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Photographing When Legally Blind Indiana Regional Group Demonstrates Generosity

 

Members of the Indiana Regional Group, spearheaded by group President James McGuire, have donated $1,600 to the Indiana Veterans Home to purchase four 26-inch television sets. The TVs will be placed in the facility's guest rooms.


On hand for the January 11 presentation to Indianapolis VA Medical Center Director Tom Mattice were Veterans Affairs Voluntary Services (VAVS) Deputy John McCallister, VAVS Representative Freddie Edwards, and the aforementioned VAVS Volunteer James McGuire. All three are members of BVA.


The need for a donation and a recommendation to make it happen was brought to James' attention by other deputies and representatives at the facility. The regional group then came through with the necessary funds.

According to Lisa Sissom, Program Support Assistant for Volunteer Services at the Indianapolis facility, members of the regional group have traditionally worked tirelessly to provide donations for Medical Center services.

They have supported ward renovation projects, patient comfort items purchases, and the procurement of adaptive items to improve the  quality of life of blinded veterans. They also aided in the sponsoring of the 2008 National Veterans Golden Age Games.

BVA Honored by St. Louis Society


The St. Louis Society for the Blind and Visually Impaired has honored the Blinded Veterans Association with its distinguished Centennial Legacy Award for "its unwavering support and advocacy for veterans nationwide since the Association was founded in 1945."


Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Society Ron Hampp presented a framed plaque engraved with both text and Braille to Tom Miller on April 9 at its 100th Anniversary black tie gala VIP reception and awards dinner.

Ron Hampp reads BVA award citation at St. Louis Society centennial dinner gala.
Ron Hampp reads BVA award citation at St. Louis Society centennial dinner gala.

Themed "Celebrate a Century: EnVISION the Future," the gala was hosted at the "Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark Hotel" adjacent to the stadium.

Other honorees included Paul Wittmer, World War II veteran and Society client. He was recognized for his research and writing on submarine warfare during the war. Dr. Harry Quigley of Johns Hopkins University was honored for his research and development of techniques for treating glaucoma.

William DeWitt III, President of the St. Louis Cardinals, was also honored for his family's three generations and 90-plus years of executive leadership in professional baseball, dating back to 1917 when St. Louis Society for the Blind founder and baseball executive James Jones brought a young William DeWitt into the Cardinal front office.

BVA Seeks Applicants for Midwestern Office

 

Applications are sought from blinded veterans interested in the position of Field Service Representative for Region IV, to be based at the Hines VA Hospital in Hines, Illinois, just outside Chicago.

BVA members are encouraged to apply and/or make the opportunity known to qualified blinded veterans throughout the country.


BVA Field Service Representatives provide a range of services to blinded veterans and their families, including benefits counseling, representation as a National Service Officer, and referral to VIST Coordinators and other VA service points. Field reps also monitor BVA volunteer office activities, assist regional groups, and work to promote the Association's national programs. A 20-hour-per-week, part-time sighted assistant is provided.

Applicants must be veterans and at least legally blind. They must have attended a Blind Rehabilitation Center and be computer literate as well as demonstrate superior written and oral communication and interpersonal skills. They must also serve as role models for other blinded veterans. Some travel is required.


The position is a career opportunity with potential for advancement. BVA offers a salary commensurate with education and work history, a benefits package, and opportunities for travel and training.

For further information or to apply, please call Stephen Matthews, National Director of the Field Service Program, at 202-371-8880 or 800-669-7079. Resumes may be emailed to smatthews@bva.org or faxed to 202-371-8258. They may also be sent via the U.S. Postal Service to BVA National Headquarters, 477 H Street NW, Washington DC 20001.

Benefit Possibly Unclaimed By Many, Says Field Rep


Some blinded veterans with combat-related injuries may be unaware that they are eligible for Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC), according to BVA Region II Field Service Representative Claudia Perry.

"Along with a diagnostic code sheet that can be obtained from our Field Service offices, the form needed for filing for CRSC is DD Form 2860," she said. "This is only for Chapter 61 veterans (medical retirement) or retirees who have a combat-related injury, but I am not certain that all eligible blinded veterans are receiving this benefit."

Kaminsky Initiates BVI Radio


Blind Veterans Internet (BVI) Radio was launched in early April by a member of the BVA Florida Regional Group.

Paul Kaminsky of Middleburg, Florida, came up with the idea to provide an additional forum for discussion of veterans' issues and an opportunity for blinded veterans to participate in events that would otherwise be out of their reach.

"I'm still in the learning phase but hopefully I will be broadcasting the Florida Regional Group State Convention at the end of the month," said Paul in early April. "Persons not able to attend may tune in and perhaps become motivated to attend in future years."


According to Paul, the current programming is simple with the setup of a loop that runs two songs followed by BVA, DAV, and VA promotional audio spots. He hopes future programming will contain time-blocked segments such as training seminars, weekly chat room sessions, and talk sessions similar to those webcast on ACB Radio.

"There are so many avenues we can open and travel down in order to make this new site something special," he said. "As always, I am open to creative suggestions from those who will give it a try and be willing to tell me what they think."

Stamper Recognized For Community Service

 

Dale Stamper, BVA Director of District 4, received his city's Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Citizen Award for 2011.

A resident of Hayden, Idaho, Dale was one of six honorees at a banquet held March 26 at the Hayden Country Club. He was accompanied by his wife, Cora, and sons Rob and Dan. The featured speaker at the banquet was former New York Yankee pitcher Don Larsen, the only player in history to pitch a perfect game in the World Series (1957 against the crosstown rival Brooklyn Dodgers). Larsen is also a resident of the Hayden area.

Dale and Cora Stamper visited with legendary pitcher Don Larsen following March 26 banquet in Hayden.
Dale and Cora Stamper visited with legendary pitcher Don Larsen following March 26 banquet in Hayden.

The six awards presented spelled out the word "Hayden," the name of the city. H is for Humanitarian, A for Arts, Y for Youth (either a young person or someone working with youths), D for Distinguished Citizen, E for Education, and N for New Business.

The criteria that qualified Dale for the honor was his active involvement in two Veterans Service Organizations, his counseling and speaking activities as a minister, and the self-sufficiency he has demonstrated throughout his life, especially since losing his sight.


The nomination, composed by Dale's Disabled American Veterans Chapter Auxiliary Commander, Marilyn R. Hunt, USN (Ret.), described the manner in which he has shoveled his own driveway and sidewalk since 1970 by "graphing off in his mind" the proportions of the area and then systematically getting the job done. The feat is more impressive since the driveway is on a slope that can make the job challenging and at times even dangerous.

"Mr. Dale Stamper is a model citizen of the Hayden community and an outstanding example of how a person who is totally blind can overcome his catastrophic disabilities in a stellar manner," the nomination stated. "He is a shining example to others in your community."

Focus Group on Intrepid Includes NY Blinded Vets

 

Two members of the Blinded Veterans Association's New York Regional Group, Ron White and Enrique Sanchez, were among a group of blind and visually impaired individuals from the New York City Metropolitan Area invited to act as consultants for a study conducted by the Education and Access staff of the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

Enrique Sanchez, left, and Ron White aboard Intrepid during special focus group activities coordinated by Art Education for the Blind.
Enrique Sanchez, left, and Ron White aboard Intrepid during special focus group activities coordinated by Art Education for the Blind.

The multicultural group of adults in their mid-20s to late 70s in age came together on April 14 aboard the Intrepid, located on the west side of Manhattan on the banks of the Hudson River.

The inclusion of BVA members came about as a result of BVA's partnership with Art Education for the Blind (AEB), based in New York. Enrique learned of the opportunity from New York Regional Group President Dennis O'Connell.


Individuals interested in participating in the four-hour event were required to contact the Intrepid's Education and Access Coordinator, Miranda Appelbaum. The focus group's purpose was to evaluate two tactile descriptive booklets and determine the ease or difficulty with which they were understood. The group's members then made recommendations for the final product, which will eventually consist of approximately 14 pages.


Seven different sections of the booklet described various museum displays. Members of the group sat in front of the displays in small, easy-to-carry folding chairs that were issued to them, along with the descriptive book and a scanning pen. The scanning pen read back the description of what they touched on the open page of the book and provided directions on how to activate the detailed information provided for each display (the pen had an internal digital recorder and an audio output at its upper end).


Each individual, guided by a sighted museum employee, visited three displays described in the test booklet. Everyone then met in a designated meeting room location where a debriefing took place. Group members were given the opportunity to give their evaluation of the effectiveness of the tactile booklet, the ease-of-use of the scanning pen, and the meaningfulness of the information provided for each display.

According to Ron, there were a few definitive questions such as "Was the pen easy to use?" Most questions were open-ended, giving the group members the opportunity to describe their experience in detail.

"All of the participants felt strongly that a very productive session had occurred," he said.


Both Enrique and Ron were impressed with the process and felt certain that the efforts of the group would assist the Intrepid staff in efforts to provide a meaningful, satisfying, and educational experience for blind and low-vision visitors.

As Enrique and Ron departed the Intrepid, AEB Project Coordinator Marie Clapot informed them that the grant for the present study is for two years and that AEB would be sponsoring at least one group tactile tour of the museum to be conducted free of charge for blinded veterans.


Clapot said that the first tour would be scheduled for sometime in May of this year and encouraged them to "spread the word." Other Intrepid staff members made comments about looking forward to working more with blinded veterans in the future.


Blinded and visually impaired persons interested in these special "tactile" and escorted "touch" tours for groups should contact Miranda Appelbaum at 646-381-5161.

Blinded Vets Score Again In Texas Gumbo Cook-Off


Three blinded veterans from the Greater Houston Regional Group, now known in community circles for their cooking skills, demonstrated their public relations savvy while at the same time winning another gumbo cook-off at Clear Lake Park's Landholt Pavilion in Harris County, Texas.

It was the second time in three years that the trio, Ronnie Anderson, George Boe, and Herb Robchaux, and respective spouses Sharon, Martina, and Rae have finished first in the competition.

"Being blind and participating in a cook-off is something else," said Ronnie. "Many wonder how we do it and ask questions about blindness and whom to contact for help.

The group was well prepared with responses about VA blind rehabilitation programs and literature from BVA.

"We find many who know absolutely nothing about what VA has to offer," he said. "It's a great opportunity for us."


Ronnie admitted that although a sighted individual is used to light the fires, the three BVA members can do pretty much everything else in the gumbo preparation, which is all done from scratch.

"In shock, we once again went on stage when they announced that Team Blinded Veterans Association had taken first place," he said.


Ingredients for the gumbo, placed in an eight-gallon pot, include shrimp, crawfish, chicken, okra, regular onions, green onions, and rice on demand. Cooking time is approximately five hours.

NC BVA Member to Visit World War II Memorial


World War II blinded veteran and BVA member Harry Troop, North Carolina Regional Group, will be one of the beneficiaries of Flight of Honor, a service project of Rotary District 7680 that honors the lives, valor, and courage of World War II veterans who live in midwestern North Carolina.


The project will bring Harry to Washington, DC on May 21 to visit the World War II Memorial, all expenses paid. The trip includes transportation, a catered lunch, and a booklet with a biography of each veteran on the flight.

A photo CD of the trip is compiled and mailed to every veteran after the trip.

Although the number of veterans traveling to Washington was unknown at press time, a similar trip brought more than 100 veterans to the Memorial in 2009.


Flight of Honor is the continuation of the vision and objective of North Carolina's Honor Air, which seeks to send every local World War II veteran to the memorial.