak House will be on

your right side. From the east, take I 4 to I 275 and continue as above. Free parking is available

adjacent to the restaurant. Should you need to contact Sam Seltzer's for direction, you may call (727)

519-7267. Do not call Sam Seltzer's for reservations for this meeting, instead, call those listed above.


     New BVA Field Representative:  In June, Jack Stanton, BVA Field Rep in Atlanta suffered a stroke and had to retire.  We wish jack good luck in his recovery.  The BVA had a number of applicants for that position and has selected Ron Lester from Tucson, Arizona.  Ron is a native of Oklahoma.  He served as an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force during the Vietnam Conflict.  Subsequently, he worked a year for the Post Office before returning, as a civilian to work as an aircraft mechanic for the Air Force in Oklahoma for 6.5 years.  During that time, he earned a BS degree in business.  During the next 30 years, he worked in the ministry as church school superintendent, assistant pastor and pastor in Oklahoma and California.  During that time, he earned Master's  and Doctoral Degrees in Educational Administration and supervision.   In 2006, he retired in Arizona.  At that time, he began volunteering at the Blind Rehab Center (BRC) in Tucson.  In 2008, he was certified as a Volunteer National Service Officer for the BVA.  Since then, he has assisted BV's with benefits and claims at the BVA Office at the Tucson VAMC BRC . Ron is married and has 2 sons and 8 grandchildren.  He took up his duties as BVA Field Rep in Atlanta on September 21 where he will serve BV's in 8 Southeastern states.  Ron, welcome to the Southeast.

FRG Meeting Schedule

November 7    FRG meeting Sam Seltzer's Restaurant in Clearwater

December 5     FRG meeting Palm's Restaurant in North Ft. Myers