Berrien VFW pays it forwardPublished 4:52pm Tuesday, June 12, 2012
One recent Saturday, Berrien Springs VFW Post 4952 built a new deck for Tom Driver with relief funds made selling poppies in May.
Driver was certainly a deserving recipient after earning a fistful of Purple Hearts and other decorations from four Vietnam duty tours.
“We were afraid this war hero was going to go through that old deck with his heavy chair,” said Bill Robison of Berrien Springs, who, like Cliff Nelson of Niles, joined in 1992.
Both men also served in Vietnam, though another of 30 members survived 2 1/2 years in a Korean prisoner of war camp, a paratrooper jumped D-Day during World War II, some served in Iraq and a second woman has applied.
The “dry” post meets at 7 p.m. fourth Mondays at All-Nations Adventist Church on Snow Road.
“I built this thing in my mind at Lowe’s,” Robison said. “We had no leftovers and didn’t have to go back to the store for anything. We had exactly everything we needed” and volunteer labor that included a professional contractor and a volunteer from Hartford.
The 18-by-6-foot deck cost the Veterans of Foreign Wars $365, thanks to a 10 percent, $38 Lowe’s materials discount.
Some donors kicked in $20 for dollar flowers at Apple Valley.
Nelson met Driver at the Berrien County Youth Fair.
A deck is just one example of what this VFW does.
A cookout from noon to 4 p.m. July 7 for 300 at the Battle Creek Veterans Administration hospital will feature grilled hamburgers and brats, sweet corn, potato salad, dessert, soft drinks, karaoke and dancing to 12,000 songs Nelson organized with his laptop Monday at his home on 10th Street.
“We go up there with loaded trucks and come back with hearts full of joy,” Robison said.
Working with JAC Pouch in Dowagiac, Cliff’s wife, Marcelle, makes 150 “carpet bags” filled like stockings at Christmas time with 10 pounds of donated goodies as part of a $3,000 party. People leave pop so she can give cartons to veterans to take back to their rooms rather than pay $1.60 in the canteen.
“They’ve done everything they can do for us,” Marcelle said. “Now it’s time for us to give back and ‘pay it forward.’ People at bingo give me pop. People drop us clothes. Ladies at the Catholic church on Mayflower and Western have cooked awesome desserts for the patients. I try to make a difference every day, even with breast cancer. They are so grateful for whatever we bring.”
“The VFW slogan is ‘we honor the dead by helping the living,” Cliff said, recalling a Buchanan comrade whose children were taken away.
Seventeen years later they reached out, so the VFW first sent him to California to meet grandchildren he didn’t know existed, then obtained a U-Haul truck for his move.