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A helping hand for those who served


By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Veterans and other volunteers assembled hygiene kits to help their comrades in need at the Stratton VA Medical Center. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

GREENVILLE — An assembly line of volunteers gathered this weekend to put together hundreds of hygiene kits that will be distributed to veterans at the VA hospital in Albany.

About three dozen local residents were at the American Legion Post in Greenville on Saturday to assemble nearly 300 bags filled with personal care items including razors, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, wet wipes, tissues, shave gel, toothbrush, toothpaste and socks.

The project is the brainchild of Sons of the American Legion member Will VonAtzingen, who applied for and was awarded a $2,000 grant, which paid for all the supplies.

“I wrote a grant from my personal life insurance policy,” VonAtzingen said. “The money was donated by the Independent Order of Foresters. As a member, I am entitled to write up to three $2,000 grants a year for community service and involvement.”

VonAtzingen has written several other grants for similar types of projects at the local schools, and this time around wanted to do something specifically for veterans.

“After becoming a member of the Sons of the American Legion, I got ahold of [First Vice Commander and Past Commander] Don Savino and said I wanted to do this,” VonAtzingen said. “Everyone on the executive board got behind me and we ran with it. It was a quick and easy set-up and we were done with 288 kits in 15 minutes.”

Some three dozen volunteers helped put the kits together. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

The kits were fully assembled on Saturday and were scheduled to be delivered to the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center on Monday. They will be given out to any veterans who need them, whether long-term residents on the hospital’s 9th and 10th floors, or veterans visiting the hospital for medical appointments.

Savino said the hygiene kits will help veterans know they have not been forgotten.

“We have many veterans that get lost in the shuffle due to economic reasons and trauma that they received back in their days of serving our country,” Savino said. “Whenever possible, we try to recognize and acknowledge what they have done for our country.”

Many veterans who go to the VA hospital for medical appointments are homebound and a kit with personal care essentials will be a big help to them, Savino said.

“Many of them may be housebound and unable to get out, so up at the VA every county has a van that transports veterans there for their appointments, and they will be given bags when they leave or when they enter,” Savino added.

Local residents including high school students, auxiliary members and veterans themselves assembled the kits in an efficient assembly line that finished the project in minutes.

“These items are being packaged and going up to the vets’ hospital to be given to veterans,” volunteer and U.S. Army veteran Jack Kelly said. “These are items they can always use.”

Richard Amedure, Republican candidate for the state Senate seat currently held by state Sen. Michelle Hinchey, D-46, was among the volunteers helping out. Amedure, a veteran of both the U.S. Army and Reserves, said helping veterans is vital.

“This is so important for the community — veterans do sacrifice their lives,” Amedure said. “My wife and I were dating and I went to Germany while I was in the service and we managed to keep dating, but we lost two years together. It’s a huge sacrifice, so we need to do everything we can for the veterans to give back to them a little bit.”

American Legion Post Past Commander and current chaplain Jim Goode said the volunteer effort was also an important message for the community’s young people.

“Sometimes the younger generation doesn’t really see it, but this is a way for the American Legion to make sure we as a country don’t forget those who paved the way for our freedom,” Goode said.

Volunteers worked on an assembly line to gather items and assemble the kits, which will be given to any veteran who needs one at Stratton VA Medical Center. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media
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