DAV: A Lifeline for Veterans in Need

November 16, 2013 5:04 pm0 commentsViews: 503
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Logo-DAV-DisabledAmericanVeteransOn a recent afternoon, a man in his forties walked into the Levittown headquarters of Disabled American Veterans, Chapter #117, in search of help. “He was a veteran who had served in Afghanistan,” said Angelo DePalma, Commander of #117. “He had a wife and four kids, and they were all homeless.”

The man had been sent to DAV by military affairs caseworkers at Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick’s office. “Any time a veteran in need walks through our doors,” said Cdr. DePalma, “we will do whatever we can to help.”

The members of DAV #117 and its contingent of volunteers were able to find housing for the veteran and his family in nearby Bristol. Rep. Fitzpatrick had previously secured HUD funding to help DAV obtain such housing for homeless veterans, and through it DAV has been able to get several needy veterans off the street and into a second chance at life. If the vet is disabled, the housing provided will meet the standards set by the Americans With Disabilities act. In addition, during the six months that the funding provides, DAV often supplies needed food, clothing, furniture, wheelchairs, transportation and job training, as well as companionship. “If the vet gets a job interview and he needs a suit,” said Cdr. DePalma, “I’ll take him back there and we’ll find one that fits.”

DAV-3By “back there,” Cdr. DePalma (photo left) was referring to the used clothing area on the premises (see photo gallery below). It is part of DAV’s Thrift Store, open six days a week, which its members and volunteers run in order to help fund their efforts on behalf of needy veterans. “100% of the proceeds go help disabled American veterans,” affirmed Cdr. DePalma. The thrift store also offers household goods, children’s toys, furniture and glassware (see photo gallery below) and relies on donations from local residents.

Running the Thrift Store and putting a roof over veterans’ heads are high priorities for the people at DAV #117, but their mission includes more. They also help veterans complete their VA paperwork and claim processing, and maintain a food pantry for hungry veterans. Once a week, a DAV truck goes out with boxes of groceries for the veterans in the area who are actually living on the streets or in the woods. (Cdr. DePalma declined to disclose drop-off locations.)

As the holidays approach, DAV members and volunteers put together gift baskets for struggling veterans and their families. “We want to bring them a little joy at this time of year,” said Cdr. DePalma. “We certainly welcome donations that we can put in these baskets.”

Disabled American Veterans #117  is always in need of help from the surrounding community, in the form of donated goods; food items, canned or boxed (within the expiration date); cash donations; or volunteering. DAV utilizes several volunteers provided by the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program of Bucks County. “The RSVP volunteers are great,” said Cdr. DePalma. “But we could use some younger volunteers too, for picking up and delivering items being donated or sold. Sometimes there’s heavy lifting involved.”

DAV-Fred-1DAV #117’s more than 400 members are themselves disabled veterans and have a special empathy and compassion for those whom fate brings through their doors. Cdr. DePalma, 66 years old, was wounded in Vietnam; Fred Vasapolli, the group’s acting treasurer (photo right), is a 92 year old veteran of World War II who was wounded while serving in North Africa, Italy and Sicily. On a recent visit by a Levittown Leader reporter, both men preferred to talk about how they could help disabled veterans today rather than reminiscing about their own injuries. “I was on the front lines and somebody shot me,” said Mr. Vasapolli with a smile and a shrug. “German fellow. Didn’t catch his name.”

Among the volunteers, some served in the military and many did not; but all feel a debt of gratitude to America’s veterans and welcome an opportunity to repay it. Ed Spell, a non-veteran volunteer from RSVP who helps out regularly at #117, is typical. “My Mother lost her baby brother in WWII,” he said. “The war had just ended. He was on his way home from Europe when he stepped on a land mine and was killed… Veterans and their families sacrifice so much to protect our freedoms that we Americans are forever indebted for their sacrifices.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disabled American Veterans #117 is located at 5915 Bristol-Emilie Road, Levittown PA 19057. They may be contacted at 215-943-7771. Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of every month. New members, both male and female, are always welcome; DAV does not discriminate. The DAV Thrift Store is open Monday through Saturday from 9am-4pm. Donations in good condition are always welcome. Receipts provided upon request.

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