by Dale Stamper
The BVA 72nd National Convention is now upon us.
Every convention is significant for some reason. For me, personally, this one will mark my last as National President. I still have two additional years of service ahead as the Immediate Past National President, after which I will have served for 12 years, four as Director of District 4 and eight as a National Officer.
I have enjoyed serving BVA in these capacities. Major changes have taken place and, as an organization, we have faced many challenges.
One thing that brought about both change and challenge was the retirement of Executive Director Tom Miller. We knew this was coming but it left a great void. After a diligent search, we selected Al Avina as the new Executive Director. Al has led the organization in new directions, establishing a more effective use of technology starting with an efficient database system.
Secondly, the Board felt it was time to move the BVA National Headquarters from the property we owned on H Street in Northwest Washington, DC. Our offices were housed in a historic building that dated back to the 19th century. A large portion of the annual budget was being spent on maintaining the building with such projects as purchasing new windows, keeping the heating and air conditioning systems working, painting, and plumbing. These mounting costs made it obvious that it was time to make a move. We are currently renting space from the Fleet Reserve Association in a three-story building in Alexandria, Virginia, while searching for a building to purchase.
BVA, like many Veterans Service Organizations, is losing membership steadily because of our aging veteran population. As a result, many regional groups are struggling to find leaders to keep the groups functioning and vital. Therefore, we must evaluate where we are and where we will be in the future.
This era of time has great potential for growth for Veterans Service Organizations such as ours. As a Vietnam War veteran, I am still amazed when someone thanks me for my service. They not only thank me for my military service but, if they know me well, they also thank me for my continuing service to blinded veterans of all time periods and all degrees of visual impairment. This favorable attitude gives me the opportunity to ask for financial support from individuals and corporations that will hopefully fuel some of the growth that our organization so greatly needs.
Left to right at World War II Memorial, full cadre of Dale Stamper friends and fellow participants in Project Gemini DC: Sue Eyles, Monaca Gilmore, Dale himself, Colin Williamson, Tom Zampieri, Steven
Birkin, and Alan Walker. Not pictured: Bryan Corcoran.
We continue to invite and help younger veterans to attend our national conventions. The goal is to help and support them while also providing them with the chance to become involved in the work and service of the Blinded Veterans Association. Many of them have now become active members and serve on the Operation Peer Support Committee, which has developed a new initiative to bring veterans with leadership ability and potential to the national conventions—and to bring them from each of our Director Districts.
Such efforts are already paying off. Monaca Gilmore, a female blinded veteran and an avid Operation Peer Support participant in a number of recent events and activities, is now our National Sergeant-at-Arms. She is passionate about BVA and is a strong advocate. Like many of our other younger veterans, she is not only a future leader but is serving the organization right now.
As I continue to serve on the Board for the next two years, I know we will continue to face new opportunities for growth and development. Wherever the future takes us, I feel confident that we will succeed in the crucial endeavor to locate and produce capable leaders.
Dale Stamper walks with National Sergeant-at-Arms Monaca Gilmore during Project Gemini DC visit to Vietnam Veterans Memorial April 5.