Department of Florida

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2016 Fall Conference a Success

The American Legion, Department of Florida 2016 Fall Conference kicked off November 18th – 20th. The event was held at the Hilton, Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL, where guests were greeted with cookies and a friendly smile upon check-in.

We estimate that more than 500 legionnaires attended this year’s Department Fall Conference, a great turn out and show of support. Thank you to all who were in attendance.

Headquarters was stationed in the hotel’s South Ballroom offering Department Emblem Sales, Membership assistance, Program Information, General Information, Photo Sessions, Project: VetRelief table and new additions of “Legion Online” and Centennial History show case. “Legion Online” featured laptops which guests could utilize to view the Department website, National website and MyLegion, with staff members on hand to offer assistance. The Centennial History show case featured historical relics from our Legion history. Last minute tickets sales for the 2016 Fall Raffle were also sold, along with discounted parking vouchers. Our friendly and dedicated Department staff and volunteers were eager to help Legionnaires with their Legion needs and questions.

During this Conference, Service Officer School trained 57 new Service Officers to serve our communities. Many classes such as Legion Institute, Post Training, Officer Training, Membership Training, etc. were also in high attendance.

General Session was held Saturday and kicked off with Post 286 Color Guard’s Presentation of Colors. We took pause to honor our POW-MIA and five lost Legionnaires this year: Rene Stachelrodt Jr., Past Dept Scholarship Chairman; Ed Miller, Past Southern Area Commander; Cauleen Dolan, Past 9th District Commander; French Shannon, Past 9th District Commander, and Charles Johann, Past 1st District Commander.

During the opening ceremonies, Department Commander, Department Adjutant and several other Department Officers entered sporting kilts and leprechaun attire in good spirit with Commander Joe Magee’s Irish-American heritage. Many laughs were had watching these well-respected men struggle with skirt kilt etiquette. Membership Director, Irene Graham also made a splash with leprechaun attire while assisting Jerry Brandt during the Membership Awards portion of the program.

National Judge Advocate, Phillip Onderdonk, joined us in a short and spirited speech as a special guest speaker. Wendy Jo Bost, Public Service Administrator at the Orange County Library System and Mimi Coenen, Chief Operations Officer at CareerSource of Central Florida also gave a heartfelt address and shared a short video on a joint program they have implemented with our veterans, military personnel and our youth. The Son’s of the American Legion and Auxiliary also stopped by for a quick hello and special guests of their own.

Dennis Boland, NEC, presented this year’s Child Welfare Awards. Bronze Plaques/Emblems for donations ranging from $500 to $749 were awarded to: District 13, Tampa Bay Post 152, Tequesta Post 271, Key West Post, Palmetto Post 309 and Fort Pierce Post 40. Gold Plaques/Emblems for donations exceeding $1,000 were awarded to: Largo Post 119, Spring Hill Post 186, Dunedin Post 275, Belleview Post 284, Lehigh Acres Post 323, Lady Lake Post 347, Tampa Post 5 and the Department of Florida. Eunice Butts and Dianne Boland were each presented with the 1 Diamond CWF Lapel Pin and Dennis R Boland was presented with the 5 Diamond CWF Lapel Pin.  Department of Florida received: the Excellence Award; U.S. Udie Grant Award for most donations by the Florida legion Family in the amount of $86,784.33; Garland Murphy Award for Legion Department contributing the most donations to the CWF. PDC Jim Ramos was awarded a Diamond Lapel Pin.

Department Adjutant Mike McDaniel followed, delivering a brief report on Department business, and sharing an inspirational piece of our history and the importance of The American Legion. Our Candidates then presented a brief speech on why they would best serve our Department. A list of these candidates and their endorsements can be found on our department website:

After a brief break for lunch, the General Session resumed with the drawing of the 2016 Fall Raffle Winners, with the grand prize of $10,000 up for grabs. Those lucky winners are:

  • Grand Prize ($10,000) – Jamie Knapp of New Port Richey, FL
  • 2nd Prize ($5,000) – Robert Wrobel of New Smyrna, FL
  • 3rd Prize ($2,400) – Thomas Blaney of Jupiter, FL
  • 4th Prize ($1,500) – Joseph Wagoner of Fort Pierce, FL
  • 5th Prize ($1,000) – Richard Stewart of Gilford, NH
  • 6th Prize ($1,000) – Howard Weingrow of Palm Beach Gardens, FL
  • 7th Prize ($500) – Rudy Panganiban of Orlando, FL
  • 8th Prize ($500) – Dwayne Enos of Jacksonville, FL
  • 9th Prize ($500) – Stephen Benner of Leesburg, FL
  • 10th Prize ($500) – Florenda Nicoloff of Melbourne, FL

Following reports from our Program and Committee Reports, Department Membership Chairman, Jerry Brandt, presented numerous posts with awards for meeting/exceeding their membership goals. Membership awarded 117 posts for meeting the 55% Goal, 101 whom met 60% Goal, 64 whom met 70% Goal, 10 posts whom met the 100% Goal. Also among Membership Awards were the Pioneer Awards, awarded to Edward Butcherine, Leo Kiffner, Gary Barton, Bobbie Jo Dino, Bob Deutsch and Thomas Listy. A warm welcome to our newest Post 410 in Rochledge, FL.

Membership was an important focus of this General Session as numbers have been on a decline over the last few years, due primarily to an aging demographic. Posts were encouraged to continue recruiting efforts and find new ways to attract members and appeal to the younger demographic. The American Legion is a legacy that we hope to pass from generation to generation, so long as there is an America. Increasing communication efforts among Posts, Department, Officers and Chairman was also an area where improvement was encouraged.

The General Session closed with final remarks from Commander Joe Magee and closing ceremonies.

Saturday’s events closed with the President & Commander’s Banquet that evening.  Sunday concluded the Fall Conference, with a Religious Service that morning and a Department Executive Committee Meeting immediately following.

Overall, the 2016 Fall Conference was a great success. The Conference was well-organized and ran fairly, smoothly, although there were a couple of unforeseen hitches along the way. We sincerely apologize for the last-minute change of class locations to the Palm Building, which caused some confusion. This was due to an error by the hotel, in which they profusely apologized for, and treated our guest with an endless cookie buffet, enjoyed by many in the Headquarter’s Ballroom. This was the final year for Department events at this hotel, unrelated to this instance. Future Fall Conferences will be held at the Renaissance SeaWorld Orlando and Conventions will be held at the Marriot Orlando World Center.

Florida Legion College will be held February 16 – 18, 2017, more information is available on our department website:

We hope that you will also join us June 28th – July 2nd, 2017 for the Department Convention to be held at the Marriot Orlando World Center.