Veterans caring for veterans has always been veterans helping their community.
Three years ago, when members of Kirk-Little Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1108 learned that the local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) office in Richmond could no longer operate a food pantry for veterans at its local medical office, they quickly stepped in.
Volunteers at the post on South Eighth Street in Richmond set up a fund to donate $400 worth of food each month to Richmond’s Salvation Army, earmarked for veterans and their families, but also available for anyone in need.
Jerry Maule, a VFW member who serves on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, hoisted the project on his shoulders and became buyer and supplier.
“It’s a community support type project,” said Maule. “We do it for veterans but we know that others can also use it as well.”
Maule and his wife Norma buy with an eye on protein. Last week, Maule learned that jars of peanut butter were on sale at a local supermarket and swooped in to buy a couple of boxes.
“I make that money stretch as far as I can,” he said.
Each month over the last three years, he has brought a pickup load of food to the Salvation Army food pantry.
“It allows us to help. If someone is in need they can come and get food,” Maule said.
Captain Thomas Brockway and his wife Cynthia are pastors and co-administrators at the Salvation Army. Thomas Brockway said the VFW donation has allowed his agency to stretch dollars to meet a need that has continued to grow in the community.
“Donations like this are always very important and are appreciated,” Brockway said. “It helps us with our mission to support families and help them get stabilized so they can live a normal life.”
“When people come to us for help we want to be ready. Donations like this help make that happen,” Brockway said. “We also hope that donations like this will encourage other groups and individuals to step up and help us.”
The Salvation Army, at 707 S. A St. in Richmond, hosts a food pantry from 9 to 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday and offers a hot meal every Friday from 11 to 11:50 a.m. The agency also gives out personal care items from its soap pantry.
A dozen community agencies, including the VA, refer those in need, including veterans, to the Salvation Army.
“The VFW has been very generous and supportive and that, for us, is huge,” Brockway said.
“People need a hand up,” said Steve Brassfield, VFW veterans service officer. “Maybe the electric bill is higher than normal this month or the car has broken down. It’s just simple humanity that all.”
The VFW supports multiple community groups and projects with a heavy emphasis on youth.
“We try to help where we can. That’s what we do,” Brassfield said. “But we are definitely focused on youth.”