Blinded Veterans District 5 Happenings

by Paul Kaminsky
Happenings With the Alabama Regional Group:

The Alabama Regional Group (ARG) has gone through some major changes during the past year. We have elected a new slate of officers and established a Regional Group website.

We have started holding our Regional Group meetings via a Toll-Free Telephone Conference call in order to reach out to more blinded veterans throughout the state.

On August 14-18, 2017 we sent a Delegate and Alternate Delegate to the 71st BVA National Convention held in Jacksonville, FL.

On October 12, 2017, the ARG was represented at White Cane day by ARG/Sgt at Arms Jack Ferrante, manning a table at the Birmingham VA Outpatient Clinic. Mr. Ferrante passed out BVA pamphlets, materials and answered questions pertaining to the BVA and Blind Rehabilitation.

On November 10, 2017, the ARG sponsored a Veterans Day dinner for all 15 blinded veterans who were inpatient at the Southeastern Blind Rehabilitation Center (SBRC), Birmingham, Alabama. The dinner was held at the Golden Corral in Center Point, Alabama. My wife Patty assisted blinded veterans with their trays and seating. I met with several blinded veterans and answered questions regarding benefits and ratings. A good time was had by all. The ARG looks forward to increasing membership to our group and keeping with our motto “Blinded Veterans helping Blinded Veterans.”
by President Mike Lewis

This has been a busy and productive year throughout the regional groups within District Four. Blinded Veterans Association members and leaders provided public outreach, celebrated the re-opening of the American Lake Blind Rehabilitation Center, and the grand opening of a new hybrid rehabilitation center in Palo Alto California.

We also had Stand Down events for homeless veterans, camaraderie and farewell for loyal and dedicated members, education and socialization through White Cane Day activities, and participation in Veterans Day parades. We are also taking steps to organizing a west coast blinded veteran hockey team, and provide legislative responses to veteran related bills.

It was my pleasure to meet with multiple regional groups as the elected District Four Director. After the mid-winter Board of Directors meeting on the east coast, I went to the opposite coast and visited the Southern Nevada Regional Group for a planned general meeting. Joe Tasby (President), Richard Meyrick (Vice-President), Mike Evans (1st Vice-President), and Wayne Nelson (Secretary/Treasurer) lead this busy cluster of members, assisted by an amazing Auxiliary. Multiple speakers and an update by their VIST Coordinator made for a lively meeting. Even the evening television news has covered the public outreach conducted by this small but mighty group.

The San Diego Regional Group invited me to their annual elections and spring dinner at the local steak house where I was fortunate to meet with area members and discuss legislative activities and public perception of blinded individuals. William Montgomery (President), Gileen Paschel (Vice-President) and Richard Ladnier (Secretary/Treasurer) welcomed me with open arms and a great opportunity to exchange ideas.

A spontaneous and productive trip to meet with the Orange County California Regional Group resulted in a wonderful barbecue dinner at the home of Second Vice-President Woody Brown. The membership and their families shared plans for continuing outreach at the Long Beach Blind Rehabilitation Center in the office provided for BVA business. The OCCRG meets frequently, with officers rotating as host. Gene Hoobler serves as First Vice-President and Eduard Miranda works steadily to keep everyone organized and on schedule.

The Southern Nevada Regional Group.

The Southern Nevada Regional Group.

The 2017 BVA Convention in Jacksonville, Fla. brought numerous Regional delegates together and provided a wonderful opportunity to share ideas, hear National Officer speeches, and pose for a District Four photo. Our time together was much too short and we agreed that a District Four get-together is needed between National conventions. (I’m working on it.)

Restructuring and remodeling brought about long-needed repairs to the American Lake Blind Rehabilitation Center. This completion of construction provided a perfect opportunity to celebrate with a grand re-opening of the lakeside facility which included a picnic, tours, and reunion of American Lake alumni. Not only is the view amazing at this facility, the staff and instructors are insightful, friendly, and focused on educating and encouraging all blinded veterans. Additionally, the leaders of BVA’s Washington Regional Michelle Tuengel (President) and Caeserine Browne (Treasurer) were truly welcoming.

Spokane Inland Empire was next on my agenda. The temperatures had been in the high eighties the week prior to my visit but, the day of the outdoor picnic/meeting arrived with a high of forty-nine degrees! Yikes! Members arrived, bundled and moving to keep warm, and the meeting was really enjoyed. This group is blessed with active planning and participation by their VIST Coordinator and BROS. so, information is shared and plans for activities are decided on the spot. You’ll find George Davis is serving as President and Ken Harrington as the Vice -President.

The future arrived in Palo Alto, California as the Palo Alto Western Blind Rehabilitation Center announced its opening with a grand celebration. Joe Parker, our BVA president, and I attended the spectacular event. The building will house a hybrid of rehabilitation services. Poly trauma care, blind rehabilitation services, and physical therapy will be integrated for expanded care for veterans. The building, staff, and leaders all shine with promise and possibilities. (The art work will astound you.)

The San Diego Regional Group leadership team.

The San Diego Regional Group leadership team.

Both Southern Nevada Regional Group and Arizona-Central/Northern Regional Group have been active in area “Stand Down” events for homeless veterans. Arizona -Central Northern conducted seven separate White Cane Day education events at various elementary schools and coordinated a “march” of blinded veterans outside the Phoenix VA hospital to spread awareness and to encourage visually impaired veterans to assist each other, facing fears and uncertainty by accepting guidance and assistance from each other. Often, we are much more capable than we believe. Jhennicea Morrow (President) and Gerry Lamberg (Vice-President) work in tandem with Robert E. Lee (Secretary/Treasurer) organizing events, conducting outreach, and multiple activities.

Stephen Butler, President of Oregon/Columbia Regional Group is reinvigorating the regional group and actively organizing a blinded veterans’ hockey team by recruiting from all members of District Four. Interested? This could really be fun!

Southern Arizona Regional Group, led by President Robert Moreno, is busy and planning future events. Southern Arizona members make certain the BVA office in the Southwest Blind Rehabilitation Center is available to assist visiting and local veterans. A combined project with Arizona-Central/Northern Regional group is in the planning stage as a means of addressing and responding to the needs of veterans on Arizona reservations. There is much to do.

Teleconferences have been ongoing with the Southern California Regional Group. Larry Bustetter (President) and James Hogan (Secretary/Treasurer) are focusing on events within this geographically large regional group.

Doug Owsley, President of the Gem State Regional Group leads quarterly meetings which are attended by their local VIST Coordinator. Gem State is another fortunate Regional Group blessed with an active VIST who provides current information. Ken Croft, Treasurer, voted as the delegate at the National Convention and was a pleasure to meet. I look forward to visiting in early 2018.

This outline is incomplete when sharing what is happening within District Four. We also have book clubs, Ironman Competitions, tandem bicycling clubs, blinded women veterans meetings, parades, outreach programs and events, a new swim team, marathons, legislative advocacy, public outreach and educational lectures, and so much MORE! I just get so excited… We can share more, later.

Audio Version Of Getting Acquainted with District 4