Access to Essential Services, Financial Assistance and Other Resources
By Daniel Meyer
Focused on their mission of improving the lives of those who have proudly served and helped protect our country, the volunteers who work on behalf of WNY Heroes continue to make a difference for military veterans, including service members from Ellicottville.
As the non-for-profit organization continues assisting veterans from across Western New York, WNY Heroes is seeking interested individuals who want to show their appreciation for veteran service members and their families by volunteering their time and talents to help those in need.
“Our short-term goals for WNY Heroes is to remain on the path in which we are now by offering the best possible services we can to our families,” said Chris Kreiger, who serves as the organization’s president and chief executive officer. “Every day is a learning curve for us. We have to be able to adapt to the needs of our veterans as those change daily from family to family. This can only happen if we continue to prove ourselves in our community. People want results with their donation and our office is doing just that.”
Kreiger sees great things in the future for the organization, provided the veterans that they assist display the drive and desire to become contributing members of society.
“Our long-term goal is to be able to support our veterans and their families for a period of six months if needed,” said Kreiger. “But before that happens, they must show or prove themselves to us. What I mean is that in order to gain our financial support, they must show that they are actively seeking a job, keep all of their doctor appointments and attend any counseling that they might be in need of. We are more than happy to support them while they continue working on getting their lives in order. It all goes back to helping them sustain their dignity.”
Founded in 2007 by Kreiger and community activist Dionne Kane, WNY Heroes provides veterans and the widows and children of deceased veterans with access to essential services, financial assistance and other resources that support their lives and, as Kreiger passionately points out, sustain their dignity.
The organization is overseen by an advisory board comprised of various business leaders, community stakeholders and representatives of various philanthropic and civic foundations.
WNY Heroes made an impact locally this summer by being the recipient of funds raised at a summer lawn concert as a memorial to Alan Brown, an Afghanistan War veteran who took his own life earlier this year. Brown was an Ellicottville resident whose family gave their blessing for the fundraising project, which resulted in a sizable donation to WNY Heroes.
“The donation made by the congregation at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in support of Cpl. Brown was very honorable,” recalled Kreiger. “It was a very sad loss and a sad way to receive a donation. Our hearts and prayers always remain with the families during their time of grieving. In Alan’s situation and like so many others, he took his own life trying to live his life now with what war does to a person. We always make it a point to send each family a ‘certificate of memory’ and let them know who has donated in their memory.”
WNY Heroes will host the fifth annual Red, White & Blue Gala on Nov. 14 at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens in Depew. The organization uses the fundraiser to recognize those who have served and the families of those left behind because of the service of a loved one.
Kreiger’s plea to Ellicottville area residents is to keep WNY Heroes in mind before making any future donations to charitable organizations.
“If you’re considering donating to any non-profit, you are better off keeping your money local,” said Kreiger. “People don’t realize that with national organizations, over half of your donation goes to Washington. You are not allowed to say how your donation is used or where it is sent. We do allow them to say how it is used and are the only organization in Western New York that can do what we do at the levels we do it at. Others talk about doing it. We don’t have time to talk about doing it. We just do it.”
For more information about WNY Heroes, including how you can purchase tickets to the 2014 Red, White & Blue Gala, make a donation to the organization or volunteer to serve in some capacity, visit www.wnyheroes.org or call (716) 630-5020.