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OPINION: Shnay: Veterans to be treated to dinner this Christmas Eve in Chicago Heights

The SouthtownStar - 12/24/2019

Dec. 24--This day is Christmas Eve, and for those millions who celebrate the occasion it is a time for the gathering of friends and family, the singing of carols, the glitter of lights from trees, the wrapping of gifts, traditional church services and the warmth of homes.

It is also a time to share the warmth of the day with those who have little to sing about and fewer fires to nourish them. At times even our bravest are often forgotten, but for more than 100 veterans in the south suburbs, the day before Christmas will be one filled with care and compassion.

This is due to the work of Barb Dorman of Crete, who decided five years ago that Christmas time was the perfect time to honor our veterans; those who served this country in the military and who risked their lives in order to keep us safe.

Her father was a veteran of the Korean War. She witnessed first-hand both the tangled snarl of red tape for those ex-service personnel and for those whose wounds were inflicted by the unseen enemy of the mind.

In 2015, she began the Adopt-A-Vet program, which puts a volunteer sponsor in touch with a veteran in need, including those moving from a group home to an apartment and those at the Manteno Veterans Home.

The project has grown, from 36 veterans to those who will be feted from 1-4 p.m. this day at the United Auto Workers Hall, 21450 Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago Heights.

More than 300 people, including veterans and their families, sponsors and well-wishers, will attend. Each vet will be treated to a turkey and ham Christmas dinner with local restaurants cooking and catering the meal. Vets can get free haircuts and photographers will be on hand to take photos of each in front of a patriotic background.

There will be a donation room with nonperishable items such as toiletries, towels, bags of food and prizes for each vet. At the close, one person will win a TV set.

The sponsors know the veteran with whom they are matched and agree to spend at least $100, but that number is just a starting figure, says Dorman, the publisher of Southland Voice who co-sponsors the event with the UAW Veterans Committee.

It does not stop with Christmas, she says.

"We do this every other month but we have our biggest turnout this time of the year," she says.

More space needed

And then there is the Park Forest Veterans Closet, which has been such a success it is running out of space.

In a recent story in the Daily Southtown, Dennis Sullivan successfully detailed how the closet supplies the basic necessities -- furnishings and clothing -- free of charge to any armed forces veteran in need. But what else can you expect from a community that calls itself "America's G.I. Town."

Now it seems the closet is running out of room at its location at 351 Founders Way in the downtown area. The site is often difficult to find by visitors and even harder to schlep a large piece of furniture out the back door to a waiting truck, which is often too large to park in back. We've been told the closet needs a bigger, better location; perhaps one with access to a ramp or space for a pickup truck to park.

Here's hoping.

Some words for the new year

The year will end before we meet again in these pages. We can close the book on 2019 and hope that 2020 will be more of a blessing and less of a curse.

We've written these words each year at this time, but it bears repeating now more than ever. We live in difficult times and every so often we need to recall and understand the words of a poem by Eugene Pickett, the former president of the Unitarian Church of America.

Pickett's eight optimistic verses always seem appropriate at the dawn of each year. He begins with homage to the universe and moves from there to a celebration of our world, our lives and our beliefs, concluding with a plea that we live "not by our fears but our hopes, not by our words, but our deeds."

The year 2020 might be a good time to start.

jerryshnay@gmail.com

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