Many areas of need have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, and veterans in need are no exception.
The non-profit Central Susquehanna Valley Veterans Council is hoping to assist veterans in need this holiday season with the myriad of needs that exist, from homelessness, home heating, food and clothing. The council is partnering with Northumberland County Veterans Affairs to raise funds for the Northumberland County Veterans Emergency Fund, which relies solely on donations to assist with veterans in need throughout Northumberland County.
"That's money to cover additional veterans needs, such as putting heat in a veterans home," said Belinda Albright, the retiring director of Veterans Affairs in Northumberland County.
Each winter, much of the funding is used to assist with keeping heat in the homes of veterans in need. No matter the heating source, administrators ensure veterans in need have a supply of heat, and that that source of heat isn't shut off.
"Coal, oil, getting gas tanks filled," said Albright. "I've ordered a skid of wood pellets for a wood stove."
Typically, the fund relies on two annual fundraisers — a poker run at the Sunbury Airport Campground and the Keystone Fish and Game Association Chicken BBQ, Trap Shoot and Raffle, held annually in Irish Valley. Those events were not held due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"It's going to be tight this year," said Albright, who noted the fund is around $10,000 short of where it normally is at this time of year. "That assists between 40 and 80 (veterans) depending on need."
Incoming Director Jeff Wojciechowski noted the fund assists with homelessness, utility costs, eviction, heating and food. The Veterans Affairs office works with landlords and utility companies in order to prevent termination or eviction.
The office also shops for veterans, providing food and other needs to the individual veterans. No money is given directly to the veterans.
"This is something we started a while back," said Albright. "I was getting phone calls from veterans that needed help.
"If a veteran needs groceries, I'll get a check and I'll go do the shopping. Even if a veteran gets food stamps, they need things like tissue paper, towels, trash bags, toothpaste, whatever it may be."
Contrary to what many may think, the Veterans Affairs office receives no state or federal funds.
"Our department is fully supported by the county general fund," said Albright. "We always want to do more, but our resources are so limited. We receive no state or federal support."
The goal is to raise $15,000 to assist veterans this holiday season, and into the winter months that follow. Tax-deductible donations may be made to the Central Susquehanna Valley Veterans Council and mailed to The Standard-Journal, 21 Arch St., Milton, PA 17847. Those needing the EIN number for tax filing purposes can email email@example.com.
"Even $1, it adds up," said Albright. "These veterans, they are on fixed incomes, some are disabled and rely on getting help through our program."
All proceeds will benefit the Northumberland County Veterans Emergency Fund.