By Michael P. Mauer
Some Mon Valley hospitalized veterans and their spouses will be receiving a little extra help this holiday season thanks to West Mifflin Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid and the VFW Foundation. The veterans’ organization was awarded a $1,000 grant in October to help support its visitation program at Southwestern Veterans Center.
“This was a boost that we definitely needed,” said hospital visitation program organizer VFW Post 914 Surgeon Bernie Zurawski. “We like to do around six to eight visits each year, but we always had to struggle with where the money would be coming from – especially during our annual Christmas party for the veterans. Now we can do what needs to be done to help make these people’s lives a little easier.”
Located approximately six miles from West Mifflin, Southwestern Veterans Center is an assisted living facility run by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. It serves more than 200 area veterans and spouses who are disabled, chronically ill, or in need of specialized care. Patients there have been the focus of VFW Post 914’s hospital visitation program for more than 25 years.
The grant funds will be used to help buy refreshments and snacks for veteran patients and residents, as well as to purchase coupon books, and fund small cash prizes during bingo games. Patients at Southwestern Veterans Center use these windfalls to purchase things such as toiletry items and other sundry articles at the hospital canteen.
The support from the VFW post fills a need. Many of the veterans and other residents at Southwestern Veterans Center are indigent, and what little financial support they have by way of pension or government benefits are utilized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to help fund their care. The bingo games conducted by VFW Post 914 are managed in such a manner as to ensure everyone who participates is a winner, and all will receive some of the small cash prizes.
“Everybody who plays gets a prize,” said Zurawski, who served as a Marine in Beirut, Lebanon. “The bingo games are done to give the veterans there some entertainment, but everybody comes away a winner.
Prior to earning its $1,000 grant, VFW Post 914 funded its hospital visitation program largely through Buddy Poppy donations. The organization has never operated a club or a bar to help raise money for its activities. In the last five years, the West Mifflin veterans’ group has earned the All-American post designation, and twice been named an All-State Post. It is also does not have social members or an auxiliary.
“This grant will permit us to spend less time fund-raising, and more time helping veterans,” said VFW Post 914 Commander Jake Bradich, an Army Iraq War veteran. “We thank the VFW Foundation for helping our post do what we like to do best – honoring the dead by helping the living.”
For more information about VFW Post 914 and its activities, visit the group’s website at: http://traa.weebly.com/vfw-