Among the many notable groups existing to help veterans who have served honorably in all the wars in which America has been engaged, two are outstanding in this state and this city.
Singled out by the Philadelphia Public Record to benefit from this year’s special commemorative edition are the organized labor and endorsed Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House and the Pennsylvania Wounded Veterans located in East Berlin, Pa.
Beginning in 1994, members of the US military veterans community in the Philadelphia area had an idea. Inspired by the success and humanitarian mission of the Ronald McDonald House, they proposed a place where vets, currently commuting daily between the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center and their homes across Pennsylvania, could live comfortably and have meals during weekdays, free of charge.
It was a helping hand from veterans to other veterans, a gift to and from family. Representatives from groups across the community spectrum, including the veterans-service organizations, labor unions, government and the private sector, joined forces to buy the building, renovate the structure and purchase the needed materials to make their idea a reality.
After much hard work, the Philadelphia Veterans Comfort House was born. Working with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and veterans-service organizations, PVCH over 15 years helped countless veterans and their families make their time here restful and free of the burden of a daily commute.
However, over time PVCH realized they could do more for veterans and decided to tackle the issue of veteran homelessness. In January 2010, working with VAMC’s social-work staff, PVCH welcomed its first homeless guests and continues to offer that service to veterans seeking to rebuild their lives. With 11 beds, full baths, a modern kitchen, entertainment and recreational rooms, it is well suited to that task.
From its first beginnings in 1994 to today, the PVCH’s mission remains the same: to leave none of its brothers and sisters behind as it works day by day to make their lives more rewarding and less complicated. It is a mission they are proud to accomplish.
Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors, Inc. was founded by late Maj. Gen. Gerald Sajer and his wife Helen in 2006. Mrs. Sajer, who is president of the organization, said, “When our son Frank, then a Lieutenant Colonel, came home from Iraq alive, my husband and I looked at each other at Thanksgiving and said, ‘We need to do something for our wounded soldiers and their families’.”
This Saturday night, Nov.10, PWW is sponsoring a special banquet for soldiers returning from both Iraq and Afghanistan at the Radisson Hotel Ballroom in Camp Hill, Pa. It’s a formal military gala with all expenses paid for its military guests.
Mrs. Sajer, who serves without pay as do the other members of her board, committees and volunteer staffers, notes the PWW mission is “to help restore our wounded to good physical, mental and emotional health.” Her group was awarded a Dole Leadership Prize of $25,000 on Oct. 14 for its efforts caring for injured service members and their families.
She says, “100% of all donations made to us go wounded warriors. We use the money to pay their overdue bills and for emergencies. We also provide them opportunities for relaxation and recreation they could not enjoy on their own, such as trips to Hershey Park for them and their families, sporting and a host of other events.”
Seventy-one soldiers and their families were on the last Hershey Park trip. She quotes her husband, who said, “Those who risk their lives in combat, in the defense of our nation, deserve a place of honor above all others in our society, for their courage has made everything else possible for us.”
Treasurer of the group is Col. Allen Kifer. Secretary is Dan Ocko. Much of her board is made up of retired officers from various branches. Donations can be made to Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors, Inc., 2665 Lake Meade Road, E. Berlin, PA 17136-9655. Calls can be made to 1 (717) 259-7213.