First Peer to Peer event for veterans in Orleans County will be Oct. 6

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 21 September 2018 at 9:06 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Earl Schmidt, left, director of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, presents a plaque to Frank Berger of Medina for his dedication and work in support of local veterans. At right is Dave Kusmierczak of Medina, president of the Joint Veterans Council.

MEDINA – Earl Schmidt, director of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, announced a first time event for veterans and their families at the Council’s September meeting.

A veterans’ Peer to Peer Support event and picnic will take place Oct. 6 at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. The program is funded from the state grant secured by Schmidt and the Orleans County Mental Health Department.

From noon to 3 p.m., all veterans and their families can enjoy fun, food and music.

The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office will be there doing children’s IDs, and there will be a bounce house for kids, donated by the Niagara Falls Air Force Base.

It has taken a year to receive the funds Schmidt applied for, he said.

The Peer to Peer Support Program was established in honor of a North Carolina veteran, Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer. After returning home from Iraq, Dwyer suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury. He received care from the VA, but had a hard time integrating into civilian life, eventually taking his own life.

The New York State Senate started a program to assist veterans in a non-clinical setting, putting them and their families together, peer-to-peer, and connecting them with community resources.

Orleans County ’s share of the grant to run this program is $52,500. Niagara County received $185,000, along with Erie and Monroe counties.

Schmidt’s wife Catherine, who has a background in running family support for military families, is helping to coordinate the volunteer program in Orleans County .

Reservations are needed for the Peer-to-Peer picnic and may be made by calling 589-3223.

Dave Kusmierczak, right, president of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency, took time out from the September meeting to recognize James Andre for being the longest serving volunteer with the veterans’ van service, which he helped establish.

In other business, Phyllis Schrader, head of the volunteer van service, reported 172 veterans were transported in July and 186 in August. She asked if the Veterans Service Agency could provide a small tire pump for drivers to use, as frequently the tires on their transport vans have low pressure. The Agency voted to purchase one for the office.

In his monthly report, Schmidt said his office met with 677 personnel in July and 575 in August.

He talked about the progress on the National Veterans’ Cemetery which will be established in Pembroke. He said it had been put out to bids, but they all came in too high. It will be put out again, seeking bids from non-government contractors. He expects groundbreaking to be in the spring, with completion by the summer of 2020.

Schmidt also reported that after a year of deliberation, the Albion Village Board last week passed the real property exemption for Cold War veterans. There are still four municipalities in the county which have not passed the exemption, he said.

A Medina veteran, Frank Berger, was presented with a plaque in recognition of his longtime support of programs to benefit veterans. Schmidt purchased the plaque with his own money because he was appreciative of all Berger has done.

Veterans Service Agency president Dave Kusmierczak reported on the 9-11 ceremony, which this year was organized by Gary Befus of the American Legion in Albion.

Kusmierczak talked about the patriotic ceremony the Medina American Legion and VFW conducted at the Warrior House event Saturday in West Shelby. Schmidt said he has applied for funds for the Warrior House and his office will be partnering with them to make sure it never has to close.

Glen Whitmore from the Butts-Clark American Legion said the great-great-granddaughter of James Clark wants to have a get-together at the post.

Tim McGee with Albion Masons, who cooked breakfast for the meeting, said the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Albion is hosting a special service for veterans on Nov. 11.

An Albion resident and Marine, Maxine Schening, announced she is trying to form a local chapter of the Women’s Marines Association. She is vice president of the Western New York Chapter, she said.

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