Meeting opened at 7:05pm

Attendance: Doug Rawlings, Peter Morgan, Seth Berner, Lynn Ellis, Dave Larsen, Dud Hendrick, Richard Clement, Kristina Wolff, Suzanne Hedrick, Eric Herter, Todd Smith, Dan Ellis, Don Kimball, Peggy Akers, Sally Chappell, Tom Whitney, Martha Spiess, Bill Leonard

Inspiration: Don read the Indigenous Peoples Acknowledgement and a short poem about Gaza

Secretary’s Report: January meeting minutes accepted as written

Treasurer’s Report: Balance is $64,705.76, primarily due to a $60,259.48 donation from Peter Shaw and $3,104.56 from MaineShare.

Lynn reported that total income for 2023 was roughly equivalent to the amount that was spent on operating expenses and donations to various groups and individuals.

Bill Leonard gave a brief recounting of his friendship with Peter Shaw which included the moving of VFP National headquarters to St. Louis, their protests against nuclear weapons at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the 25th reunion of VFP in Portland. Asked why Peter gave his gift to the Maine Chapter, he replied that it was primarily due to the respect and admiration he had for Doug Rawlings and the other veterans’ commitment to peace and their work in creating VFP.

Peggy reported that she talked to Peter’s daughter who was happy that her father’s gift went to our chapter. Peggy will write to each of Peter’s children to express our gratitude for his generous gift.

Richard reported that Dave Larsen’s partial term on the Chapter Board of Directors expired at the end of 2026 but that he would still be eligible for another full term. Dave accepted and was unanimously approved to fill the vacancy. Thank you Dave.

Peace Walk: Peter reported that he would not take part in the Walk because of his opposition to its possible connection to the “No to NATO” movement. The Walk is scheduled to end in Washington DC on July 6th which coincides with NATO’s 75th anniversary celebration and the expected No to Nato actions at that time. Peter also indicated that other organizations that he works with, namely Moms Demand Action, Maine Sierra Club, and Sunrise Bowdoin would also not support the Walk if No to NATO were part of  the platform. Doug indicated that Physicians for Social Responsibility as well as Pat Scanlon, who is coordinating the Massachusetts portion of the Walk, would also withdraw their support. Dud has been in contact with Tarak Kauff and said that Tarak was agreeable to removing the No to NATO connection but Peter pointed out that it still appears on the Peacewalk website. Lengthy discussion followed with the sentiment generally being that the confusion surrounding whether or not No to NATO is part of the Walk agenda needs  to be resolved before any further planning is undertaken and also that the Walk is a walk for peace and should not be encumbered with unrelated issues.. Dud emphasized that the logistics involved with food, lodging, transportation, and other related items will require considerable effort and that it is entirely possible that major revisions to the current plan may be necessary. He plans to address these issues at the Sunday meeting of the planning group with Tarak.

Don reported that the $700 Chapter donation has been a great help in his food for the homeless project and he thanked Eric for his assistance in  distributing the food. He also reported that he assisted in securing temporary housing for a homeless veteran but that it  was ultimately unsuccessful because the recipient was not able to handle the situation unsupervised. He also reported that the UU Church in Portland is providing a warming center for unhoused people and that he is contributing food for the center.

Eric reported that there will be a meeting with members of the Maine Congressional delegation at 11am in Sanford to discuss the situation in Gaza and that he plans to attend.

Doug reported that a meeting of officers and board members resulted in a recommendation that $40,000 of the $60,000 gift from Peter Shaw be converted into a Certificate of Deposit and that the remaining $20,000 be kept in a savings account. Lynn said that the Midcoast Federal Credit Union offered a seven month CD at an annual rate of 4.79%.Suggestions for using the $20,000 included aiding the homeless, a food truck for use with Don’s food distribution, and donations to Project Renew, which provides prosthetics for war victims in Vietnam. These options are only possibilities and are not intended to be acted on in the immediate future. Caution was urged to ensure accountability and transparency and to avoid jeopardizing our 501c3 status.

Todd Smith, Navy veteran who now lives in Maine, introduced himself as a new member of VFP National with an intent to also join our chapter, In turn, each meeting participant introduced themselves to Todd with short bios and welcomes to him.

Lynn reported on the new gun safety bills being introduced in the Maine Legislature, specifically one to ban the controversial “bump stocks”. This bill will come before a committee on Tuesday, March 5th at 11:30 and she requests veterans help in testifying before the committee. Other related bills involve mental health, waiting periods, background checks,and a yellow flag law.

Peter suggested that a video of a presentation that Doug made last year at Monument Square as part of a Third Act Maine action be put on the Chapter website. Dan agreed to facilitate this.

Doug reported that the listserv is being updated to be able to handle videos and more complex information and messages.

Peggy inquired about the availability to the public of the movie “What I Want You to Know”. Peter did not think it has been released yet but will attempt to get more information.

Peggy referenced the Palestinian Voices for Justice gathering on Saturday at 10am at Longfellow Square in Portland.

Doug thanked everyone for the flowers, cards, and good wishes for his wife Judy on her recent hospitalization.

Meeting adjourned at 8:40pm. Next meeting on Thursday, March 28th.