|Vietnam Veterans of America|
El Paso, Texas, Robert E. Chisolm Chapter 844 provided a special treat in December for a class of 30 pre-Kindergarten students at Roberts Elementary School. The chapter purchased and donated kids’ bikes (and helmets) and toys and distributed them in a drive-through event in the school’s parking lot. The event “was a great success,” said Chapter President Elias Camacho. “It was amazing to see the little children’s faces upon seeing the colorful wrapped gifts and the brand-new shining bicycles. This great joy and success was only possible by the great generosity of our” chapter members and their families. “We feel so blessed and touched,” said Roberts Elementary teacher Lorena Reyes, who helped distribute the presents wearing an elf costume. The chapter members, she said, also “are facing the many hardships and challenges due to COVID-19, but still they overcame their challenges and somehow were able to get the gifts for our students.”
At their January membership meeting—their first since February of 2020—members of Incarcerated Chapter 1080 at the Raiford, Florida, Union Correctional Institution held a memorial service to honor eight veteran inmates who died during the last year from COVID-19. Chapter President Ed Shook announced that the chapter would dedicate its 2021 community service programs to those veterans.
On January 27 members of Northern Virginia Chapter 227 took advantage of an invitation from a local American Legion post to attend a COVID-19 Zoom presentation sponsored by the post. During the call, Dr. Casey Breslin, a member of the post’s auxiliary, brought members up to date on the latest virus news and explained the best ways to sign up for the vaccine. She explained how to use the online portals for the local Inova Health system and the VA Health Care system. Members of a local VFW post also were invited to join the meeting.
Greater Hartford, Connecticut, Chapter 120 recently donated 34 children’s winter coats to the town of South Windsor’s Human Services Department. The chapter has provided coats to children for many years.
Huntsville, Alabama, Chapter 1067, the largest in the state, hasn’t had an in-person meeting since February 2020. But Chapter President Charlie Miller holds monthly Zoom Board meetings and provides a quarterly update to members to keep them in the loop on the chapter’s plans and initiatives. Not having meetings, Miller said, “was sad because of the pandemic, but it caused a desire to keep our chapter strong and to take care of our members.” The goal for 2021, he said, “is to maintain and watch over the members and continue to provide education and awareness to the community. We want the chapter to stay active in our community and participate in any veteran or patriotic event that we can.” The chapter has posted a montage of images of its last chapter live meeting on YouTube.
In January members of Blair County, Pennsylvania, Chapter 967 began encouraging members of the community to use their government stimulus checks to help local charities, including the St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry in Altoona. “We know there’s always going to be hunger, and during this time it’s so much worse,” said chapter board member Tim Susengill, who has worked with the food bank for the last several years. “Just think about what kind of good you can do with a resource you didn’t expect. You can help somebody else when they really, really need it.”
Bob Bull of Washtenaw County, Michigan, Charles S. Kittles Chapter 310 is spearheading the chapter’s new Suicide Prevention Project. After surveying chapter members about how to tackle the issue, the chapter has decided to concentrate on awareness programs. One planned project is the development of a phone app that, Bull said, “should answer most questions about suicide, including identifying somebody who is contemplating it and where to go for immediate counseling.” The chapter also is working with the Michigan State Legislature to institute a Green Alert program for veterans who have gone missing.
Texarkana, Texas, Chapter 278’s recent community service activities include helping a young Marine veteran of the war in Afghanistan with his rent; donating Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner baskets to a chapter member whose wife was in ill health; taking part in a repatriation ceremony for a World War II sailor who went missing on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor; attending the funeral of a local Navy Vietnam veteran; and helping a local National Guard member with a car payment that enabled him to get to work and to Guard meetings.
Portland, Oregon, Chapter 392 recently published a special COVID-19 edition of its newsletter to keep members informed about how the virus has affected the chapter. In it, Chapter President Steve Carr reminded members that face covers are required statewide in all indoor public spaces, including the local Vet Centers, and that chapter members, because of their age and health conditions, are in the “higher risk category.” The chapter remains “committed to our mission,” Carr said, and he provided contact information for members and any other veterans who need assistance, noting that the chapter “stands ready to help!”
The city of Waterford, South Dakota, recently presented it Acts of Excellence award to Northeast South Dakota Chapter 1054. The chapter was cited for helping veterans in need and for recognizing the sacrifices of first responders and hospital personnel during the pandemic. In 2020 the chapter donated $20,000 to Vets in Need and other organizations that support veterans. In addition, Chapter 1054 awards ROTC scholarships and gives money to the State Veterans Cemetery and the Salvation Army. The chapter also provides color guards and honor guards to nine counties of northeast South Dakota.
Nick Valenti, a member of Auburn, New York, Chapter 704 is coordinating the Purple Heart Hall of Honor project in Cayuga County, which its Legislature last year declared a Purple Heart Community. The Hall of Honor project is working to encourage Purple Heart recipients to enroll in the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor, which is located in New Windsor, New York, and for them and their families to share stories and memorabilia with the Hall of Honor. Its mission is to collect, preserve, and share the stories of Purple Heart recipients. Those who received the Purple Heart can enroll through the Hall of Honor’s website.
Last year, Alapena, Michigan, Chapter 583 received a $2,000 grant from The First Federal of Northern Michigan Legacy Foundation. The chapter used the funds to underwrite its annual Operation Holidays program, which provided food and toys to some 800 struggling local families during Thanksgiving and Christmas last year.
At their January meeting, the members of Brooklyn, New York, Thomas P. Coughlin Chapter 72 voted to donate $1,000 to Adrian Popolo, the widow of recently deceased chapter member Sal Popolo. Also in January the chapter presented a plaque and $200 worth of credit gift cards to Russell Dolecal, a Vietnam veteran who works at the VA Voluntary Service Office at the Brooklyn VAMC. Dolecal is “our go-to guy at VAVS,” Chapter President Danny Friedman said. He “has always been there for veterans in need.” The chapter worked closely with Yvette Cintron, the head of Voluntary Service at the VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System, who arranged to have 72 chapter members receive their first COVID vaccinations on January 16.
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