Chicago Lighthouse Honors Paul Robinson
The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired has bestowed one of its prestigious Centennial Medals on Paul Robinson, a BVA life member and a three-term past president of the Illinois Regional Group.
Paul received the specially engraved medal on November 15 for his support of the Lighthouse and his commitment to helping others with disabilities.
"Paul is an incredibly caring individual, and we are delighted to bestow this honor upon him," said James M. Kestleloot, President and Executive Director of the Lighthouse.
Senior staff of the Chicago Lighthouse look on in the background as Paul Robinson, left, receives Centennial Medal from President and Executive Director James Kestleloot
The Centennial Medal is being presented by the Lighthouse throughout the year in celebration of its 100th anniversary. Individuals and organizations that have made a powerful impact on the Lighthouse and the people it serves—throughout its history—are the medal recipients.
Since first attending the Lighthouse, Paul has, in addition to his contributions to the blind and visually impaired community, learned Braille, received a college degree, and become an avid cook and musician.
“The Lighthouse wants people to succeed in life, not just at one task or area of study,” said Paul. “They have always welcomed me here.”
The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is widely respected as a national leader in offering innovative programs to assist people who are blind or visually impaired. The organization has been a recent exhibitor at BVA national conventions.
Gruber Funds to Again Help Students
BVA will award six Kathern F. Gruber scholarships for the upcoming academic year, according to Brigitte Jones, Administrative Director at the Association’s National Headquarters. Three scholarships of $2,000 each as well as three scholarships of $1,000 each will be available for 2007-08. The BVA Scholarship Committee will also select three alternates.
The scholarships are limited to spouses and dependent children of blinded veterans, but the blinded veteran in question is not required to be a BVA member. Scholarships are awarded on merit by the Committee.
Gruber scholarships are for one year only, but recipients can re-apply. The total number of scholarships that can be awarded to one recipient is four.
Requests for scholarship applications can be addressed to BVA National Headquarters, Attn: Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program, 477 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001-2694.
Completed applications must arrive at BVA National Headquarters no later than Monday, April 16, 2007.
Feldman Scholarships Continue in 2007-08
The Blinded Veterans Association Auxiliary (BVAA) will award three $2,000 and two $1,000 Renee Feldman scholarships for the 2007-08 academic year. The scholarships are open to the spouses or children of blinded veterans, and membership in BVA is not required.
To be eligible for a Feldman scholarship, the applicant must have been accepted at the school of his/her choice. The institution in question may be a vocational school, community college, four-year college, or university.
The fees in all cases are paid directly to the school and are intended to defray the cost of tuition, books, and general fees.
The application process for the scholarships includes supplying information about previous academic achievement, a statement of present goals and plans, a 300-word essay, and letters of reference. Completed application packets must be received no later than Tuesday, May 1, 2007.
For further information and an application, write to Barbara Stocking, BVAA Scholarship Chair, 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, FL 33133. Potential applicants may also telephone Barbara at 305-446-8008.
The Blinded Veterans Association of Pennsylvania, Inc. honored Charleen Szabo on October 6 for her superb leadership and managerial skills.
The recognition came in the form of both a plaque and a certificate presented by Regional Group President Hank Bloomberg at a Pennsylvania Veterans Commission gathering held at the Pennsylvania Soldiers and Sailors Home in Erie.
As Chief Executive Officer of the VA Medical Center in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, from May 1998 through April 2004, Szabo expanded clinical services, including community-based outpatient facilities. She also eliminated patient appointment waiting times almost entirely.
“As a result of Charleen’s work, Lebanon has been number one in patient satisfaction several times in the past seven years,” said Neil Appleby, BVA Immediate Past National President, secretary of the regional group, and recently-elected vice chairman of the Pennsylvania State Veterans Commission.
Perhaps most noteworthy is Szabo’s support of the VISOR program at Lebanon when it was first advocated by a few BVA members and VIST Coordinator Nancy Strohm in the late 1990s. Congress has since recognized 100 percent patient satisfaction with VISOR and expressed a willingness to consider legislation that would fund a VISOR program in every VA health care network.
Szabo also served as the Director of the VA Stars and Stripes Health Care Network 4 from April 2004 until October 2006. Highlighting her tenure with the Network was a first-of-its-kind blind summit. She leaves network 4 to become the director of the West Palm Beach, Florida VA Medical Center.
“Well done! Because of your leadership, the groundwork has been laid for continued dialogue regarding delivery of services to blinded veterans,” the plaque read.
Georgia Article Highlights Vets, Rehab, Technology
A comprehensive newspaper story about blinded veterans and services available to them, published recently in the Columbus Ledger (Georgia), is one of several examples of positive media coverage provided to BVA regional groups, BVA chapters, and VA support groups within the past few years.
The article, entitled “Blinded but not Broken” and written by reporter Richard McDowell, acknowledges the presence of blinded veterans in the western part of Georgia and describes the VA-contracted products and rehabilitation services that can improve their quality of life. It also details the efforts of blinded veterans Arthur Lawrence and Clifford Jones in organizing the Columbus Chapter of the Georgia Regional Group three years ago. The article goes even further in providing helpful online resources and information about the low vision program at the West Georgia Eye Clinic and the training program at the Southeastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
“This type of exposure is very important to BVA because there are so many blinded veterans out there whom we cannot find that may be in hiding, in denial, or just unaware of how they can be assisted,” said Don Cummings, Field Service Representative for Region III. “Feature articles like these help blinded veterans and their families find us and the other resources that may be literal lifesavers to them.”
Don encourages BVA regional groups and chapters to be active, proactive, and involved in their local communities.
“The unique, excellent services available to us are still a guarded secret but should not be,” he said. “The more we participate and make our voices known and heard locally, the more likely it is that local media will want to tell our story.”
Gedens Head Up BVA Mall Exhibit
Blinded veteran Bill Geden, Florida Regional Group, and his wife Nancy answered several hundred questions about blinded veterans and BVA inside Citrus County’s Crystal River Mall on November 4. The occasion was the Mall’s annual Veterans Fair, part of a larger Veterans Appreciation Week that included a “Veterans in the Classroom” program.
For more than five hours the Gedens distributed BVA literature and manned one of 36 tables occupied by VSOs and governmental agencies that provide veterans benefits and services, including VA medical centers, VA regional offices, and the National Cemetery at Bushnell, Florida. Directly next to the BVA table was VIST Coordinator Bruce Davis, who participated this year for the first time. The presence of Bill and Nancy at the fair made it the fourth consecutive year that BVA was represented.
“We had a great day with an abundance of traffic most of the time,” said Bill. “It was well worth our time and effort to celebrate veterans by promoting BVA and the work it does on our behalf.”
BVA Members Recognized at TEE
Blinded veteran Michael White, Mid-Atlantic Regional Group, received the Wayne Earl/Hampton Hill Award on September 14 at the 13th Annual National Blinded Veterans TEE (Training, Exposure, Experience) Tournament in Iowa City, Iowa.
The award, named for two memorable past participants, is presented each year to the individual veteran who best personifies the true spirit, character, and purpose of the event. The criteria used for judging is the individual’s conduct as he/she prepares for and then plays three days of golf.
A resident of Chase City, Virginia, Michael also took first place in his bowling division and second place in horseshoes, which are also part of the TEE Tournament mix.
Dave May of the Ohio Regional Group, also a frequent TEE Tournament participant, won the “Closest to the Pin”Award for the St. Andrews Group. Dave’s winning shot stopped less than three feet from the flag on a #7 hole that required an accurate shot over water.
The TEE Tournament, coordinated by the Iowa City VA Medical Center and supported by numerous private donations, provides legally blinded veterans throughout the country with an opportunity for rehabilitation through instruction, recreation, friendly competition, and camaraderie. The event typically draws more than 100 golfers and some 200-250 community volunteers who assume a variety of responsibilities.
The TEE Tournament usually occurs during the second week of September each year.
Chuck Aguirre Shares Rare Family Story
“Proud to be a Family of Joiners” was the headline of a feature story highlighting the military service of Korean War veteran Chuck Aguirre, Minnesota Regional Group, and nine of his ten brothers.
The story, authored by Don Boxmeyer of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and printed on the front page of the local section on October 31, detailed the dedicated military service of the sons of Mexican immigrants. The young men joined all branches of the military except the Coast Guard.
Although many of them sustained injuries, five of them returned from World War II alive and the other four made it home from Korea.
“From the time I was a little kid,” Chuck is quoted as saying, “I could see my mother cry as she walked to the train depot with each son, and I can remember how she laughed as each one came home.”
In addition to the 11 sons, the Aguirre family also had four daughters. The feature mentions that the only son who did not serve had polio but worked at the B-24 bomber modification plant at the downtown St. Paul Airport during World War II and later had five children himself who served in the military.
Chuck has been an active BVA member since early 2000. Despite his blindness and other disabilities, he finds the energy and desire to actively serve in several other veterans organizations, speak to school groups on subjects related to military service and blindness, and promote BVA and blind rehabilitation to fellow veterans who may be eligible for membership.
Interactive Website to Help Blinded Vets
A new multi-purpose website constructed under the direction of Jerry Hogan of the South Texas Regional Group promises to be highly interactive and helpful to BVA members wherever they live or work.
“We hope to get the site up and really working well after the first of the year,” said Jerry. “We want to emphasize that this site has been created by veterans with sight loss, and it will be administered and monitored by them as well.”
The new site will consist of such features as chat and conference rooms, computer training courses and information, guest speakers for blinded vets who cannot easily leave home, resources about Global Positioning Systems and other technology, and a means by which suggestions about the site can be made.
For more information, go directly to www.blindedvetsandfriends.org or send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Membership Manager Requests Updates
BVA Membership Manager Alyson Alt asks that BVA members keep their mailing addresses and other information as current as possible, especially as they receive the print and audio cassette versions of the Bulletin.
“Although active BVA members are eligible to receive both versions, they may not be making use of both and may request that we send only the print copy or only the tape,” she said.
The paper copy of the Bulletin is less expensive to produce and more widely circulated than the cassette since it is available to all blinded veterans, regardless of their membership status.
The Bulletin’s print version is also distributed to dozens of libraries, organizations of and for the blind, local and national VSOs, medical facilities, and spouses of deceased BVA members. The Bulletin can be read online at www.bva.org/bulletin.html.
Mark Your Calendars For BVA’s 62nd!
August 14-18, 2007 may seem far away now, but each BVA national convention seems to approach ever more quickly with the onset of a new year.
According to Convention Coordinator Christina Hitchcock, potential attendees should mark their calendars and begin thinking about the Albuquerque Hyatt Regency as the venue for the BVA 62nd National Convention.
“This is a great opportunity to visit a part of the country that is wonderfully rich in culture,” she said. “There is so much to see in the area that it’s really a question of where to start.”
Christina indicated that the New Mexico Regional Group has arranged an optional one-day tour through the Destination Southwest tour company. The trip, which will occur on Monday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., will include Jemez Mountain Trail, Los Alamos, and Chimayo. If the trip exceeds 40 participants, the company may offer the same trip on Tuesday. A second off-site activity that will not duplicate any of the Monday-Tuesday sites is also being organized for Thursday.
“During my site visit in October, I could have stayed several more days visiting a pueblo, taking in the unique museums, or learning more about the local traditions and culture,” Christina said. “I hope our attendees can allow sufficient time to take advantage of some of these amazing attractions.”
The uploading to the BVA website of additional details about the Albuquerque area and convention logistics will commence in mid-December. They will also be included in the upcoming Winter and Spring issues of the Bulletin.
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