AURORA — Area veteran organizations got a surprise May 25 during Aurora’s first ever Vets Week when several pallets of blankets, shoes and personal hygiene items were donated for distribution to worthy veterans.
“We’re providing these pallets for veterans who are down on their luck and not as fortunate as we are,” John Paruch explained to a small crowd of guests at Pipe Fitters’ Training Center Local 597.
As part of the Disabled Veterans National Foundation (DVNF), Paruch knows our country can never do enough to help the great men and women who protected this country for safety and freedom.
“Whether it be shoes, the comfort kit, or basic hygiene items, we’re trying to make their lives a little bit more bearable when they’re down on their luck,” Paruch explained.
As the director of corporate and foundation relations for DVNF, he understands how difficult and stressful it is putting together an event like Aurora’s Vet Week. The more than weeklong event was sponsored by the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council, chaired by Vietnam veteran Joe Toma.
With the help of social media, several phone calls and people paying it forward, the pallets and Paruch found their way to Aurora.
“As we lead up to Memorial Day, we all know how important it is that we don’t forget those who paid the ultimate price and sacrificed so much for us,” Paruch said.
William Hite, who serves as general president of the United Association — Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders & Service Techs, helped the cause by donating $5,000, because, as he said: “It’s a great thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.”
“We partner with the military, we recruit heavily out of the military and they are our best people,” Hite added.
In 2008, Hite started the UA’s Veterans in Piping (VIP) program, offering high-quality skilled training and jobs in the pipe trades to active duty military personnel preparing to leave the service. Currently, the UA VIP program is on 10 military bases.
“This is training — not for a job, but a career with good benefits, health care, pension and good wages,” Hite stressed.
Because of DVNF’s generous donation, Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans co-founder and veteran Dirk Enger was humbled by the gesture. “To see those who have served,in foreign lands, to come back and sleep upon the very frozen grounds of freedom, is a disgrace,” Enger said.
“I just cannot express our gratitude to you, John, and to all that were involved, that these goods will be going to good use. Instead of thinking of the negative things that are going on in our country, let’s think of the good things that are going on in our country,” he added.