VFW organizing fund-raiser to continue operations during pandemic
For three-quarters of a century, the Darien Veterans of Foreign Wars has been a fixture in town. Due to the pandemic, they’re now struggling and have started a fund-raiser to help stay open.
They’re selling personalized bricks, which can be sent to the Darien VFW and mounted outside on the property.
For a minimum donation of $75, each brick can be personalized with graphics, colors, and names or messages. The Darien VFW gets 65 percent of the profit from each brick sold. To date, they’ve already raised $2,300 on the sale of 31 bricks.
Reason for fund-raiser
When COVID-19 hit, the Darien VFW had to close for three months. Although they’re now able to open again, due to the pandemic, many of the volunteers have reservations about working inside.
“The immediate need for the fund-raiser is to make sure that we can continue to function,” said Scott Vanderheyden, quartermaster and past commander of the VFW, as well as house committee chairman.
He’s also a veteran, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1987 and 1991 as a Lance Corporal, stationed in Iraq.“We need some help for us to pay insurance, pay the utilities, pay the things that we need to keep the building open.”
The VFW also hopes to be able to help everyone who comes to them.
Vanderheyden said he gets about 20 calls a week from random people, saying “anything from ‘I need a flag to put on my grandfather’s grave,’ to ‘I need help with a disability claim.’”
During the pandemic, some ways the VFW has helped the greater community include letting a yoga instructor and barber use the VFW’s outdoor space to maintain their business, at no charge.
Recently, the VFW helped pay for a funeral of a Darien resident whose family didn’t have the funds to bury him.
If there are funds left over from the fundraiser, the VFW plans to fund an account to continue to help those in need.
“If someone comes to us and they’re in trouble and they’re a veteran or a family member of one, or even anybody in the community, we can help them — we can help with rent, buy you food, whatever it is,” Vanderheyden said.
About the Darien VFW
Darien VFW Post 6933, at 205 Noroton Ave., is a nonprofit organization and historical landmark that once housed the Chapel for the Soldiers home. It’s operated entirely by volunteers.
It offers a variety of free services to support veterans and their family members — “everything from counseling, assisting with job employment, food assistance, disposal of United States flags,” Vanderheyden said. “We are also charged with educating the youth about our country’s history.”
The VFW serves about 250 to 300 veterans a year. This number includes spouses and children of veterans, as well as anyone else, according to Vanderheyden.
The VFW treats all veterans on a case by case basis.
“When they contact us, we open up a file and tend to their individual needs,” he added.
The VFW is supported by individual donors as well as by a bar and social club that’s located on the premises.
“We welcome everyone to the bar and our grounds, regardless if you served in the military or not,” Vanderheyden said. “In essence, it’s our business like any other bar.”
They currently run the operation through the window. “We can fit about 25 people outdoors, socially distanced,” he said. “Eventually, as the weather breaks, we will have to find some indoor solution.”
With donations, he plans to place a memorial of the bricks on the VFW property. “We hope to put them around the flagpole and the walkway, over where the grove is,” he said.
“The VFW helps anyone that needs help, regardless of where you’re from or who you are. We don’t turn anyone away,” he said.
He added: “We want to make sure we can continue the 75 year tradition of giving back to Connecticut.”