by Mark Cornell
Another national convention has come and gone.
I wish to personally thank each and every one of you from BVA Headquarters, the Army and Air Force National Guard and Reserve Color Guard, our Operation Peer Support friends, our British counterparts, and our exhibitors and vendors.
I am especially grateful to our members for making this convention a success. An acknowledgement of the addition of our new member of the Board of Directors, Paul Kaminsky, is also in order. Congratulations to Pete Davis and Dr. Tom Zampieri for their successful elections and to the rest of the officers who were re-elected to serve the second year of their terms.
I am once again honored and humbled to have been re-elected BVA National President. I will continue to do my best to represent the organization with dignity and integrity.
I will also carry out my fiduciary responsibilities to the very best of my ability. With the help and input of the Board of Directors I must oversee the financial investments of BVA monies, which belong to our members, to ensure that investments are properly managed. I take this responsibility very serious and will continue to be heavily involved in overseeing this organizational function.
One of my continuing priorities will be to expand the scope of membership eligibility. While the proposed bylaw amendment relating to this priority did not receive approval from the membership this year, I will continue to include it in my agenda for as long as necessary for the good of the organization and the regional groups whose memberships are dwindling due to the lack of standards for eligibility in their areas.
We must also continue to look at our membership dues structure. We must look not only at what would benefit BVA National Headquarters but also the regional groups and how they would benefit from a restructuring.
BVA is changing in many ways. The organization is currently in the process of developing more effective fundraising strategies while at the same time managing costs. This is a serious challenge for all Veterans Service Organizations but one that we must meet head-on. As National President, I am charged with the duty and responsibility to work with the BVA Board of Directors, the BVA National Headquarters, and you to ensure the continued financial stability of the Association. Without a solid financial foundation BVA will not be able to continue providing ongoing vital services such as the Field Service Program and our legislative work headed up by Glenn Minney.
Another priority is to preserve the benefits and services we now have. We must prevent the erosion of the opportunities for which BVA has fought so hard over the years. We must also continue to advocate for benefits and services that are important to our blinded veterans of the future. One of those at the forefront is Beneficiary Travel.
In my role as your President I am serving on a number of national committees. The BVA Legislative Committee monitors what goes on in Washington and makes sure that BVA is “at the table” when decisions are being made that affect our services and benefits. Our Congressional charter makes it possible for us to present testimony before Congress on issues such as the aforementioned Beneficiary Travel, VA Blind Rehabilitation Centers (BRCs), and Section 508 Compliance—just to name a few.
I am a strong supporter and advocate of the regional group concept. Regional groups are BVA’s boots on the ground. The groups also serve as eyes and ears in our communities, providing the national organization with updates regarding the quality of services throughout the country. I again encourage members to contact their District Directors or BVA National Headquarters with their concerns. Regional groups are also the training grounds for future leaders within the national organization. I encourage and challenge all members to get involved!
The BVA website will soon become much more dynamic. The site is to be used to share information beneficial to the membership and the public. I am a firm believer in transparency. The national headquarters will be posting an increasing quantity of information on the site. Examples include minutes of the National Board of Directors meetings and financial information.
The idea and importance of transparency have led me to advocate for an Executive Director Corner in the BVA Bulletin. Such a column will provide opportunities to disseminate and share even more information to the membership.
Mark Cornell, fourth from left, with Cora Stamper, National Vice President Dale Stamper, Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV-2), and Mark’s wife, Chong. Congressman Amodei offered welcoming remarks to national convention attendees on August 18.
This past year I was fortunate enough to travel around the country for the purpose of meeting with regional groups. I was able to learn firsthand which issues most interest our members. There is still a lot of work to be done in learning what some of these interests are and then acting on them.
I will try harder this year to live up to and fulfill my priorities as previously stated. I intend to travel even more. I feel that the National President must be front and center as the national representative of and for BVA. I want your ideas as to how BVA can be more meaningful to both us and the public at large. Please send me those ideas!
With the onset of the autumn season we look forward to the traditionally important dates of October 15 for White Cane Safety Day and November 11 for Veterans Day. I wish our members and all blinded veterans the best of success and enjoyment in their activities on these special days.
Please share your own White Cane Day and Veterans Day experiences with BVA National Headquarters. Then check out www.bva.org for accounts of similar activities of other individuals, regional groups, and VA support groups across the country.