Dayton area residents are familiar with the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church because of the perennially popular Greek Festival it hosts each September. But there is much more to the church community than this annual festival.
“We came together as a church of about 131 members and decided that it was important that we honor and recognize our veterans for the service to our country,” said Nikki Burns, the first vice president of the church’s Ladies Philoptochos Society, which literally means “Friends of the Needy.”
A committee of 25 church members, led by Burns and her second vice president, Cindy Keilholz, began planning in early spring of last year.
“We went out to the VA (Veterans Administration) and found out what needs they have and decided to get the whole church involved,” Keilholz said.
They kicked off the yearlong campaign with a bang by raising $8,000 during their Mother’s Day Luncheon, using those proceeds as seed money.
“We also talked to veterans from our own church about needs,” Burns said. “We have members from World War II all the way to present day.”
The group initially purchased two wheelchair scales and Burns said this donation helped engaged other groups within the church. “Every single ministry or organization in the church ended up doing something for this project,” she said.
All told, more than $20,000 has been raised to support local veterans.
In addition to the scales, the church donated a golf cart to transport disabled veterans to an on-site garden, 15 iPads for the VA Hospice, behavioral health and rehab units, books about post-traumatic stress disorder for the VA Freedom Center, supplies and monetary support to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Fisher House (which supports families while loved ones are hospitalized) and funds to support the Hospice family meal fund.
“Our youth group has hosted Bingo nights at the VA,” Burns said. “And our ladies made desserts (including the much-loved Baklava), our adult women’s group made 30 handmade quilts for the Hospice unit and our senior group held a clothing drive for the veterans.”
Even the youngest members got involved and more than 50 children wrote letters to veterans. “From the oldest member (96 years old) to the youngest who are able to put a crayon to a paper, everyone did something to honor our military,” Burns said.
The American Heroes project, originally scheduled to conclude on Memorial Day weekend, is now slated to continue at least through the end of 2014. “It’s been a great experience and people say they don’t want it to end,” Keilholz said.
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