|Vietnam Veterans of America|
|Directors’ Reports, September/October 2020|
Hoping this report finds everyone free of the virus and doing well.
Despite the lockdowns, we have been busy in Region 1. On July 11 I convened the 2020 Region 1 Conference, which Massachusetts SC President Gumersindo Gomez hosted at his headquarters. It was rather well attended with only Maine unable to attend. Thanks to all who participated. My main goal was to get feedback from our members prior to the July 16 National BOD virtual meeting.
The Board meeting was an interesting experiment, with most of us on camera on our computers for the first time. President John Rowan hosted and there was a lot of Q&A. Many topics were covered. One of the big questions my members wanted answered involved $1.6 million that was rumored to have been spent without Board approval. The truth is that the sum was the difference between projected revenue and the projected deficit at the end of the year—basically an accounting process only on paper. No money was misspent.
The next big topic was what is being called “VVA 2.” That is, “Veterans Voices of America,” a start-up group that possibly could become the future of VVA if it were proposed and approved at next Convention. At this point, however, it is only a name that was reserved for what might develop in the future. It was trademarked at the urging of the Household Goods people with an eye on the future as we all realize we are aging. We needed to begin planning to maintain our main source of funding. Basically we are test marketing the name and no expense was incurred to VVA to reserve this trademark.
I think it is a perfect name that could entice younger veterans to join us, if that is the road we go down. I have received a lot of positive feedback from my brothers and sisters at the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, who are mostly veterans from our most recent wars. This takes on a new importance considering that a survey by National indicated 20 percent of VVA chapters in the country believe they will have to close soon.
The pandemic has hit VVA extremely hard financially as the Household Goods program, our main source of revenue, has been shut down. The retail outlets closed, so no money came in. This has necessitated a large reduction of force at National, resulting in the release of about a dozen employees. These were dedicated people who have been with VVA for years and it was a sad event.
At the Board meeting I asked if The VVA Veteran would return in hard copy. Unfortunately, the answer currently is no. It is too expensive, but it depends on how the Household Goods program rebounds.
Melvin Murrel, president of New Hampshire Chapter 992, sent me a copy of their always-informative magazine. It was chock full of great color photos, some of their 2019 Toys for Tots banquet, and it appears the large crowd had a ball. They are a super-active chapter and do great work in the community. I wish other chapters would send me their news.
President Rowan told all the directors to get the word out to membership: We need your email addresses. Lack of communication since the virus shut us down has led to a lot of false rumors. As former military we know what rumors can do, especially false ones. Please send your email address to me or National ASAP.
Everyone stay safe, please.
BY TED WILKINSON
What is this pandemic? It is just another hurdle for the members and another challenge for the chapters of Region 2.
Our chapters and state councils have met the challenge in many ways. In the last six months we have gained 109 new members in the Region; have held meetings and elections in parking lots and via Zoom; and I have attended the National Board meeting via RingCentral.
Chapter food pantries have been very busy; chapters have had barbeques, golf outings; and drive-thru hot dog sales.
I have stayed in contact with all four states by telephone.
VVA sent the chapters a Coronavirus Impact Survey a few months ago, and we received replies from 20 chapters in Region 2.
Question 1: How is your chapter functioning with social distance and stay-at-home requirements?
Half the chapters had no meetings in person or virtual ones, and had no plans to resume meetings. In a recent follow-up, everyone I contacted told me they are meeting with minor changes or just starting to resume.
Question 2: With coronavirus restrictions on members, what is the chapter expecting for future member participation?
Sixty percent anticipated some short-term changes and expected members would once again participate as they had before. Forty percent are struggling to get members to participate, but believe they will slowly return to previous activity levels. In a recent follow-up, everyone said there is a little improvement, but they are hoping for more.
Question 3: How have the impacts of the coronavirus affected chapter financial stability?
Half said there were no significant changes and future funding sources appeared stable; 25 percent reported short-term money challenges but expect to improve in time; 25 percent are struggling to overcome the challenges of raising money and believe finances will slowly improve. In my follow-up, I found that nothing has changed.
Question 4: Do you believe that changes in our lifestyles because of the coronavirus have created a long-term threat to your chapter’s ability to remain active in your community and to be fiscally stable?
Thirty percent said that there were few impacts from the coronavirus and VVA’s financial reverses. Fifty percent said that their chapters are struggling to recover, but we will overcome the challenges and remain viable. Twenty percent said they believed their chapters will have a very difficult time getting members to participate in activities and regaining the financial capability to remain active. In a follow-up, most believed that some members will be affected in some way.
It would be wrong to write about Region 3 without first thanking Sara McVicker for the many rewarding years she has spent in leadership and on committees in VVA. Her retirement is well earned, and she will truly be missed.
Several of the Region 3 states have found alternate ways to meet and conduct business during the pandemic. State council and chapter meetings with only the officers are a strong way to continue communicating. This information is then relayed to chapter presidents by email or snail mail. Fundraisers critical to chapter survival have been dealt setbacks, but a strong resurgence is expected.
Much going on at VVA National; our seven states are fully aware and stand ready to help. In looking at the professional knowledge inside Region 3, questions receive a wealth of answers. This makes the Regional Director feel at ease and comfortable.
Region 3 looks forward to seeing everyone soon.
Continue to stay safe.
It looks as if we will be fighting COVID-19 longer than we had hoped. It would be nice if it would just disappear and we could get back to life as usual.
With the virus still in full swing, many chapters in Region 4 have not had meetings, causing delays in elections and fundraising. Normal operations have been canceled. As the old saying goes: “We don’t know what we have until we lose it.”
The Georgia and Puerto Rico State Councils are the only ones in Region 4 that have elected officers. Florida is planning a meeting in October to elect officers and transact business that needs to be taken care of. Alabama and Mississippi have not been able to have meetings. Each state and chapter has different requirements. The main thing is to stay safe.
National, too, has had to make some difficult decisions. With luck, we can get the virus under control, get the November U.S. elections over, and everything can get somewhat back to normal. But until that time, follow the CDC guidelines and stay safe.
Even in this crisis, we need to “pray for a good harvest, but keep on hoeing.”
BY JOHN H. RILING III
Membership and Finance Reports are being submitted to National; most of the chapters have completed them. I receive confirmation on these reports from National after they have been accepted. It has been difficult to hold meetings with each state having COVID-19 restrictions on meetings.
At least half of Michigan’s chapters are on a two-year election cycle. The Michigan State Council will hold its elections and meeting on September 27 in Holly—if the weather holds or if restrictions are changed so that we can meet indoors. Ohio and Illinois have submitted their reports.
My hope is that you and your loved ones are safe. It seems a lifetime since the January Board meeting in Silver Spring. It has been a very trying time for me because of the virus and what VVA National is going through.
If we all work together, we can get through this and come out better. Very few chapter and state meetings are being held. The Election Reports are due into National by October 31. No chapters will be suspended, due to COVID-19. When completing your report, remember to note if your elections are for one- or two-year terms.
We had a Board of Directors meeting July 18 using RingCentral. The meeting cleared up a lot of misinformation. It was recorded and is available at www.vva.org
IN THE REGION
Between the pandemic and budget restraints, I haven’t attended any state council meetings this year. All my contact with National, state presidents, the National Finance Committee, and the Board of Directors meetings have been by teleconference and email. Some of the highlights are: budget cuts, National Office personnel reduction, and cancellation of the October and January Board meetings in Silver Spring. Instead, the BOD will hold meetings on RingCentral every two months.
I will be working on arranging a teleconference with the Region 6 state council presidents in the near future. President Rowan asked state council presidents to contact their chapters for members’ email addresses so that they can be informed when the online Veteran is uploaded.
Everyone be safe. Take care of yourselves and others. Thanks for all you do for VVA and veterans.
Welcome to the new reality. It has been approximately eight months since we started dealing with this invisible enemy that threatens our everyday existence. Now it even threatens the survival of Vietnam Veterans of America. A lot of our chapters and state councils in Region 7 have not held elections or annual meetings as mandated by VVA’s Constitution. The National Board of Directors and Officers decided not to take any actions against chapters and state councils not in compliance with the Constitution, at least until the October Board meeting when we will discuss how to approach this matter in a way that will accommodate our members.
In the meantime, the health of our membership is the major concern. I advise all chapter and state council officers to do what is in the best interest of their members. The officers of Region 7 need to keep in contact with our membership and try to keep some sort of cohesion. Otherwise, we may lose a lot of chapters in Region 7. Many VVA members depend on their local chapters for their emotional well-being. If they were to lose the support of their chapters and friends, the resulting void would be horrific and tragic. It is the duty and responsibility of every one of us to see that this doesn’t happen.
There have been no state council elections in Region 7, nor have there been any state council meetings. There is no money in my budget from National for travel, but I will try to attend state council meetings on my own dime—health permitting and with my doctor’s approval.
The National Board of Directors will not meet in Silver Spring for its October and January Board meetings. All meetings and Board business will be conducted remotely until further notice.
We had a reorganization at the National office and a dozen people were let go. I would like to thank all of them for their service to our organization.
BY FRANCISCO F. IVARRA
The Coronavirus pandemic continues to challenge our resolve, but we will prevail and come out the better for it. We continue to help our fellow veterans and their families with limited resources and within strict guidelines. It has been difficult scheduling and holding state council meetings, but there have been some changes in Region 8 state leadership.
Alaska State Council: President Craig Wade has been reelected. Congratulations to him and all the other elected officers. Although limited by the pandemic, Alaska continues to provide outreach and VSO services to veterans.
Idaho State Council: I thank Bob Seal for the outstanding work he did while serving as President of the Idaho State Council. He never wavered in providing professional leadership and constantly keeping everyone informed about VVA state and national concerns. We welcome the new SC President, Vern Peterson from Idaho Falls, and all of the elected officers.
Oregon State Council: The council conducted a Zoom meeting in July. President Jim Fleming and the current slate of officers will remain in place. We were all impressed with the outcome of the Zoom meeting and I thank Jaycee Newman for making this possible. The POW/MIA Memorial Highway project headed by Dick Tobiason will have its dedication ceremonies on September 18, coinciding with National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Go to: http://www.vvaveteran.org/40-4/40-4_oregonveteranshighways.html
Montana State Council: There has been a change in leadership. The newly elected President is Chuck Renevier. Congratulations to him and all the other elected officers. We thank Beverly Stewart for all the fine work she has done.
Washington State Council: The state and chapter leadership remains the same. We have had to make some adjustments, but our VSO program is still very effective in serving veterans and their families.
We thank Odis Warren, Washington SC Treasurer, for providing our VSOs and veterans masks and hand sanitizer. Our largest and most successful annual event, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans,” organized and coordinated by SC Vice President Ande Mitchell, was a success. Mitchell received the VVA WASC Veteran of the Year Award for his leadership and commitment to veterans.
I am extremely proud of our region, state, and chapter leaders for their commendable work in keeping our commitment to serve our fellow veterans, even when confronted with these difficult and challenging times.
BY DICK SOUTHERN
Region 9, just like most of the United States, is still under a stay-in-place order as this Great Interruption continues. For many months we have dealt with face masks and social distancing. It has been a challenge to hold chapter and state council meetings, as well as state council conventions. Postponing meetings has become the norm. Some committees have held digital meetings, but being digital is no substitute for live meetings.
As long as masking and social distancing is observed and health department guidelines are followed, we may see an end to this interruption. But it appears that we still have a ways to go before we will be able to get past this pandemic. We find ourselves keeping track of everything by email and telephone. So far, I think we have been up to the task.
Chapter elections were to be held in April, but that didn’t happen because of all of the restrictions on group meetings. You need to have a meeting to conduct an election. Current chapter-elected officers will hold their positions until elections can be held at a meeting. The VVA Election Report should be filled out and sent to VVA and to your state council in October with the list of new or current officers and board members.
Since the fiscal year has ended, it is time for state councils and chapters to fill out the annual Financial Report and send it to VVA National and to your state council well before the October due date. No meeting is needed to have the treasurer fill out the Finance Report.
Budget restrictions have stopped all VVA official travel for the foreseeable future, but I hope to be able to resume visits to the state councils and chapters of Region 9 to answer questions and give advice on subjects that are of concern to members.
I urge you all to stay safe and well and to check on your buddies. In the meantime, I am available at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone.
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