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Blast from the Past AVASW Newsletter January 2012

Past President's Perspective

by Judy Arnold, LAPSW, ACSW

Past President 2012

Shawnee, KS

Albert Schweitzer said “I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

Having served as your President for the last two and a half years (and President-Elect for the two and a half years before that), I must say that I felt not only the responsibility, but also the happiness from service. There definitely were challenges and sometimes even frustrations, but, overall, there was an enormous sense of privilege and pleasure.

Your Association continues to serve, both “at the heart” and “as the heart” of VA Social Work in my estimation.

We have educated our constituency about the history and implementation of Hybrid Title 38. We have responded to queries about the legislation, addressed questions about how it's functioned, and forwarded concerns to VACO.

We have dramatically improved communications via our Website, Newsletter, and other social media. Most of us never imagined how many “Contact Us” requests for information we would receive and have answered. And we help not only our membership, but also Veteran clients and families, asking for local connections; Social Workers, hoping for VA employment; students, seeking assistance regarding VA field placements; educational resources, looking for audiences; and the general public, asking for a better understanding of the VA bureaucracy, policies, and practices.

We have sponsored $1,000 donations as “service projects” to several national organizations, most recently to NAMI and to the Fisher House program. Previously, we contributed to the Federal Employee Education and Assistance program to offer post-tornado and hurricane relief. One December, we sent 800 phone cards to DOD-deployed VA employees (not limited to Social Workers), so that our colleagues could touch base with loved ones over the holidays.

We have paid for the Association's representation at major national meetings. One example has been the Social Work Congress, primarily sponsored by NASW and held every five years. Another has been the Social Work Policy Institute's “Investing in the Social Work Workforce” conference, which was conducted in 2011.

We have “honored our own” through our Association's “Hall of Fame” and by funding recognition of the “VA Social Worker of the Year”, when needed.

I may have forgotten items worthy of mention, but this gives you “a flavor” of our commitment to professional advocacy and service.

Finally, this is not “my swan song” as I will continue being involved with our Executive Committee and I intend to occasionally add to our “Life after VA” newsletter column. However, I would be remiss if I didn't thank my fellow officers for the exemplary leadership they have exhibited during my Presidential term. Therefore, thanks to:

Rocco Bagala – Rocco is truly one of a kind. He is always a source of creativity, wit, and support. As much as anyone, he embodies our motto, “VA Social Work – The Human Touch in Health Care”. Thanks to “Bubba” for a job well done as our Member at Large, Leader category.

Galen Britain – We couldn't have found a more dedicated and conscientious Secretary. He was an accurate, thorough, and timely record-keeper and he sent out welcome letters with our Association's lapel pins to all new members. Personally, having done this job for three terms in the past, I well know the work that went into this position and thank him for it.

Paul Burton – I would run out of space, if I covered everything that Paul does for us! You may know him primarily as Treasurer and the attention to detail required of that job speaks for itself. However, there are a multitude of tasks that Paul took on, totally unrelated to his elected office. He was the primary author of the HT38 paper we put out last year. The final piece was the result of many months of investigation and revisions, incorporating all the feedback he received. He answers all “Contact Us” correspondence, which is no small matter. Perhaps most of all, I thank Paul for the many laughs he supplies to our group.

Darlene Contadino – She is so very thoughtful. She brought “fresh eyes” to issues of content and procedures and contributed ideas and articles to our newsletter. Darlene was an excellent Member at Large, Clinician category.

Barbara Fretwell – As if refining our website wasn't a monumental enough task, she took on an array of responsibilities, including conducting membership surveys. On a personal note, she was my “rudder”. Being rooted in quality assurance and customer satisfaction principles, she often gently steered me toward new thought and direction, which were ultimately good for our organization.

Miguel Ortega – He lent knowledge and expertise on a variety of technical issues and oversaw “Hall of Fame” appointments. With my retirement seven months ago and in transition between his two offices, he assumed representation of the Association on the VHA Social Work Leadership Council and the monthly national conference calls for Social Work Chiefs and Executives. Now as full-fledged President, he will remain the super leader that he already is.

Jerry Satterwhite – I honestly don't know where to start with “Big Jer”. I could describe his accomplishments as Congressional Liaison and Merchandise Manager, but Jerry is so much more than his roles. He is a stalwart officer, who steadfastly devotes effort and energy on behalf of the Association and who has done so for years on end. He is the sage, who speaks wisdom and guidance upon which we all depend. Suffice it to say that we think so highly of Jerry that we unanimously named our “Hall of Fame” award after him.

Heidi Tiesing – She just conducted her first set of elections as Nominations Chairperson. I think you'll agree that it was professionally done and that she secured qualified and talented new officers for our Executive Committee.

Natalie Weathers – She volunteered for her job as Newsletter Editor and has time and again produced an extremely polished product. Every edition that she has put together is full of information and resources, presented in such a way that each quarter we can look forward to “a page turner”.

I wish that I was more eloquent, but I tried to capture some of the essence of your Board. May we all move into this new year, promoting our profession with a new passion!

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