Picnic connects veterans to services and to each other

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Two commanders of veterans’ agencies attended the Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Event and Picnic Saturday at Orleans County Fairgrounds. Here, Glenn Whitmore, left, commander of American Legion Post 204 in Medina, and Dan Anderson, right, commander of VFW Post 1483 in Medina, pose with Veterans’ Services director Earl Schmidt and his wife Cathy.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 7 October 2018 at 7:42 pm

KNOWLESVILLE – The Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Kick-off Event and Picnic was a resounding success and one which organizers hope will be the first of many such events.

Saturday at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds, dozens of veterans and their families showed up for the event, organized by Earl and Cathy Schmidt with grant money Mr. Schmidt applied for through State Sen. Rob Ortt.

Guests enjoyed lunch, popcorn, music by DJs Kenny and Bonnie Draper, and children’s activities.

The Niagara Falls Air Force Base provided a bounce house and children’s games.

Cathy Schmidt announced she is forming a group for veterans’ spouses and caregivers, which she calls “Clovers.” It stands for “caregivers, loved ones and spouses.”

Her goal is to organize a variety of activities for veterans’ spouses and caregivers, such as bowling, chocolate bingo, kayaking and excursions. She has already planned a bus excursion to a Sabres’ game.

The YMCA in Medina is also going to cooperate by giving 10 percent off the cost of membership to veterans.

Earl Schmidt, director of Orleans County Veterans’ Services, and his wife Cathy pose with Arianna Smith and her dad Brad Smith of Albion and Greg Stanton of Medina at the first Pfc. Joseph P. Dwyer Peer-to-Peer Event and Picnic Saturday at the Orleans County Fairgrounds. Both Brad Smith and Stanton were Seabees. Smith was a Navy combat veteran in Iraq.

Greg Stanton of Medina said he heard about the picnic when talking to Earl Schmidt, director of the Veterans Service Agency in Orleans County, several months ago.

“So I came to see what’s going on,” Stanton said. “The whole idea is to gets vets in Orleans County connected with each other, and that’s pretty cool.”

He said it’s nice veterans are finally getting the accolades and appreciation they deserve.

Stanton is a Seabee who signed up for the military right out of high school. He served two and one-half years in active duty and two and one-half years in the Reserves and went to college on a VA loan.

“Just a few years ago, I found out I was eligible for health care,” he said. “I have nothing but praise for the VA in Batavia and Buffalo .”

Rachael Spearante of Albion, a volunteer with the American Legion Auxiliary, hands out informational pamphlets at the Peer-to-Peer Veterans’ picnic Saturday at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Earl Schmidt said he started the peer-to-peer program to provide a non-clinical approach for veterans and their families in Orleans County. The grant through Ortt’s office is for $52,500

Schmidt’s hope is to prevent any tragedy here such as the story of Pcf. Joseph P. Dwyer, for whom the Peer-to-Peer program is named. Dwyer was a North Carolina veteran who, after a year and a half of trying to navigate the system after his discharge, committed suicide.

“The system failed him,” Schmidt said. “We are brothers and sisters working together and I’ll be here as your liaison.”

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