Meeting of 2/25/16: ‘Veterans’ Benefits’

Screen shot 2015-05-22 at 12.44.07 PMMeeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY
February 25, 2016

Attending (14): Terry Brewer, Debbie Rodriguez, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Bill Dowd, Jim Leyhane, Geoff Brewer, Dick Drumm, Melissa Bill, Dean Calamaras, Doris Calamaras, David Taylor, Ray Hannan, Charlie Foote.

Guests (3): Speakers Harry Candee and Mark Sollohub; Rebecca Raymond.


Speakers Harry Candee (left) and Mark Sollohub
Speakers Harry Candee (left) and Mark Sollohub

Club member David Taylor introduced Harry Candee and Mark Sollohub of the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs.

Harry is the regional supervisor of the veterans benefits advisory department, and Mark heads the Rensselaer County office. Both men are Rensselaer County residents. Each is a veteran of military service — Harry serving 20 years, Mark nearly nine. Mark was a recipient of a Rotary Scholarship when he was a high schooler.

They outlined a variety of benefits programs for U.S. military veterans and their widows or widowers, as well as, in some instances, their school-age children. Harry emphasized that the Division is attempting to more broadly disseminate information to potential recipients and/or their families who might not be fully informed of the possibilities. That lack of information may be especially true in Rensselaer County where the post Mark now holds was vacant for an extended time.

Harry said veterans services can be obtained at no cost by calling 626-5680 to schedule an appointment for information and advocacy. He and Mark also explained the need for proper documentation of service, medical diagnoses, and other papers, and noted the amount of information also available online.

Harry also explained compensation/disability, qualifications for a pension for both veterans and surviving spouses, income restrictions, which medical expenses and assets are considered in developing an individual financial profile for eligibility, and how compensation is calculated. Some of their other topics included availability of burial and funeral expense coverage, dependent indemnity compensation, the New York State Blind Annuity, and Veterans Property Tax Exemptions as allowed by various communities.


Melissa Bill is inducted as a new Rotarian by Board member Jim Leyhane.
Melissa Bill is inducted as a new Rotarian by Board member Jim Leyhane.

INDUCTION — Melissa Bill, who was unable to participate in the recent formal group induction of new members, was inducted tonight by Board Member Jim Leyhane, and welcomed by President Terry Brewer and the rest of the members in attendance. Jim outlined the range of activities in Rotary, and Terry explained some of our hyper-local efforts to Melissa and to our guests. Melissa, who has been attending our meetings and social activities since last summer, is a First Niagara Bank branch manager.

Golfer Robots BoxedINDOOR GOLF EVENT — A reminder that our next indoor simulator golf event will be held on Saturday, March 12, at Burden Lake Country Club, Teams still are needed to fill out the 12-team field. Advance registration with Murray Forth is preferred. Details are available on the flyers that have been distributed several times to all members, and posted on our club website and Facebook page.

HOME COOKING & SOCIALIZING — Just a few seats remain for three member-hosted Saturday dinners in the “Rotary Home Cooking Series” — the February 27 sauerbraten dinner at the Forth residence, the March 19 French dinner at the Bailey residence, and the April 16 wines-and-small-plates dinner at the Dowd residence. … In addition, Roberto Martinez and Jim Leyhane are co-hosting a members’ social evening at Roberto’s residence on Saturday, April 23, to serve as a mixer for veteran and new members of the club, plus spouses and significant others. The price of admission is an hors d’oeuvre. Drinks and desserts will be provided.

RONALD McDONALD HOUSE — Debbie Rodriguez is coordinating our efforts to cook meals for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House complex in Albany while receiving medical care at Albany Medical Center. On Thursday, May 12, rather than holding our usual meeting at Quigley’s, a group of SRC members will be cooking dinner in Albany. On Saturday, April 2, another group will be cooking breakfast. Volunteers should contact Debbie for scheduling. The dinner shift prepping will begin at 3:30 in the afternoon, the breakfast prepping at 7 a.m.

Screen shot 2016-02-12 at 3.37.09 PMEASTER BASKET DRIVE — Bill Dowd reported that support for this annual event, called “Easter Baskets for Cate’s Kids,” organized by the  Circles of Mercy family-aid organization is so strong we will be donating at least 35 baskets, rather than the 20 initially pledged. Columbia High School will provide 17 baskets, the SRC Club 14, and the Greenbush YMCA 4. Dropoff deadline for completed baskets is Friday, March 18, at Circles of Mercy. Donations for the Club baskets may be dropped off at the Y, where they will be kept separate from the Y’s own donated items. Len Leonidas and his Cub Scouts will pick up those Club donations and assemble them for delivery.

THANK-YOU NOTE — The club received a thank-you card from the Felt family of Rensselaer, who we adopted for Christmas. Through the generosity of our members, we were able to supply the family of five (with one more on the way) with an extensive collection of clothing, personal grooming items, toys, learning materials, household goods, and the like.

SHELTER BOXES — With the addition of recent significant donations from some individual members, our SRC Club will be donating $5,000 to cover the purchase of five (5) Shelter Boxes this year. Jack and Nancy Faddegon, the District 7190 Shelter Box coordinators, will present a program to the club in the near future, aimed especially at letting newer members see first-hand what the far-reaching disaster relief project is about.

MENU OPTIONS — Debbie Rodriguez is discussing possible expansion of the menu with John Walsh of Quigley’s. She passed around a request for input from members as to menu choices, and plans to get back to us with pricing and menu possibilities. Terry noted that our price has held steady at $15 for years even though food prices have risen. So, he said, it will be a matter of willingness to increase that price to allow more food options, or hold to it and continue getting whatever $15 will buy.

Screen shot 2016-02-26 at 2.24.15 PM BY-LAWS VOTE — All members have been sent proposed changes in the Club By-Laws in time for a vote to be held at the March 3 meeting. The proposals, recommended for adoption by the Board, would formalize a tiered dues structure for new members, make the monthly breakfast meeting official club sessions for reporting and attendance purposes, and specify the precise number of attendees needed to create a quorum at meetings, rather than continue using a percentage of membership which winds up with less than whole numbers. The proposals also have been posted on the club website.

ROTARY BUSINESS EXPO — The annual “Rotary Business Expo,” sponsored by the Capital Region Club, is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5. It is a business-to-business event with a Rotary twist.

RI DIRECTOR TO VISIT — Rotary International Director Jennifer Jones of Windsor, Ontario, will be the speaker at a Rotary lunch in Schenectady on March 16. Registration link and other details are on the club website.

PROJECT MALAWI — The response to a call for donations of clean, used, unlabeled medicine containers for the African nation of Malawi was overwhelming, according to Doris Calamaras who brought the need to our attention. More than 2 million containers were collected throughout the U.S., more than Malawi needs, so some of the containers will be donated elsewhere.

NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, March 3, at Quigley’s. Noted historian P. Thomas Carroll will deliver a presentation on “The Tiffany Windows of Troy.”


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