The time is upon us for the 2016 VPPA Convention. Jeff Kaiser and all of the convention committee chairmen have been working really hard to put together an amazing convention. Be sure to bring any coconut tops or Hawaiian inspired attire that you can dig up for the Luau party that Erin Clark has put together for you, and make sure you tell all of your friends to come to the trade show, which will be free to the public. Lisa Carter has been working really hard to make sure that we have an awesome trade show again this year! The VPPA conventions, seminars, and our organization itself wouldn't be what they are without our amazing volunteers and members. We still need volunteers to help out on many convention committees, so if you would like to lend a hand, contact Jeff Kaiser and let him know. The VPPA annual convention is one of our biggest VPPA membership benefits, so make sure you don't miss out.
The convention always brings back fond memories for me. It was 9 conventions ago that I happened to see that a state photographic association (VPPA) was having their big annual convention right around the corner from where I lived. I decided to check things out, arrived at the convention on Friday evening, and took a seat in my very first program, which was being taught by our very own Mary Fisk-Taylor and Jamie Hayes. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a shy person, but I was definitely feeling like a fish out of water that night, having walked into this large group of people, knowing no one who was there. I probably didn't try as hard as I could have to meet new people, but I never made any connections that evening from the efforts that I had made, and had intended to attend the trade show and one other program that I thought looked interesting, but I had actually left that evening, deciding that VPPA wasn't for me.
Two days later, when I returned to the convention, I attended another program. This time I had decided to just get what I could from the program, and then do a quick walk-through at the trade show as soon as the program ended. During my browsing at the trade show, I stopped at the VPPA Library booth. That was where I met Polly Frye and Shelba Powell. Anyone who knows those ladies, knows why I fell in love with them and their amazing personalities the moment that I met them. During our conversations, as I looked through the library materials, I kept evading their inquiries about if I thought I might be interested in joining the VPPA. I had no doubt that everyone there was a group full of great people, but I just hadn't felt like I fit in very well. I was afraid of being rude by continuing to change the subject, so I eventually went ahead and told them that I just wasn't sure if the VPPA was right for me.
Those two wonderful women then somehow succeeded in pulling me behind their table, effectively trapping and cornering me in, and then got me to recap the convention up until that point, from my perspective. The three of us talked for forever, and somehow, someway, by the time I left from behind that table (possibly hours later), I had filled out my membership application. Before they allowed me to leave, they also called over and introduced me to Kathy Kupka, who shortly after that, introduced me to Sharon Younce. The three of us then went to lunch together there at the hotel, and between the 4 of those ladies, I felt completely welcome and at ease, and had completely forgotten why I had originally decided against joining in the first place. After lunch, I wandered back into the trade show, where I ended up meeting the man who is now my closest friend and business partner, Jeff Kaiser (how he and I met is another funny story that I'll save for another time).
Pretty much as soon as I joined the VPPA, I jumped right in and volunteered to do anything that I could. Within a couple of years I joined the Tidewater District Board, and then right after that, I was voted onto the VPPA State Board of Directors. I lost both of my grandmothers when I was a teenager, so I always looked at Polly as sort of a surrogate grandmother. Everyone who knew her, loved her greatly, and I was no exception. I adored her. I will always, ALWAYS be grateful that Polly was able to be at last year's convention, where I was the Convention Chairman. If not for Polly and Shelba, I would have never even joined the VPPA. And without Polly's continual support and encouragement, I never would have joined the board and put together and ran a convention. Every time that I took on a new role with VPPA, and with every step that I took, Polly always made it a point to tell me how proud she was of me, and that meant more to me than she probably ever knew. Last year's convention was kind of like a full circle thing for me, and it just wouldn't have been the same without Polly there. Polly mentioned getting a picture of us together during the convention party, so I pulled out my cell phone and did a quick selfie with her. In this picture, she had such a tight grip on my hand, and every time I saw her throughout the entire convention, she kept that grip on my hand. I was afraid that she was feeling sad and lonely, after having lost Lloyd, so my family and I had decided that we were going to venture up to spend time with her during my kids' Spring break from school. Sadly, Polly passed away before my family and I could make that trip, and less than one month after the conclusion of that convention,. The convention where she acted like she was as proud as a person could be of how far I had come, and of everything that I had put back into this association that she loved so dearly for so many years.
My long, drawn-out President's message serves various purposes. First and foremost, I would like to honor the woman who saw me through, from signing me up as a member, to seeing me pull together what I felt was a very successful convention. This is going to be a very difficult convention for so many of us, but Polly will always be in our hearts, and she will always be the Queen Mother of the VPPA.
There are also two other purposes to my message. The first additional purpose is to encourage everyone to volunteer. You get out of an organization what you put into it. Not only are volunteers vital to the health and longevity of an organization, but it is also the best possible way to make new friends and form new bonds. The final purpose of my message is to encourage everyone to keep an eye out for new members and those visiting with us at the conventions, seminars, and monthly district meetings. Yes, some of us are in direct competition with each other, but the relationships that we make throughout our lives, and how we treat others, is how we will be remembered. Just one friendly face can easily make the difference between bringing in a devoted life-long member, or losing them in an instant. Be that person who makes a difference. Be that person who welcomes the new or potential member with open arms, and who makes them feel welcome and wanted. Be that person's Polly.