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BVA Saddened by Field Rep Passing

BVA Field Service Representative for Region III Donald G. Cummings, 56, passed away December 14 at Grady Hospital in Fulton County, Georgia, after a long illness. Don was a member of the Georgia Regional Group.

“BVA has lost both a wonderful member and a dedicated advocate for America’s blinded veterans,” said Executive Director Tom Miller. “Despite his many medical problems, he was always actively engaged in using his knowledge of VA benefits and services to help other blinded veterans needing his compassion and expertise.”

Don was a 1998 graduate of the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in West Haven and obtained computer technology training at Hines the same year. He was known among his peers for his organizational and leadership skills and for a genuine concern for fellow veterans facing the onset of blindness.

Don replaced Norman Jones as the Region III field rep in Decatur, Georgia, in March 2001. Prior to being hired as a BVA employee, he worked for four years as a BVA volunteer on the VA Voluntary Service Team in Louisville, Kentucky, where he gained the knowledge and skills that qualified him to serve veterans in a full-time paid capacity. He also served as President of the Kentuckiana Regional Group prior to relocating to the Atlanta area. Don was a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and an Army veteran of the Vietnam War. Survivors include a special friend, Ruth Channel, of Decatur, Georgia; stepmother Frances Cummings; three sons and a daughter; one sister and three brothers; and six grandchildren.

Funeral services were held December 22 in New Albany, Indiana.

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.

Although the scholarships are limited to spouses and dependent children of blinded veterans, the blinded veteran in question is not required to be a BVA member. A selection committee awards scholarships on the basis of merit.

Gruber scholarships are for one year only, but recipients can reapply. The total number of scholarships that can be awarded to one recipient is four.

Scholarship applications and materials can now be downloaded via the What’s New at BVA page on the Association’s website, They can also be requested of Keleeba Scott by regular mail using the following address: BVA National Headquarters, Attn: Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program, 477 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.

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 funds in all cases are sent 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 Chairperson, 3801 Coco Grove Avenue, Miami, FL 33133. Potential applicants may also telephone Barbara at 305-446-8008.

Rio Grande Group Celebrates Gavel

BVA Director of District 6 Mark Cornell delivered the coveted silver gavel to an excited group of 31 blinded veterans while a host of Auxiliary members and VIST Coordinator Lillian Barajas looked on.

The occasion was a September 20 Rio Grande Regional Group monthly support meeting at an El Paso Furr’s Cafeteria.

“Our attendance was very high that day in anticipation of Mark’s presentation,” said Regional Group President Bill Case. “We were all very happy, and the ensuing refrain was ‘Shoot for the Gold,’ to which I replied that we would need to have the help of everyone if that goal were to be reached.”

Bill thanked the group’s VIST Coordinator for making the awarding of the gavel possible. “I have to give Lillian much of the credit—she made known the existence of our organization to the veterans and then they came to us.”

He also expressed appreciation to Mark, who spent a few extra days in El Paso to visit with regional group members and to pay a visit to El Paso Health Care System Director Wayne Stewart.

“Through Mark’s extra mile efforts, our Chief of Prosthetics Bruce Reid was able to place orders for some items that we didn’t have in stock at that time, among them the graphite fold-up guide cane,” he said. “We were grateful for all of the time and personal attention Mark afforded us.”

California Firefighters Display Generosity

A crew of Glendale, California, firefighters from Station 26 recently opened their hearts and their collective wallets by making a $600 donation to BVA. On hand to accept the generous gift was World War II blinded veteran Paul Guzman, Vice President of the Southern California Regional Group.

“I am honored that I could be a witness to this generosity and act of good will toward us as veterans,” said Paul following the presentation. “Station 26 has a reputation of contributing to the community as a whole, and this gesture is an extra special one because it reaches out to the veterans throughout our organization.”

The check was written from the Glendale Firefighters Club’s charity account. Station 26 is one of nine in Glendale, a city located just north of Los Angeles. The station houses an engine company, a truck company, and a rescue ambulance.

Trip Invigorates Brooklyn Vets

Some 20 of the 38 BVA members from the Brooklyn Chapter of the New York Regional Group got their newly created organization off to a running start with a successful trip by charter bus to the dedication and grand opening of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Hall of Honor Museum.

The event occurred on November 10 at the New Windsor, New York, Cantonment State Historic Site. Major General Joseph Taluto, Adjutant General of New York State, was the Master of Ceremony. Speakers included New York Governor George Pataki, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Military of the Purple Heart National Commander Tom Poulter, and Commanding General of the Third Army R. Steven Whitcomb.

“This was our first trip with many more to follow, and it got us moving on the right track,” said Chapter Founder Lee Birch, who also furnished a bag lunch to the participants. Beverages were provided by Chapter President Michael Carrano.

“We hope the successful launch of our chapter will result in some unique traditions,” said Lee. “Along with the trips, one of our goals is to furnish every member with a quilted jacket containing a BVA patch and the name of our regional group and chapter on the back.”

Book Offers Hope for PTSD Sufferers

Mickey L. Dennis, a BVA Vietnam era life member from Eagle Butte, South Dakota, recently published Take One Day at a Time, Surviving Post-Traumatic Stress.

The book is an account of the personal suffering and depression that accompanies PTSD and the means by which family, faith in God, and trust in others provide the strength to overcome its destructive effects. It includes ten steps for living with PTSD. A veteran of the U.S. Navy, the author bases his conclusions about PTSD on his own experiences.

“I wrote this book because it saved my life, literally lifting weight from my shoulders as I wrote each page,” Mickey wrote. “I hope that my life story will help others who are suffering from PTSD or other mental illnesses, no matter what the causal event or experiences were.”

For more information about the publication, to place an order, or to contact the author, go to

MARG Member Gets NLS Appointment

Peter Davis, President of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Group, has been appointed to the National Library Service’s Collection Development Advisory Group.

Members of the group represent blind and physically handicapped individuals in providing suggestions to NLS regarding its book and magazine selection. The feedback is instrumental in guiding NLS in developing collections in the upcoming year and beyond.

Peter’s name and address appear in the January/February issues of both Talking Books Topics and Braille Book Review.

Collection concerns on the part of BVA members can be directed to Peter E. Davis, 615 South Adams Street, Arlington, VA 22204-2112 or to

Bottenbergs Provide Pieces of History

Gene Bottenberg, wife of longtime BVA member and former National President Robert Bottenberg, South Texas Regional Group, recently sent BVA National Headquarters the copies of programs printed for the BVA 2nd National Convention in Chicago (1947), the organization’s 11th National Convention in Milwaukee (1956), and the 17th National Convention in Philadelphia (1962).

The items contained some of the same information provided in recent convention programs, only in a much more abbreviated format and in smaller print. The program in 1962, for example, was a one-page cardstock foldout similar to the single event programs now distributed at the Father Carroll Luncheons and Awards Banquets.

The 1947 and 1956 pieces were designed the same as the 1962 program but contained two additional sheets stapled inside the foldout.

The 1947 program revealed that the Saturday evening banquet held on September 6 of that year, a tradition that has continued to the present, was priced at $4.00 per person, including tax and gratuity. A business session earlier in the day featured an address by Kathern Gruber of the American Foundation for the Blind and two presentations by then National Secretary Pincus “Pinky” Hoffman on legislation and the administration of regional groups. Attendees at a Sunday final luncheon the following day paid $3.00 for their meal.

Gene had tucked away the three convention artifacts for 60, 51, and 45 years, respectively, as souvenirs of the three occasions.

“We’ve had them all this time, but now I think that they might be as important to BVA as they are to us personally,” she said in her original offer to mail them to BVA.

Although files at Headquarters contain most such official documents from the past, locating them sometimes requires some extra time and patience. In many cases, only a single copy exists even when the appropriate file is found, making such donations from longtime members a welcomed gesture.

BVA members and Auxiliary members who can no longer hold onto comparable memorabilia may send the artifacts to national headquarters in care of Communications Coordinator Stuart Nelson.

Miyares Honored Once Again

Blinded veteran Urban Miyares, a former member of the BVA National Board of Directors and a member of the San Diego Regional Group, received the prestigious 2006 Gay S. Lynn Memorial Trophy from the U.S. Sailing Association for his years of dedication to sailors with disabilities. Urban was also cited for his work in advancing the sport of sailing.

The award was presented at the sailing association’s annual meetings last November and is just one more in a long list of honors Urban has accumulated for his dedication to the disabled.

Urban is president of the San Diego-based Disabled Businesspersons Association and director of the National Disabled Veterans Business Resource Center. He is also co-founder of the charitable, San Diego-based “Challenged America” recreational rehabilitation, adaptive-sailing program launched in 1978.

“Urban Miyares has moved far beyond his disabilities,” said Hugh Eliot, Secretary of U.S. Sailing’s Council on Sailors with Disabilities. “More important than his own personal achievements, he has made it possible for others to achieve the same accomplishments by helping them to understand that, while a disability may make life complicated, it does not in any way prohibit dreams and success in the able-bodied world.”

Board Photos, Bios Now on BVA Site

Digital photographs and brief biographies of each of the 11 members of the BVA Board of Directors were recently uploaded to the BVA national website. The addition is an opportunity for BVA members who are not able to attend national conventions to become acquainted with those who represent them as national officers and district directors.

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