We salute the Jewish War Veterans!

Yesterday I went to the monthly breakfast meeting of the Jewish War Veterans Chwatsky-Farber Post #717 in Oceanside, New York, along with my mother and Charles, her partner and a WWII veteran.

What made the meeting so remarkable was the sheer number of charitable works being undertaken by the members in Post #717. I already knew about their commitment to homeless veterans at Samaritan Village. The Post “adopted” almost 200 former service members, living in various shelters throughout New York and in need of just about every necessity of daily life. Many are dealing with depression and addiction, and find enormous comfort speaking to these elderly veterans who have all “been there, done that.” At the shelters, they’re given not just emotional therapy, but essential tools for re-entering the workforce in order to be able to lead productive, independent lives.

A few months ago Charles mentioned to me that the Post was looking for donated clothes for the homeless veterans. In addition to reaching out to my own network, I organized a a clothing drive in September at my local gym. In November I asked specifically for cold-weather items like coats, boots, gloves, hats and scarves. In the end, including my own donation, the Post collected over 30 large Hefty bags filled with much-needed clothing for the veterans. Post officers Al and Buddy met me to collect the donations. These are two of the kindest, most spirited and funniest guys you’ll ever meet! Al is a snowbird and heading south in a few days, but will be back in time for the May breakfast meeting.

Bert, another Post member and officer – and now its official historian – has a dry cleaning business and makes sure that all of the donated items are cleaned, pressed and folded before they’re brought to the shelters. He explained to me yesterday how important it is to present the donated items in a dignified way; this is critical to the veterans’ sense of worth and well-being.

As I said earlier, this was the Post’s only charitable effort that I was aware of before yesterday’s meeting. They recently gave a generous donation to the Honor Flight Network, which flies WWII veterans from anywhere in the United States to the Washington, DC memorials. They’re setting up a scholarship fund at one of the local high schools. They gave money to wounded warriors. And they’re starting a new drive to give their adopted homeless veterans Metro Cards and other necessities for when they leave the shelter and start looking for work.

I admit that I went to the meeting a little bleary-eyed; I had been up late the previous night and was looking forward to sleeping in a bit. But in the end, I’m glad that I made it. For all the good works the members of Post #717 of the Jewish War Veterans achieve, it was worth losing a little sleep!

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