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USAA Tips: Run an effective meeting

Content provided courtesy of USAA | By Chad Storlie

In the business world, there are things that we might fear more than competitors, an angry customer, or an email outage. The vast majority of business people dread ineffective meetings and, even more, they dread an invitation to yet another ineffective meeting.

Part of being great at your job is learning how to run an effective meeting. Here are five tips to running an effective meeting:

Do We Need This Meeting?

The reason that people do not want to go to meetings is because there already are so many ineffective, unclear, or unsuccessful meetings. Before you even decide to have a meeting, determine what you need to accomplish in your meeting. Are you trying to share information, conduct an analysis, reach a decision, or coordinate a new product launch? All of these are critical decisions that may or may not require a meeting. For the majority, information can be shared via electronic messages. For business challenges that require coordination or a decision, then some type of meeting is required.

Determine What Defines Success.

When you decide why you are having a meeting, then the next step to determine is when you will reach success, how do you define success, and how will you know if you reach success from various sources. For example, if you are coordinating the launch of a new product, you need to know who needs to be there, how often to meet, how long after the launch do you need to meet, the date of the product launch, and what business measures (sales, cost, profit, customer satisfaction, etc.) determine success. Determining the goal or charter of the meeting group is essential so people are clear on the objectives, their tasks, and that the meeting has a clear end date based upon business conditions.

Create a Written Agenda with Results and Assignments.

Each meeting should have an objective. Any information for the meeting and the agenda should be sent out ahead of time, so everyone knows the information, what decision they need to make, and why. There should also be a list of attendees, any updates on the business metrics for the project, and any report outs (as needed) by other team members on previous meeting assignments. There should also be a distinct paragraph of any decisions needed, what the options are, and what the team's decision was. At the end of the meeting, the meeting minutes should be updated and sent to the entire team. Finally, the next meeting location, participants, and date should be decided.

Don’t Forget the Meeting Logistics.

In-person meetings should be in a well-lit, bright, well-ventilated and open room whose location is centrally located for all meeting participants. Meetings are best held on Tuesday or Wednesday, mid- to late-morning, so meeting participants have a chance to prepare and follow up on meeting decisions in the same week. The agenda as well as supporting information should be provided to meeting participants 2-3 days prior to the meeting and everyone should clearly understand the decision(s) that the meeting will make that day. The meeting time should be between 30 to 60 minutes. If you have a meeting scheduled over 90 minutes, then break it into two or more sessions. Meetings that are 3-4 hours long create very little value. Finally, limit the number of participants to only those whose decision is vital and keep the number of meeting attendees below 8 to 10. Drinks are a great way to keep focus, but limit beverages to only the most basic to reduce meeting costs.

Don’t be Afraid to Cancel a Meeting.

Remember, time is every person’s most valuable asset in business today. If you cannot keep the planned objectives for the meeting or if you are missing essential participants or information, then cancel the meeting. Unnecessary meetings destroy time for participants.

Having clear meeting objectives, clear success measures, a meeting time of 30-60 minutes, a written agenda, and a specific list of decisions required in your meeting will make it an effective and rewarding business experience. Keep meetings concise, on track, and focus on completing the business objective.

Veterans Day ham special event Nov. 11

From the October TALARC newsletter:

“It’s time to start preparing for the annual special event on Veterans Day. The national headquarters station K9TAL in Indianapolis, along with K3RUQ, KI0CW, WA3DVO and likely several other TALARC stations around the country, will operate on the 1X1 Special Event Call Sign N9V – November Niner Victor – for our annual national salute to veterans on this special day during our own 100th anniversary of service. We will operate on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, from 1300ET to 1900ET, or from 1800UTC to 0000UTC. And as always, we will have a special event certificate available to all who make contact with one of our stations calling N9V on that day. To get yours, send a self-addressed 9x12 stamped envelope to The American Legion Amateur Radio Club, c/o The American Legion, 700 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, IN 46204. Please include your approximate contact time, frequency and mode. We collect QSL cards as well and will return our own in exchange. Be sure to check the latest information related to the special event by going to K9TAL or N9V on

Help wanted! Josh, KD9DHX, is our man on staff at the Legion, but he will be traveling on assignment to cover stories for the website and magazine on Nov. 11. That leaves our station shorthanded on one of the busiest special events of the year. If you live in central Indiana or are otherwise visiting in the area and would like to lend a hand during our special event operations, we’ll surely appreciate the help. You can contact anytime to indicate availability. Even an hour or two would help.”

American Legion's Child Welfare foundation awards over $811,000 in grants

The American Legion's Child Welfare Foundation has awarded $811,282 in grants to 19 nonprofits. These grants, determined during the annual meeting of the CWF board of directors in Indianapolis on Oct. 13, have been awarded to support youth-serving projects that seek to enhance the lives of children by addressing their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. Since the foundation made its first three grants in 1955, nearly $16 million has been awarded to assist the needs of children.

CWF grants are made possible thanks to donations from members of the American Legion Family and other donors.

The following is a list of the CWF grants awarded for 2020.

Adoption Exchange Association of Linthicum, Md., was awarded $18,947 for its project, “Every Child Deserves a Family.” This grant will provide a website to share useful information with other agencies to facilitate adoptions.

American Legion Auxiliary of Indianapolis was awarded $1,843 for its project, “American Legion Auxiliary Juniors Indivisible Project.” This project will purchase The American Legion's “Indivisible: The Story of Our Flag” bookazine to teach junior members about the American flag.

American Legion Auxiliary of Indianapolis was awarded $120,500 for its project, “American Legion Auxiliary National Youth Programs Scholarships.” This grant will provide academic scholarships in the following areas: Girls Nation, Children of Warriors National Presidents Scholarship, Spirit of Youth Scholarship and Honorary National Junior Scholarship.

Childhood Leukemia Foundation of Brick, N.J., was awarded $29,700 for its project, “Hope Binder.” This project will offer 12 sections of templates and resources to help families begin to feel a degree of control over their circumstances.

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation of Pittsburgh was awarded $30,000 for its project, “Teach for the Starz(l); Online Resources for Child Liver Transplant Patients and their Families.” This project will create an online portal of resources for children and their families who have received a liver transplant.

Cornelia De Lange Syndrome Foundation of Avon, Conn., was awarded $21,258 for its project, “Parent Resources and Handbook for Children with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.” This grant will fund the updating, printing and distribution of their handbook.

CureSearch for Children’s Cancer of Bethesda, Md., was awarded $33,000 for its project, “Supporting American Families Facing a Pediatric Cancer Diagnosis.” This grant will fund the creation of a CancerCare mobile app which will allow parents to track the treatment plans, medications and appointments for their children. It will also provide an Ella Barbie doll to help children better understand hair loss.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of Chicago was awarded $25,000 for its project, “Mental Health Education and Wellness Tools for Children and Youth.” This project will create an online database of tools and resources for children and youth who suffer from mood disorders and promoting this awareness during the national marketing campaign.

Gratitude Initiative of Red Oak, Texas, was awarded $10,500 for its project, “Gratitude Initiative Promotional Materials for US Army IMCOM.” This project will create and produce a webinar to help children of Army families prepare for the transition into college.

Lifeline Pilots of Peoria, Ill., was awarded $25,000 for its project, “No Cost Air Transportation for Medically Fragile Kids." This project will fund air transportation for children who are receiving treatment outside their local area.

Marc Apodace Jr. Childrens Glioma Cancer Foundation of Thornton, Colo., was awarded $8,540 for its project, “Educational IPad Program.” This project will fund IPads and the software for children who have been diagnosed with cancer and lost the ability to communicate with family and their doctors.

National Braille Press of Boston was awarded $19,725 for its project, “ReadBooks!” This grant will fund resource books for parents with visually impaired children to introduce their children to Braille as an effective method of reading and writing and help encourage parents to learn Braille to help their children. It will also provide a Braille book for the visually impaired child.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children of Alexandria, Va., was awarded $12,839 for its project, “Reconnecting with Your Child: Building Relationships after Suspected Sexual Exploitation.” This grant will fund the production and distribution of information on how to reconnect with someone who has suffered sexual exploitation.

National Hemophilia Foundation of New York was awarded $19,200 for its project, “Navigating life with a Rare Bleeding Disorder.” This project will create both a kid friendly and parent guide to help them understand their diagnosis while explaining what comes next.

Patient Airlift Services of Farmingdale, N.Y., was awarded $46,190 for its project, “PALS Outreach for Children’s Health and Welfare.” This grant will fund the printing and distribution of materials to increase awareness of their services to families of children in need of treatment outside their local area, while also recruiting new pilots.

Seedlings Braille Books for Children of Livonia, Mich., was awarded $5,000 for its project, “Braille Books for Blind Children Ages 6 and Older.” This grant will provide Braille books to those children who are visually impaired over the age of 6.

Songs of Love of Forest Hills, N.Y., was awarded $25,000 for its project, “Songs of Love Outreach Project.” This grant will fund the printing and distribution of profile forms and song request forms that will help create personalized songs for seriously ill children up to the age of 21 with no charge to them. This grant will also update and maintain the website, which provides detailed information on how to request a song.

Sportsman Alliance Foundation of Columbus, Ohio, was awarded $20,000 for its project, “Heritage Hunting and Fishing Project.” This grant will expose 5,000 youth to hands on training and real life outdoor experience in hunting and fishing, while teaching them safety and wildlife conservation. This grant will also create online educational videos.

Talk about Curing Autism of Irvine, Calif., was awarded $21,540 for its project, “Autism Journey Guides and Educational Materials.” This grant will print and distributed 4,000 copies of their recently updated “Autism Journey Guide” and educational information to families who have recently been diagnosed with autism.

The American Legion National Headquarters of Indianapolis was awarded $54,500 for its project, “2020 American Legion National Youth Programs Scholarships.” This grant will provide academic scholarships to the following youth programs: Boys Nation, Junior Shooting Sports, Legion Baseball and Eagle Scout of the Year.

The American Legion National Headquarters of Indianapolis was awarded $75,000 for its project, “The American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance Program.” This grant will provide temporary financial assistance to children of veterans in need of shelter, food, utilities and clothing in 2020.

The American Legion National Headquarters of Indianapolis was awarded $188,000 for its project, “The American Legion National Oratorical Contest.” This grant will provide scholarships for youth competing in the 2020 American Legion National Oratorical Contest.

The Ritchie Valens-American Legion connection reported this week that the state’s House of Representatives approved a bill to rename the Pacoima Post Office in honor of rock ‘n’ roll legend Ritchie Valens. But also noted in the article is where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member got his start: American Legion Post 176 in San Fernando, Calif.

According to various online sources, Valens was part of a band, the Silhouettes, that developed a big following in San Fernando and, particularly, the neighborhood of Pacoima. During a packed concert at Post 176 in 1958, the band was taped by a part-time talent scout working for Bob Keene (also known as bob Keane), who owned Keen Records. Upon hearing the tape, Keane became interested in Valens and eventually signed him to Keene’s newly formed Del-Fi Records.

Valens went on to fame for songs such as “Donna” and “La Bamba” before dying tragically in a plane crash in late January 1959 that also took the lives of Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson, better known as "The Big Bopper.”

National commander addresses current and upcoming fundraising efforts

The American Legion’s 100th Anniversary Commemorative Coin series was released on the Legion’s centennial birthday, March 14. However, the sale and production of the coins will cease after Dec. 31.

With “A Foundation for the Future” as his theme, National Commander James “Bill” Oxford reminded members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and other leadership that “preparing for the future should never mean we should forget who we are or where we come from. So let’s not forget what an honor this coin series has been. We should maximize the esteem and recognition that this country has bestowed upon our American Legion in honor of our centennial.”

In Oxford’s opening remarks to the NEC during Fall Meetings at National Headquarters in Indianapolis Oct. 16, he added that the centennial coins make a great fundraiser, a gift for the upcoming holiday season and a conversation-starter to share about the Legion’s four pillars, programs and advocacy efforts.

At the start of the new year, Oxford will shift his fundraising emphasis from the centennial coins to The American Legion Veterans and Children’s Foundation, which has a fundraising goal of $25 million. Auxiliary National President Nicole Clapp made a significant contribution to the foundation by handing a $10,000 donation from the Auxiliary to Oxford following her remarks to the NEC.

“What a great life-changing resource this could be for future generations of veterans and their families,” Oxford said. While $25 million is a lot, a goal of that nature was achieved by Legionnaires in 1924 with a membership of 800,000. They raised $5 million for the Endowment Fund, which Marketing Commission Chairman Mike Rohan of Wisconsin said is $30 million in today’s dollars.

“We can do this. We owe this to our veterans and our children to do this,” Rohan said during his remarks to the NEC. Over the next several months the Marketing Commission will be working with departments on fundraising efforts, including asking department commanders over the next seven years to take this on as his or her project.

“This is historic; you can be part of history helping us raise $25 million for the future of our children and our veterans,” Rohan added. “We can do this.”

Oxford reiterated that it can be done when “we have strength in numbers.”

For the 2019 membership year, 63,000 new members were recruited into The American Legion. Oxford’s goal for 2020 is 100,000. “With your help, we can make it to 100,000 (new members). Let’s make it our goal,” Oxford said. “And thanks to the LEGION Act, our family can get dramatically bigger” as there are an estimated 4.2 million veterans now eligible to join The American Legion.

According to the Oct. 4 American Legion membership report, membership is up by more than 7,000 compared to this time last year. “But it’s still very early and we must continue the momentum throughout the year. We had 3.3 million members in 1946. There is no reason to believe that we can’t someday reach that level again. But we must be visible in the communities.”

Oxford ended his remarks with words he spoke during his acceptance speech following his election as national commander during the 101st National Convention in August.

“We are all stakeholders in our American Legion. We are the future of this organization. We hold the future for this organization. And we and all of our brother and sister Legionnaires are its foundation.

“So let’s count on each other as we build a Foundation for the Future to ensure that The American Legion can have a second century that our founders would be proud of.”

NEC amends Preamble to honor veterans of all wars

With the signing of the LEGION Act – Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act – into law July 30 by President Trump, the U.S. government now acknowledges that the military has been involved in at least 12 additional military conflicts not previously recognized. As a result of this, The American Legion National Executive Committee (NEC) adopted to amend the organization's Preamble to recognize the millions of U.S. military veterans from all of these wars and conflicts that have occurred since World War I and II.

Resolution 1 was adopted by the NEC Oct. 16 during Fall Meetings in Indianapolis, which amends "the Great Wars" to "all wars."

The Preamble to the Constitution of The American Legion now reads:

For God and Country, we associate ourselves together for the following purposes:

To uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America;

To maintain law and order;

To foster and perpetuate a one hundred percent Americanism;

To preserve the memories and incidents of our associations in all wars;

To inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation;

To combat the autocracy of both the classes and the masses;

To make right the master of might;

To promote peace and goodwill on earth;

To safeguard and transmit to posterity the principles of justice, freedom and democracy;

To consecrate and sanctify our comradeship by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.

Maine Post 28's Legion Family steps up following tragedy

In mid-September, tragedy struck the small Maine town of Farmington when a propane explosion killed one firefighter and injured seven other individuals – six of them also fire personnel. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the American Legion Family at Roderick Crosby American Legion Post 28 stepped up to help its community’s firefighters heal.

Farmington Fire Rescue was investigating a gas smell at LEAP, Inc. – a facility that houses and assists individuals with developmental, cognitive and intellectual disabilities – on Sept. 16 when a propane explosion flattened the facility, destroyed and damaged nearby buildings, and killed Fire Capt. Michael Bell.

A community of less than 8,000 residents, the tragedy shook Farmington – and prompted Post 28’s Legion Family to almost immediately deliver assistance.

On Sept. 22, firefighters and their families and other first responders gathered at the Farmington Fire Department for a turkey dinner provided by Post 28’s Legion Family. It was the first of what has become a Sunday tradition for the post and will continue through the end of the year.

“We’re a small town. We’re about 7,800 (residents), but we all know each other,” said three-term Post Commander Matt Smith, who also serves on the Farmington Board of Selectmen. “We knew that they were going to need a lot of food and a lot of help, because we had firefighters from all across the state coming in and volunteering. It just felt like the right thing to do.”

In addition to providing a meal, the post also is providing an opportunity for the firefighters impacted by the tragedy to heal. Smith said he was pulled aside after the first meal and told by a Maine Department of Public Safety crisis crew that they wanted to use the meal as the opportunity to “get the whole firehouse together. A family type setting with comfort food … just help the healing process. The people that help set that up cannot believe how much it helped.”

The reaction from those attending the meals has been one of gratitude, Smith said. “We’ve got kids running around (during the meals),” he said. “It’s just a fun atmosphere to be around for a couple hours a week.”

The American Legion Preamble states one of the missions of organization is “to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation.” That’s why Smith said Post 28’s Legion Family put on the first meal and has continued to do so.

“Whenever we need help or a hand, the community is always there for us,” Smith said. “It’s the least we could do to be there. It’s kind of what we all do. We all serve. We serve in different ways.”

Share your Wreaths Across America plans

For three decades, Americans have gathered in December to "remember our fallen U.S. veterans, honor those who serve, and teach children the value of freedom" through the placing of wreaths on veterans’ graves.

This year, Dec. 14 will mark the 28th National Wreaths Across America Day. More than 1 million remembrance wreaths will be laid on the graves of America's fallen veterans throughout the country and overseas as part of National Wreaths Across America Day.

American Legion Family members have shown to be big supporters of Wreaths Across America. In 2018, an effort by Department of Wisconsin Legion Family members resulted in 7,274 wreaths being placed at the Wisconsin Veterans Memorial Cemetery in King – one for every gravesite. And across the nation, other Legion Family members stepped up to support the program.

American Legion posts and Legion Family members participating in this annual program are encouraged to email in advance to share your plans for potential coverage in American Legion media. Posts can share their wreath-laying stories on the Legion's web page

For more information about Wreaths Across America, click here. For all social media postings, use the hashtag #WAA2019.

$247,500 awarded to American Legion Boys, Girls State participants

More than 4,660 rising high school seniors who participated in a 2019 American Legion Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State program applied for the Samsung American Legion Scholarship to receive up to $10,000 for higher education. The 98 scholarship recipients were selected by The American Legion's Committee on Youth Education Oct. 14 during the Legion's Fall Meetings in Indianapolis.

The Samsung American Legion Scholarship awarded 10 national scholars with $10,000, 10 runners-up with $5,000, and 78 department finalists each will receive $1,250 for undergraduate study.

The 10 national scholars are: Sadie DeShon and Mason Whitaker of Arizona; Cambri Driskell and Chandler Quaile of Georgia; Ethan Roos of Indiana; Andrew Kirdahy of Massachusetts; Caitlin Murphy of Nebraska; Vada Kirsch of New York; Henry Heiberger of South Dakota; and Nathan Wolf of Wisconsin.

The 10 runners-up are: Brendan Chapko of California; Jacob James of Iowa; Ethan Sage of Idaho; William Bradley of Maine; Emma Hughes of Massachusetts; Samuel Fullbright of Montana; Grant DeBruin of Ohio; Michael Brown of Tennessee; and Maximilian Safranek of Texas.

The recipients earned the award based on several criteria, including participation in American Legion Boys State or Auxiliary Girls State and being a direct descendant of a wartime veteran eligible for American Legion membership. To see membership eligibility following the signing of the LEGION Act into law, click here. There were 156 applicants who earned an extra bonus point for being a member of or related to someone in the American Legion Family.

The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is available for high school juniors who participate in the current session of Boys State or Girls State and are direct descendants (or legally adopted children) of wartime veterans eligible for American Legion membership. The Samsung scholarship supports undergraduate studies (e.g., room and board, tuition and books), and each applicant is selected according to his or her involvement in school and community activities, academic record and financial need.

For more information about the scholarship, visit


American Legion national commander remembers Rep. Cummings

The head of the nation’s largest veterans service organization extended condolences over today’s passing of Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of this distinguished leader in Congress,” said American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford. “He was a lifelong passionate champion of civil rights. He strived every day to make his country a better place, and his voice will continue to resonate in congressional halls for decades to come. He will be missed by many.”

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