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September/october 2009

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AVVA has completed its fifth National Leadership Conference. We thank the members of local VVA Chapter 454 for their help and hospitality. Special thanks go out to the National Officers and Board of Directors and the VVA staff for allowing us to join them at the Galt House. 
Registered AVVA members participated in three days of seminars and took home great new ideas, a better working knowledge of issues that affect veterans and their families, and a lot of information on how to make AVVA grow and prosper.
It was wonderful to see old friends and to make new friends as we took advantage of the opportunity to celebrate our tenth birthday. Congratulations to Penny Meinhardt for being the winning entry in the Derby Hat Contest at the luncheon and a very special thank you to Heather French for being our guest speaker.  She spoke at the first AVVA Luncheon in Buffalo, New York, when she was Miss America.
This year’s Project Friendship was a great success, and we were able, through many generous donations, to provide Beacon House with more than $1,500, as well as a vanload of personal hygiene items and linens for its halfway house in Louisville. AVVA awarded three Better Chance Scholarships. The recipients are: Thomas Hall of Marietta, Georgia; Lauren Schlosser of Chesterfield, Missouri; and Brenton Roth of Lawton, Oklahoma.
The AVVA Member of the Year is Pamela Bush of Lebanon, Oregon. The AVVA Fellowship Award was given to Suzie Meeks for Project Amigo, a program that helps needy children in Texas.
This year AVVA developed a new award, the Lifetime Achievement Award.  This award will be the highest award that an individual AVVA member can receive. It will be is given for a minimum of a decade of volunteer service to veterans and their families.
This year’s recipients are Kaye Gardner of Walkersville, Maryland; Patsy Varnell of Mannford, Oklahoma; and Nancy Switzer of Rochester, New York. To all of these very deserving scholarship recipients and award recipients I want to say congratulations.
Since the AVVA Board was seated last July, we have worked diligently, expeditiously, and prudently to address many areas, including how we can expand our service to America’s veterans and their families. Taking an area of need that was identified under prior administrations, AVVA submitted an application to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to become recognized as a Veterans Service Organization authorized to operate a Veterans Service Officer Program.
After years of being told that this could not be done, we have finally achieved our dream.
Thanks to the dedicated efforts of many people, including Nancy Switzer, David Houppert, Rick Weidman, and Sharon Hodge, I received a letter dated July 17 from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki informing us that AVVA is recognized as a service organization authorized to write and process service claims for veterans and their families.
We thank VVA for its commitment in mentoring us as we work for the future.




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