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BVA Executive Director Assumes Duties New BVA Executive Director Al Avina

 

The National Board of Directors of the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) has announced the appointment of Al Avina as the organization's new Executive Director at its Washington, DC headquarters. The appointment was effective April 30, 2012.

Al will direct the Association's efforts to represent and serve blinded veterans, both in the Nation's Capital and throughout the United States. He will be responsible for the work of BVA's National Headquarters staff and its Field Service Program offices. He will carry out the directives, instructions, and policies legally adopted by the National Board of Directors and Association members in convention, and ensure compliance with the laws and regulations to which BVA is subject.

"Al brings to BVA a wealth of knowledge and leadership experience in the area of human resources, management information systems, and technology for the blind and visually impaired," said BVA National President Sam Huhn. "His desire and commitment to make BVA's programs and services more accessible to blinded veterans and their families, and to expand the organization's fundraising efforts, make his appointment a welcome one."

A veteran of the U.S. Army, where he specialized in human resource functions and management, Al worked most recently with a military resale program team in day-to-day operations and business analysis of sales, warehousing, and distribution as a Fellow at the National Industries for the Blind in Alexandria, Virginia. He has also worked in the Government Markets Department for 3M in Washington, DC and as a Cross-Departmental Project Manager for major sales initiatives with Bosma Enterprises in Indianapolis, Indiana.

A native of California's Central Valley region, Al received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from Saint Martin's University in Lacey, Washington.

Generosity Exhibited In Virginia, Mississippi

 

BVA members from two different areas of the country recently supported similar events that honored veterans.

The Roanoke-Salem Chapter of BVA's Mid-Atlantic Regional Group donated $350 to the Valentines for Veterans Concert held February 9 at the Salem, Virginia Civic Center.

Country music artist Aaron Tippin was the featured performer at the complimentary concert, which was made possible by its major sponsor, Help Hospitalized Veterans; the Salem VA Medical Center; and a variety of community sponsors such as the BVA chapter.

The Salem Civic Center was one of 15 venues selected nationwide this year for such an event, part of the annual weeklong National Salute to Veteran Patients celebration, specifically connected to Valentine's Day.

According to Roanoke-Salem Chapter President Mike Doyle, the concert's purpose was to offer the community an opportunity to recognize and show appreciation to Virginia's veterans—those overseas and at home, those who continue to serve, and to the Gold Star Families who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Approximately 4,000 tickets were distributed for the event.

Mike said the chapter originally decided on the donation in meetings last fall. On February 15, a plaque of appreciation for the donation was presented to the chapter through the medical center's Office of Voluntary Services.

"Because this event and the issues surrounding it were so important to our community, we felt very good about making this donation," said Mike. "It was very gratifying to see the entertainer visit the medical center the day of the concert and for the community to become more aware of the sacrifices made by our veterans."

Mike also emphasized the emotion felt in seeing all of the veterans, including dozens in wheelchairs, present for an opportunity at just a few moments of enjoyment. 

At a second venue in Jackson, Mississippi, members of the BVA Mississippi Regional Group were recognized for a donation to the Valentines for Veterans Welcome Home Concert held February 17.

The event, held at the Jackson Convention Center, featured the legendary rock group "The Platters," one of the most successful groups of the early rock and roll era. Its purpose was to honor local war veterans, especially those who had recently returned from combat action in Iraq or Afghanistan.

During the concert, G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center Interim Director Joe Battle recognized the contribution by presenting a plaque to Mississippi Regional Group President Maury Lunn. Also of note was the presence of a 99-year-old World War II veteran and a 23-year-old disabled veteran who had recently returned home to Jackson.

Before and after the concert, Jackson VA Medical Center staff members were available in the lobby of the convention center to provide information to veterans about VA health care eligibility and enrollment. Concert attendees also received information about volunteering at VA.

White House Recognizes Florida Blinded Vet

 

Small-business owner Fred Sanguiliano, Florida Regional Group, was featured with his wife, Nancy, and his small construction company, KeyStone Design LLC, on a White House webpage last December.

The notoriety was part of a small business forum developed by the White House Office of Public Engagement to illustrate the effects of payroll tax deductions.

Fred and Nancy started KeyStone in October 2003. The company specializes in outdoor living areas, including stonework and pavers for patios, pool decks, walkways, and other backyard spaces. Despite difficult economic times, KeyStone Design LLC continues to move forward with four additional full-time employees and two that work part-time.

Although he was surrounded and strongly influenced by his family of Italian carpenters growing up, Fred graduated from college and worked 23 years in community-based nonprofit management. He spent seven years as the chief executive officer of a statewide commission focusing on increasing volunteer and community service opportunities in the state of Florida. Leaving his career and returning to the construction business returned Fred to his roots.

Fred was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy in December 1976 and served as the First Lieutenant on a Guided Missile Destroyer in the Pacific Fleet. After passing all of his flight school eye examinations a few years earlier, he then discovered that he was losing his vision due to Retinitis Pigmentosa in early 1980. Fred has been a BVA member since 1986.

"Nancy and I are quite honored and never imagined we would receive this level of recognition," he said. "The selection means even more to me because I have an added degree of difficulty with a field of vision that is now no larger than a pin-hole in my better eye."

For more information about the White House feature or KeyStone Design LLC, proceed to www.keystonedesignllc.com and click on the "New" icon.

Biloxi Trainee Shows Anything is Possible

 

Florida Regional Group President Darryl Goldsmith is living proof that obstacles are meant to be overcome.

Blinded in the 1980s when a gas mask failed during chemical warfare training, Darryl has not allowed his disability to prevent him from taking up scuba diving. Last fall he joined Paul Kaufman, also from the Florida Regional Group, and Bill Dixon of the Alabama Regional Group, in scuba lessons provided through the Veterans Locker Program of Pensacola-based Dive Pro.

Darryl hopes the instruction and training may eventually lead him to a dive in the Gulf of Mexico near the sunken wreck of the former Navy aircraft Oriskany.

Blinded veteran Darryl Goldsmith confirms that a white cane is useful in the most unlikely of places and situations.
Blinded veteran Darryl Goldsmith confirms that a white cane is useful in the most unlikely of places and situations.

During his stay at the newly dedicated Gulf Coast Rehabilitation Center in Biloxi last fall, Darryl involved himself in as many physically challenging activities as possible. They included a trip to the National Sea Shores in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and participation in the third annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest at the Grand Lagoon Yacht Club in Pensacola last October 29.

Anxious to participate in the carving competition, Darryl was quickly reminded that October water temperatures are chilly. It was also reinforced to him that pumpkins float on water, thus requiring wrestling motions pushing downward and the simultaneous carving of a design into the specimen—all done, of course without sight!

Check Your Mailing Label, Note Important Changes

 

Earlier in the calendar year, BVA annual members, former members, and many nonmembers received a letter from the Association asking that they renew or join, according to Membership Director Alyson Alt. The letter also provided the new, higher membership rates that became effective January 1.

"Recipients of the current Bulletin should check the mailing label on the back cover of their copy," said Alyson. "There is an abbreviation on the top right corner that indicates membership status and an NM, NAM, FM, or FAM indicates that an individual is not an active member."

NAM and NM indicate that one has never joined while FM and FAM designations reveal the need to renew. Blinded veterans can become active members by contacting Alyson at 202-371-8880, Ext. 3315. She can process an application by VISA, MasterCard, or Discover over the telephone. If prospective members choose not to pay by credit card, Alyson can send an application with a self-addressed envelope. If a remittance only is sent, prospective members should be sure to write "MEMBERSHIP" on the envelope and on the remittance.

"Blinded veterans may ask why they should join BVA or renew their membership," said Alyson. "The Blinded Veterans Association has worked very hard in its advocacy on behalf of our Nation's blinded veterans and their families and, because of these efforts, blinded veterans across the country enjoy numerous special programs, services, and benefits."

As a thank you to their commitment to BVA, life members and associate life members will receive membership pins when they join for the first time or convert their annual membership to a life membership.

BVA members or nonmembers who do not wish to receive the print edition or audio version of the Bulletin, or have a change of address, should also contact Alyson. Membership applications in a Microsoft Word format and as a PDF can be accessed on the BVA website.