After the last putt and the last participant drove away June 17 from the San Juan Oaks Golf Club, Bernie Ramirez, post command of VFW 9242, began tallying the proceeds from the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars Golf Tournament.
More than 100 golfers played that day in the charity event, and the grand total from their fees and other contributions came to a little over $18,000.
Now, all Ramirez has to do is figure out how to spend the money.
He wants all of it to go back into the community in the form of projects and scholarships. Last December, the VFW post brought Christmas gifts for the 24 children who live at Chamberlain’s Children Center, at 1850 Cienega Rd. When Ramirez asked what else could the veterans do for the center, Denise Cauthen-Wright, fund development and donor manager, told him that it would nice to have a flagpole.
Ramirez said the post members thought it was a great idea. They bought and installed the flagpole and even held a ceremony. When that was done, the next project, he said, was to repair a large wooden patio deck that the center had not been able to use for activities for a number of years for safety reasons.
After the post’s members voted to finance the project, Ramirez said they approached Home Depot to donate the materials, with the stipulation that the members would provide the labor.
“They denied us, so as members, we decided to just pay for it all ourselves and build it,” he said, adding that, so far, it has cost the post from its golf proceeds a little over $3,000. “We had a consultant, who made sure we were doing everything right and we got the materials from McKinnon’s Lumber. John Barrett (owner of McKinnon’s Lumber) took care of us. He’s always taken care of the veterans.”
Ramirez said that as the project began, “…one of our younger veterans, Dave Lopez, headed it up. He has really come through for us on this project.”
Nine veterans began working on the deck Aug. 15.
“We tore down the old deck and started bringing in the wood,” Ramirez said. “The consultant came in and told us how everything should be done. By Friday, we had all the flooring done and all we have left to do is the stairs and the gutter.”
He commented that the veterans took a break from construction one day to go to Veterans Memorial Park to do even more work.
“It was such a mess, I asked them if they would go with me and start cleaning it up,” he said. “We spent four hours there cleaning it up.”
Ramirez said the veterans did both jobs as a way to give back to the community. He said he is always looking for projects to spend the money from the golf tournament on where the veterans might also be able to contribute some of their time.
“If people could just see the faces of the employees and the children now that they can use the deck to do their little skits and other activities,” he said. “They come by and thank us all the time. They’ve fed us, given us water and taken care of us. They’ve been so appreciative, but the best part is it makes us feel good. A couple days the vets were here working for 10 hours, but it’s been a lot of fun and I’m very proud of our guys.”
Robert Freiri, executive director of Chamberlain's, said he was very appreciative for the veterans’ contribution because the deck had been out of use for many years.
“We couldn’t have the kids out here to do social activities or therapy,” he said. “We asked if they would be interested in renovating the deck. They came out and looked at it and said it needed more than a renovation. They said it needed to be torn down and rebuilt and they jumped right on it.”
Freiri said for the veterans or others to donate their time, as well as money, to the center is crucial to keeping it operational.
“We have a very large and old campus, and we have limited resources,” he said. “If groups are interested in helping us, we’re excited about those kinds of opportunities.”
Donations of time, talent, and money help the center, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, Freiri said.
“For 40 years, we’ve been caring for underprivileged children and for many years now it has been foster youth,” he said. “The kids need a place to be until they can either be permanently fostered or adopted. We have 24 beds (the center is currently full) and we not only give them a great place to be, to sleep and to learn life and social skills, but we also have a therapeutic staff on-site. We want to get them ready for their next stop, which is, hopefully, their last stop, in a permanent family.”
So, what’s the next project for VFW Post 9242?
Ramirez said he wants to have a meeting with the Babe Ruth baseball league organizers to clean up Veterans Memorial Park on Memorial Drive.
“My wife and I walk over there all the time and it’s a disgrace,” he said. “One of our members, again, is going to hold a meeting with the coaches and parents. We want to help, but we don’t want to do it alone. We also want to build a new Babe Ruth sign because the one that’s there is just old and ugly. The veterans will pay for a brand new sign.”
Ramirez took to Facebook to thank the members of VFW Post 9242 who helped with the Chamberlain project, including: Dave Lopez, Ray Lopez, John Maderis, George Nava, Richard Gallagher, Ron Sanchez, Bob Burnham, Gabriel Garcia, Bryan Morse, and Rick Bernard.
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