VVA chapter 301
P.O. Box 2492
Tuscaloosa, AL 35403
President---- Larry Snyder Larrysnyder350@gmail.com
2nd Vice President-----Percy Mills
Secretary ------Ronald Haskins email@example.com
Treasurer------Tawanna Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
News in Review
BY WILLIAM C. TRIPLETT
When you?ve been doing something for forty years, it can start to seem effortless even when a lot of effort goes into it every time. At least, that?s the impression you get when you talk to Larry Snyder, president of Chapter 301 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, about the chapter?s continuously successful food drive every Christmas.
?Let?s see,? Snyder said, ?it started in 1980 by taking three veterans to lunch.? None of those veterans had a holiday meal waiting for them. The chapter had formed only the year before, and membership at the time numbered only about eight. But the experience of helping out fellow veterans made them want to try to do more.
So the following year they collected and stored canned and dry goods in a member?s garage, chapter member Nicolas Britto said. A few days before Christmas, they distributed ten boxes of food to needy veterans in the area.
Fast forward to last Christmas, when Chapter 301?with about 140 members now?distributed some 300 boxes of food, each weighing approximately 100 pounds, for a total of 30,000 pounds. And, as has been the case for decades now, the chapter did all the (literally) heavy lifting in three days.
Snyder noted that the growth has been incremental over the years, but the chapter has been collecting and donating a lot of food for a while now. ?We did 275 boxes the year before, and 250 the year before that,? he said.
The main beneficiaries are veterans and their families in need, as well as widows of veterans and, as Snyder said, ?widows of any kind.?
?I got started in this when I first became a member, and I went to this older lady?s house and identified myself and told her we had a box of food for her,? he said. ?She told me right then that she didn?t even know what she was going to eat for supper. I went back to my truck, got the box, and brought it into her kitchen. She had cabinet doors open, and all she had was two cans in there. She was so thankful for what we were doing. When I see someone like that, my heart opens.?
The drive itself is still a fairly simple and straightforward process, but it has a lot of moving parts?and all moving voluntarily. Starting every January and continuing through the end of November, Chapter 301 actively solicits cash donations for the drive from the community, working primarily through local churches. ?Our members attend churches and they bring us back donations,? Snyder said.
The chapter also works with a local department store, which allows members to sell charity tickets to shoppers. ?We get five dollars a ticket, and we normally do pretty well with just that,? Snyder said. ?We have a great community where people don?t mind giving.?
It?s all done by word of mouth. No radio or TV ads, not even any Internet-based solicitations. Last year, Chapter 301 raised about $20,000, which went into a checking account until December, when it was time to start ordering food. ?We purchase from several different stores, like Piggly Wiggly, Winn Dixie, and the West Alabama Food Bank,? Snyder said. ?We get everything in cans and dried stuff.? Since the chapter doesn?t have the capability to refrigerate perishables, Snyder said they buy coupons from an area grocer who later exchanges those coupons for either turkeys or hams. One coupon goes into each box.
As the last weekend before Christmas day approaches, the drive kicks into, well, overdrive. All the food is ready for pick-up from the stores on that Thursday. Members and their friends and families go to the stores and load all the goods into their vehicles, and then drive them to the Tuscaloosa South Church of the Nazarene, which provides its activities building free of charge as a staging area.
On Friday, chapter members and community volunteers meet at the church and pack each box. Saturday is distribution day, when recipients come and pick up their boxes. If anyone can?t make it, Snyder said, volunteers, including himself, will deliver the boxes to them.
?Last Christmas, we delivered 35 boxes to one building that housed a lot of veterans,? Snyder said. ?Another building had 15 veterans, another had 10. So, if you?re unable to come, we will bring it to you.?
To identify who qualifies for a food box, Chapter 301 works with area churches and with VA social workers in Tuscaloosa. Some of the social workers help with distribution to ensure the right people are receiving boxes. Snyder said veterans who are recipients do not have much income. The majority of the veterans are younger?those who have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
?A lot of those guys are really hurting,? Snyder said. ?A lot of them are strung out.?
The total population of Tuscaloosa is slightly more than 100,000, according to the latest census. The Tuscaloosa News recently reported that the area is home to about 16,000 veterans. The website of the VA Medical Center in Tuscaloosa states that at least 11 percent?and possibly as much as 20 percent?of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from PTSD, often accompanied by some form of substance abuse.
While it?s not known how many of that 16,000 are Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, they clearly constitute the majority simply because they are the youngest and the ongoing war in Afghanistan continues to produce more of them.
Snyder doesn?t believe the VA has done enough to help those who need it.
?Most Vietnam veterans here are squared away,? he said. ?It?s the younger veterans, the Middle East veterans. They are the worst ones coming to us now. People don?t realize they?re having a tough time. The ones coming back today are having problems, health problems, and the VA isn?t helping them as they should.?
It might be a result of inadequate resources. The Tuscaloosa VAMC only has a 21-bed residential program for substance abuse rehab, with stringent criteria for admission. Whatever the reason, though, the result is a patent need for what Chapter 301 has been doing.
Asked what the hardest part is, Snyder replied: ?There are several hard parts. One is getting the money, another is getting the food to the church, then packing the boxes and then delivering. But we get a lot of young people to help us. So, the community is volunteering as well as giving money. And we make it fun when they all come out. We have fun.?
How much longer can the fun last?
?I don?t know,? Snyder said. ?Maybe until some of our younger vets are no longer with us. I say ?younger,? and I?m one of them and I?m 70 years of age. I guess we?ll do it until we can?t do it any longer.?
Our endeavors in Chapter 301 has included sending personal care packages to the Tuscaloosa VAMC which included 10 items such as socks, toothbrush, tooth paste, comb, deodorant, soap, shampoo, lotion, shaving cream, and razor. These supplies cost our group about $10 per bag. We delivered 70 bags to Mr. Randy Lestourgeon, Coordinator of Volunteer Programs.
Chapter 301 also sent three 70-lb mailings to our troops in Baghdad, which was received with much adieu. We have received three letters for our bundles of LOVE from those on that foreign land. Our chapter also received a certificate stating the first US flag flown over the Baghdad International Airport was flow in ?honor of Vietnam Veterans of America ? Chapter 301, Tuscaloosa, Alabama? included is a copy of the certificate. WOW THINK OF THAT!!
The chapter usually has a pot luck dinner every other month with the chapter providing the meat for the meals. The lovely ladies of the chapter are a great help in providing the dishes, which are most mouth watering. The chapter has had our spring cookout. Ribeye steaks were grilled to the special tastes of those in attendance. There was a large crowd of 85 adults & children. Fun and fellowship was had by all.
Chapter 301 started years ago with an enrollment of 13 and as of now we are proud to announce to the State Council we now have so many more on our roll. NOW THERE!!
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 301 Tuscaloosa Alabama
In December 2003 our chapter took on the task of giving out 90 food baskets with the assistance of the Tuscaloosa Christian School. The children were very motivated to bring canned goods to augment the supplies provided by the Chapter funds. Mrs. Mary Hunter and Ms. McCullom of the Tuscaloosa VAMC helped to supply the names of the needy veterans and widows of veterans. The veteran home in Northport Alabama helped with the deliveries of the baskets. In addition to a ham or turkey, banana boxes were filled with canned goods, dried peas, macaroni & cheese, noodles and other such items. We also supplied flour, sugar, cornmeal, cake, rolls, and bread. Deliveries were made by our fine and dedicated 301 veterans to the area served by the Tuscaloosa HVAC area of coverage and responsibility. There was many a filled tummy that helped to make a Merry Christmas for a lot of good folks.
letter we received
From Arthur R. Lestourgeon, Coordinator of Volunteer Programs, Department of Veteran Affairs Medial Center in Tuscaloosa, AL:
Dear Mr. Yeatman:
We thank Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 301 for its generous donation to our Medical Center. The handmade blankets you provided for our Volunteer Recognition Ceremony were very well received and much appreciated by patients and staff. This most assuredly helped to lift spirits!
Your continued support of our veterans is both appreciated and desired.
Hoping this finds you all well and in good spirits!
Rev. Gilbert Ray Yeatman
December 9, 1932 – August 28, 2022
Ray military career started right after High School. Ray served as a Chief Petty Officer in the Seabees in two tours of duty from 1967 to 1969. The Seabees were construction battalions that were responsible for building the civil and military infrastructures for America during the Vietnam war.
Ray dedicated to the chapter and strong personality for serving Veteran was part of his character. Ray never missing a chance to assist Veterans that was in need. VVA301 Chapter major event of the year “feeding a Veteran for Christmas” starts the year of 1990 when the chapter president wants to take five Veterans family out for Christmas Dinner. Ray suggested that the chapter give out food baskets instead, and This began the begin of Chapter 301 Season for Sharing. The past thirty plus years, over 9,000 Christmas food baskets has been giving out to Veterans and their family for their Christmas meal
A faithful and resolute member of the Vietnam Veterans of American, Tuscaloosa Chapter 301 transition on August 28, 2022. Ray was one of the founders of Vietnam Veterans of America, Tuscaloosa Chapter 301. The chapter meeting took place in the basement of Ray home. During his thirty plus years as a member Ray held various positions, past chapter president’s pass treasurer, pass chaplain, and was the current historian. Ray also led the way when it came to fund raising for the chapter and was one of the chapter strong recruiters.
A Beautiful Life
A beautiful life
that came to an end,
he died as lived,
in our hearts,
a beautiful memory
will always be kept,
of one we loved,
and will never forget.
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