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FRG Newsletter December 2015

?Editor's Note: This Newsletter is being written shortly before
Thanksgiving in order for you to receive it in early December. We hope that
you had a Happy Thanksgiving. As we continue in the Holiday Season, on
behalf of the Florida Regional Group, I would like to extend best wishes for
a Most Merry Holiday Season and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

FRG President's Message: In 1958, 5 BV's formed the Florida Regional
Group (FRG), in Miami. I was 13 years old and had not thought much about
visually impaired people and their problems. The FRG has become the largest
Regional Group in the BVA. I only learned about any of this in 1969 from
the then Chief of the Hines BRC John Malmaysian. When I joined the BVA in
1969 my Life Membership card number was 711. Today, we have approximately
1100 BV's in the FRG. There have been compelling reasons for BV's to join
the BVA during the past 70 years, and most of those reasons are still
relevant. Those 5 BV's that formed the FRG in 1958, offered mutual support.
Mutual support is the purpose of the BVA, "BV's helping BV's". The mutual
support provided by the original 5 BV's made them stronger individually and
collectively. From that strength, these 5 were able to attract the
attention of other BV's and bring them into the group. BV's that may have
been lost or discouraged have found hope, resources, and encouragement,
where they may have formerly thought there was none. The FRG has not done
all that we can do to offer BV's in Florida the chance to get involved, but
we are going to try. If FRG has contact information for you, you may
receive a telephone call from one of the District Directors before March,
2016. I hope you won't wait to be contacted but will contact us and let us
see what help we may offer you, and how you may make the BVA a better
organization. Even though we strive to be a welcoming organization, we have
only about 2/3 of the BV'S in Florida as members of the BVA. Membership in
the BVA has consistently given me much more than it cost. If you haven't
attended a FRG Informational Luncheon, Tampa is our next luncheon in
January, 2016. If you don't know your Visual Impairment Services Team,
(VIST), Coordinator, you are missing out on a lot! Many of the thirteen
VIST Coordinators in Florida have Support Group meetings that are worthy of
the time and effort to attend. Annually we hold the FRG Convention in
beautiful Daytona Beach. This get together is by and for BV's. Use the
contact information that you find in the NEWSLETTER, at the website,
WWW.FRGBVA.ORG to tell us what you would like to have at the Convention. In
February the Convention Committee will be firming up plans, so let us know
before then what you would like to have at this year's FRG Convention. Mike
Taylor, FRG President (904) 264-0884 e mail

FRG Meeting Notice: The next meeting of the Florida Regional Group
will be held on Saturday January 9, 2016 at the Columbia Restaurant, 2117
East 7 Avenue in Tampa. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing
at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may have 1.
Roasted I Round of Beef stuffed with Chorizoin flavorable gravy, black
beans & rice & platatos. 2. grilled Boneless Breast of Chicken topped with a
rich Spanish Amontillado baked Cherry Mushroom Sauce with yellow rice,
green peppers, Spanish onions on top, each with Spanish Bean Soup, ice tea,
coffee and Flan for dessert. The price of the lunch will be $5 per person,
including tax and tip.
FRG President Mike Taylor will preside at the Informational Meeting
following lunch. A national legislative up-date will be provided.
Representatives from the VA will provide information about services and
benefits of interest to BV's and their families. Future FRG activities,
including the FRG State Convention at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona
Beach in April-May will be discussed. Last year, we broke a record for
attendance at a FRG meeting in the Tampa area. Please come join us and
let's try to break that record this year. The restaurant has asked us to
notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon
desired by January 5. Please make your reservations prior to that date by
writing to Past President Terry King at 24243 Pirate Harbor Blvd., Punta
Gorda, Florida 33955 or call (941) 505-7747, e mail
You may call in Tampa, Assistant Central director Earl Bessent at (813)
286-1708 e mail: or Charles Poff at (727) 372-3720.
In Lakeland call Gigi Mathis at: (863) 255-9275. You may also call Tampa
VIST Coordinators Kathy Rodgers at: (813)903-2414 or Bill Wilson at: 813)
903-2442. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to
prepare properly for our meeting. To get to the restaurant, from the south,
take I-75 to exit 261,then take I-4 west (to Tampa) ramp, merge onto I-4 and
travel 9 miles to exit 1 ramp, take 21 Street South, travel 0.4 mile to 7th
Ave, turn left onto 7th Ave-the Columbia Restaurant is on the right. Parking
is across the street from the restaurant. From Pinellas County Start
traveling on south I-275 to exit 45B (toward Orlando), merge straight onto
I'4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp, travel ramp road o.5 mile to 21st
Street turn right onto 21st St and travel 0.3 mile to 7th Ave., turn left on
7th Ave. the Restaurant is on the right. From Levy, Citrus, West Pasco
Counties: travel on the Sun coast Parkway (toll road) to the end, then
merge onto the Veterans Highway to the end, then merge onto SR 60 East, keep
in the lane marked Tampa/I-275 North, take I-275 N ramp and travel 6.0 miles
to Exit 45B straight onto I'4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit 1 ramp, travel on
the ramp road 0.5 mile to 21st St. ( turn right onto 21st St. and travel 0.3
mile to 7th Avenue turn left onto 7th Ave. the Restaurant is on the right.
From Largo , Clearwater and North Pinellas County: Travel on SR 60 East to
the Tampa International Airport Area, be careful to keep in the lane marked
Tampa/I-275 North ramp, after entering the I-275 N ramp, travel 6.0 miles
on N I-275 to exit 45B , merge straight onto I-4 and travel 0.7 mile to exit
1 ramp,travel 0.5 mile on the ramp road to 21st St. turn right onto 21st and
travel 0.3 mile to 7th Ave., turn left onto 7th Ave.,the Restaurant is on
the right, parking is across the street. Although you only pay $5 for the
luncheon, the FRG will pay $27 for each meal guaranteed. If you make a
reservation and can't come, please contact one of those listed above and
cancel your reservation before January 5th. In that way the FRG will not
pay for unused meals.

National Legislative Up-Date: In recent years, Congress has passed a
Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) equivalent to the increase in the Consumer
Price Index (CPI). The government is using a different formula in
determining the CPI. Consequently, according to that formula, the increase
in the CPI for 2015 was only .99%. Consequently Congress did not approve a
COLA for S.C. Compensation, DIC, NSC Pension, or Social Security benefits.
It is understood that the .99% increase in the CPI is considered negligible
and did not warrant any increase.

The value of Family Support: By Daria Wells, DSN, RN, MSW, LCSW -
Jacksonville VIST Coordinator. As children, we strive to be independent,
"All Grown Up". In our teenage years, we want to do things on our own, "we
don't need anybody to help us or tell us what to do." This behavior is a
part of the circle of life that helps us to separate from our dependence on
others. Then something interesting starts to happen, we realize that we are
all part of a "greater family". We get a job and have our work family. Men
and women join the military and become a part of their military "family".
We work together, eat together, battle hard together, they are your family
of support. You have your assigned duties, but you are taught to be part of
a team. You "have their backs and they have yours". A "support group".
Webster's dictionary defines it as "a group of people who have similar
experiences and concerns and who meet in order to provide emotional help,
moral support, advice, and encouragement to one another. The people who
provide support do not need to be your family by DNA. Family to most people
means those people who care for you unconditionally. You hear many people
say, "He's like a brother to me". These are those people you count on in
life to be there when you need them and they are often there without your
asking them for help. Life is difficult enough without pushing people away
by asserting our independence and sometimes pride. We "don't want to bother
anyone". We think if we ask too much of others, they will get angry.
Honestly, that may happen, but then these folks were not truly a part of
your "support family". As we age and health concerns increase, it becomes
more important than ever to be open to the support provided by others. It
is not a sign of weakness; rather, it is an understanding of our own needs.
There are many people that find great joy in helping others, so why take
that opportunity away from them? Embrace their needs to care for others and
reap the benefit of breathing a little easier, knowing that you are not
alone. "No man is an island". People are there because they want to be,
let them in. Maybe you can return the favor. All it takes is to have an
open heart and willingness to let others share their feelings without
judgement. As veterans you have a whole family of VA supporters; the
doctors, nurses, social workers, crisis hot line workers, clerks and the
list goes on. We have chosen to work with veterans. You make what we do,
worthwhile. Give us a call. We are here to listen.

FRG Scholarship Program: For a number of years, the FRG has offered
Two one-thousand dollar ($1000) scholarships for the spouse or children of
Florida Blinded veterans. Due to donations made to a special scholarship
account, the FRG is able to offer two $1500 scholarships for the 2016-2017
academic year. In January, letters will go out to all Members and Associate
Members of the Florida Regional Group asking for applicants for the
2016-2017 academic year. These scholarships will be available to the
spouses and/or children of Blinded Veterans residing in Florida. At
present, grand children are not eligible. Applicants must complete the
scholarship packet in its entirety, in order to qualify for the
scholarships. Watch for the announcement in January. For information,
contact George Stocking, FRG Secretary-Treasurer at 3801 Coco Grove
Avenue, Miami, FL 33133, telephone (305) 446-8008 email The application packet must be completed in its
entirety to qualify and must be received by the FRG by April 15, 2016.

Being Blind by Jack Cunningham: Does anyone in your family have visual
problems? I answered in the affirmative, that my grandmother had a problem.
I laugh a nervous laugh and related how we sort of made fun of her when she
didn't see us standing right there. Grandma eventually went totally blind.
The doc had done the "hold" up the fingers test. I didn't do well. She
asked if I had "retinitis pigmentosa" or "RP"? I told her "no". She took a
breath and gave me those unforgettable words "Well grandpa, I think you have
it". That was over 30 years ago. The rest of the story is probably
familiar to most of you. I went into full denial. I continued to drive; I
accidentally stepped on dogs and babies; I fell down steps like a drunken
sailor (Excuse me Navy guys - I am Air Force). When my vision got so narrow
I couldn't ignore it any longer, with a little help from my friends,
relatives, and wife, I came to my senses and went to the local VA. That was
the smartest move I have ever made. Does it sound familiar, my fellow
BV's?? Fast forward about 25 years, to now. I want to talk about faith.
No, I don't mean the type a minister might talk about, although that might
be of help.
I mean the type we all experience hundreds of times every day. We have
faith that when the traffic signal changes to green, it is clear for the
driver to proceed. Then we flip a switch, we get light, turning a faucet
gives us water, and a million other examples. As blind folks, we need some
additional faith. We have faith that our white cane will tell drivers not
to run over us; that our cane will find that curb; and another hundred
examples. We survive on faith. Now, let us talk about patience, our family
and friends need an abundance of. Sometimes it runs in short supply. We
need a good measure of patience for ourselves. It is easy to chastise
ourselves when we knock over a glass of water (or heaven help, a glass of
beer). However, stuff happens. Give yourself a break. Use a couple of
appropriate words, then laugh about it. Hope, now there is an interesting
word. When your doc tells you that your vision will never get better and
will probably get worse, do you give up hope? I don't know, it depends on
your situation. My hope came in the form of realizing that I had some
talents that did not require any vision. I felt like a kid with a new toy,
when I received my computer at the WPB, BRC. I took it home and had a talk
with myself. I told myself I was going to make use of this new marvel and
so I challenged myself to write a book and I did. (Sorry for the crass
plug.) My Book is called "Chui" and is available on Amazon and Kindle.
No, it has nothing to do with blind folks. It is about a musician. Check
it out. Dr. Walter Trenschel is the Psychologist at the WPB BRC. He
conducts group therapy by phone to several groups each week. We always
close with an incredible piece of prose with has been used for years in AA
meetings. It is appropriate here. "God grant me the serenity to accept the
things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the
wisdom to know the difference. Read that over several times and let it sink
in. That my blind brothers and sisters is the simple answer to getting our
lives in order and finding happiness.

Meeting Reminder: Join us at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa on
January 9, 2016. If you make a reservation and can't come, call Terry King
or one of those listed above and cancel before Jan. 5 so the FRG will not
have to pay for meals guaranteed but not used.

FRG-BVA Meeting Schedule

January 9, 2016 FRG Meeting at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa
February 13, 2016 FRG Meeting Hilton Ocala
March 19 FRG Meeting Tropical Acres Steakhouse in Ft. Lauderdale.
April 28 - May 1 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club Hotel in Daytona

FRG Newsletter Staff
Mike Taylor FRG President
Daria Wells Jacksonville VA Clinic VIST
Jack Cunningham BVA Member
George Stocking FRG Newsletter editor