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The Bedford Veterans Committee formed last summer
Bedford Now - 1/25/2018
The Bedford Veterans Committee formed last summer, with the goal of helping connect township veterans to services and programs to help make civilian life a bit easier.
But it quickly gained support with ideas and volunteers, and now the non-profit group even has its own home: the former Temperance post office building at 760 W. Temperance Road in downtown Temperance.
Bedford resident and veteran Tim FitzGerald is the leader in this effort; there are four other people on the board. The township is providing assistance through the efforts of Deputy Supervisor Al Prieur. Many other volunteers and sponsors are involved. The Department of Veterans Affairs also has supported the idea, and the organization is following the requirements set for a veterans charity.
“We’re here by Bedford, for Bedford veterans,” FitzGerald said.
At last count, the organization had identified 317 veterans living in Bedford Township but believe there are many more given the strong military service tradition among area residents.
The original plans called for the committee to meet monthly to work on projects such as sendoff and welcome home events, information about colleges and job training programs, spousal support, connecting high school students who are considering military service with veterans and other projects. They started a T-shirt sale during the summer that will be an ongoing fundraiser. A Rock-N-Bowl held in November at Forest View Lanes also was a resounding success.
In the meantime, the township board started a tradition of its own: once a month, veterans are invited to a pinning ceremony at the start of a township board meeting.
“This township is so awesome,” FitzGerald said.
FitzGerald said he thought it might be 10 years before the group had a building of its own. This opportunity came up through a lease to own option with the current property owner. So while they are paying rent, the cost is low.
One of the goals of the Veterans Center is to create a family-friendly, alcohol-free community center for veterans, spouses and children. FitzGerald said it will be “USO-style” in personality.
But it also is a place where veterans and their families can learn about resources to help with whatever needs might exist. They’ve already run a grocery distribution where 36 families received food boxes. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Veteran Service Officers from Monroe County will be scheduled for appointment times. A “handyman” tool trailer is being set up to help with quick household chores. Another idea was bringing in a real estate agent who can explain the logistics of a VA home loan.
There also will be opportunities for veterans to meet with students who are considering military service, to help them decide what role they might pursue and how to look for the jobs they want.
And as they have more hours when the center is staffed, the public will be welcome to stop by to volunteer, make a donation, or purchase one of the T-shirts. All donations are tax deductible. The board members are all volunteer, the money raised goes to expenses such as the rent and various projects.
It doesn’t matter which branch or era someone’s military service might be; FitzGerald said about people of different backgrounds working together. “Once you’re a veteran, you’re a veteran,” he explained. “We’re still brothers and sisters.”
For now, this effort is aimed at Bedford Township residents, but in the long run they may help where they can with referrals for veterans who live nearby. “You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said.
One of the reasons of starting small and staying that way is to provide help as soon as possible when a question or concern arises. FitzGerald said the verification process the group has set up for assistance requests is handled quickly.
And before too many services are launched, the first step is renovations at the building. The wish list they have assembled include flooring, commercial furniture and storage shelves. While just a little bit of work will get the doors open, the 2018 fundraising goal is $50,000 to cover expected expenses.
An open house will be announced for a later date.
For more information, go to bedfordtwpvets.com.