Written by Thomas Duffy Friday, 25 December 2009 00:00
For more than 50 years, the members of Levittown’s Veterans of Foreign Wars post have been striving to better the lives of American service men and women.
Founded in the early 1950s, the Levittown post is one of thousands that comprise the VFW, the nation’s largest organized veterans group. Members of the VFW are former servicemen and woman who have served in combat overseas and are provided an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of each other’s company.
Levittown Post 9592 is located at 55 Hickory Lane where VFW members can be found gathering for drinks at the bar, watching one of the several widescreen televisions or playing a friendly game of pool or shuffleboard. Members’ friends and family are permitted to join them as guests at the bar.
“They’re a very good organization,” says member Dominick Delia, while enjoying a drink at the bar. Delia is a 94-year-old veteran of the Battle of the Bulge who once met General George S. Patton and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service.
VFW members, in conjunction with their local communities, provide assistance to both current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces. The VFW is a congressionally chartered, nonprofit organization and its work is financed through a combination of charitable donations, government grants, and membership dues.
Recently, the Levittown VFW has undertaken a Military Assistance Program, which focuses on acquiring donated gifts to send overseas to American troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ideal donations consist of such common household items as soap, sun block, deodorant, shaving cream, eye drops, Kleenex, and AA batteries, which are often considered very useful and highly valued by soldiers in the midst of harsh foreign environments. Typically, the Levittown post sends out two or three packages’ worth of such donations per week, each to be shared among a body of troops. Donors are invited to leave their gifts just inside the entrance of the VFW bar, where there is a drop box for small items and a closet to hold larger ones. Monetary donations, which are used to pay for the packaging and shipping of gifts, are also welcome and may be left in a separate drop box also just inside the entrance.
Jim Duffy, who runs the Military Assistance Program, says that smaller products make the most ideal donations, as troops in the field generally have limited space available to them for storing items.
Drawing a comparison, he says, “Think camping.”
However, he is quick to point out, “Everything [that is donated] will be used one way or another,” noting that items that may be impractical in the field can still be sent to soldiers recovering in hospitals.
In its efforts to provide assistance to troops overseas, the Levittown VFW will often join forces with local schools and various community organizations. For example, VFW representatives regularly visit elementary grade classrooms and encourage the students to write letters and seasonal holiday cards that the VFW will then mail to soldiers. Earlier this year, students from Albertson’s Henry Viscardi School collected a total of 50 packages’ worth of donated items and presented them to the Levittown VFW to be sent to the troops. In addition, when the local Girl Scout troops make their annual rounds selling cookies, the Levittown VFW takes part by encouraging residents to buy additional boxes specifically for the purpose of donating them to soldiers.
VFW members are also aided in their efforts by Ladies Auxiliary units, which consist of female volunteer workers – often wives, girlfriends, or relatives of VFW members. Levittown’s Ladies Auxiliary assists in the daily operation of the bar and in gathering donations. One Auxiliary member, Mickey Lebrecht, also runs a local dance studio and collects donations from her students.
The Levittown VFW also provides charitable services to veterans in the local community. During holiday seasons, VFW members will often visit elderly and/or hospitalized veterans and provide companionship and entertainment. The VFW also has a full uniform color guard that routinely attends the wakes of deceased veterans and pays tribute to their military service.
In addition to its work on behalf of service men and women, the Levittown VFW also serves the community as a whole. For example, the post sports a large party hall that is available for rentable use to the public. The hall, which can fit as many as 80 guests at a time, is well-suited to hold any form of elaborate celebration like birthday and holiday parties, baby showers as well as organized meetings and band practices, and is offered for rent at affordable prices. Parties can be independently catered, or the renters may choose to retain the services of the post’s own cook, Jack Stein. In addition, the post’s second floor was recently converted into a lounge area, which can likewise serve a variety of functions. For example, the local Girl Scout troops are permitted to use the lounge to hold their meetings at no charge to them.
The Levittown VFW welcomes donations of war memorabilia, which can be found throughout the bar. Helmets, gas masks, decommissioned rifles and grenades, and other antique items dating as far back as World War I are hung along the walls or displayed in glass cases. Also featured on the walls are vintage photographs of wartime activity and bookshelves include albums with photos of VFW members during their tenures in the service. In addition, the walls are lined with the emblem patches of all known U.S. military units. If any unit’s patch is not yet displayed, the VFW will gladly have one sewn up and added to the wall.
VFW members claim that the organization provides as much a benefit to their own selves as it does to others.
“It’s a good organization for a veteran,” says member Anthony Brancaccio. To any veteran out there in search of some camaraderie, he says, “Come on down and we’ll help you out as best as we can.”
For more information on VFW member eligibility requirements, visit the organization’s website at www.vfw.org. For information on making a donation to the Levittown VFW, contact Jim Duffy at 796-8581.