Our nation’s veterans risk their lives to preserve our freedoms and democracy. Yet, upon returning from military service, many veterans face extraordinary challenges – economic, social and emotional. This Veterans Day holiday, members of UFCW Local 1428 decided to show their appreciation to veterans by giving back through a day of service that will hopefully make life a little better for those who have sacrificed so much for our country.
I was honored to join more than 150 members of Local 1428 bright and early Monday morning at St. Trinity church in Pomona to embark on a day of appreciation to veterans through community service. Union members fanned out across Southern California in the communities of Pomona, Shadow Hills, Ontario, Chino, Claremont and Monrovia to provide help in a variety of ways to veterans and show their gratitude to our men and women who have served this nation in uniform.
The day, organized by leaders and staff of Local 1428, was in lieu of the union’s annual steward’s conference. Local 1428 President Connie Leyva said her members really embraced the idea of getting out into the community to do something positive rather than sit in a stuffy conference room.
We just wanted to give back to people who have given so much to us. Most people want to make a difference they just don’t know how. We give them a vehicle to do that and they responded overwhelmingly.
In Pomona, members began the day at American Legion Post 30 by serving a hot breakfast and distributing toothpaste, gift certificates for new shoes and other items of necessity to more than 200 hundred homeless and disabled veterans.
In Claremont, the union offered female veterans a spa day that included hair styling, manicures and makeovers.
More than 60 members traveled nearly an hour to volunteer at the Shadow Hills Therapeutic Riding Center, which gives veterans with disabilities the ability to learn how to use prosthetics while riding specially trained horses. Union members performed duties ranging from painting to clearing brush to ensure the facility remains in top condition to assist veterans in need.
Karen Evans, who works at Von’s supermarket, was among the volunteers in Shadow Hills. She said she was thrilled to be working side-by-side with other union members, some of whom she’d never met before, to clear brush from the center’s pearl white fence.
It puts us in touch with our community immediately, and with more impact than just sitting in a conference room. We can never honor our veterans enough. The old saying ‘you’re not forgotten’ is much more than that. It goes into our soul. It’s part of what we are as a nation.
In Ontario, union volunteers put a fresh coat of paint on the interior of the Ontario Veterans of Foreign Wars hall and cleaned up the backyard. Alcuyn Pitts, an army veteran who is a checker at the Von’s in Upland, said she was thrilled when she heard the union would be providing a day of service to veterans.
It’s an honor and privilege to be providing this service to my fellow veterans with my union brothers and sisters. It’s important to let our veterans know that they’re not forgotten. And we can all help do that by coming together to give some of our time.
In Monrovia, volunteers put together food donations to be distributed to veterans in the community. And in Chino, two teams of union members gave the local VFW hall a thorough cleaning, which included waxing the floors.
Glenn Raad, who works in the produce department at the Stater Bros. in Upland:
It’s great to be out here in the community helping out and being involved. As a child, you just think of Veterans Day as a day off from school but as you get older, you start to understand the real meaning and importance of this day. What they’ve done to protect our country and people like me, it just feels great to give back to them.
At the end of the day, union volunteers came back together at the church in Pomona to debrief on the day’s activities. Special certificates were given to union members who served in the armed forces. Despite a long day of hard work, Local 1428 members were energized, telling story after story about the rewarding experience they’d just completed.
When Leyva asked if they’d like to do this again next year, the hall was overcome with roaring applause. The overwhelming response almost brought Leyva to tears.
We said we’re going to work and sweat and get dirty and I didn’t hear one negative thing. Our members just want to work to help our communities. They make me so proud.