Donations, money pledged for area vets

Disabled Veterans National Foundation

John Paruch, with the Disabled Veterans National Foundation, was in Aurora May 25 at the Pipe Fitters’ Training Center Local 597 to donate several pallets of clothing, shoes and hygiene items to area veteran organizations. Social media brought together Paruch and the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

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.

Aurora Veterans Advisory Council

Area veteran organizations sort through the pallets for distribution to their respective organization. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

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.

United Association General President William Hite

After United Association General President William Hite, left, pledged $5,000 to the cause of helping area veterans, he gets a thank you from Aurora Veterans Advisory Council, chaired by Vietnam veteran Joe Toma. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

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.

Vets Week bringing together everyone for remembering

The City of Aurora's Veterans Advisory Council

The City of Aurora’s Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC) is hosting the first ever Vets Week in Illinois.

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

AURORA — The City of Lights will show its patriotic spirit and true colors when it brings Vets Week to Aurora, starting off on Armed Forces Day May 21, and ending Memorial Day, May 30.

“This event is right where it should be — in Aurora,” said Aurora Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC) Chairman Joe Toma.

The goal of the committee was to make events attractive to everybody. So — there’s a movie, a barbecue dinner, 5K run, classic car show and a parade. The car show runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, May 21 in downtown Aurora.

Sunday, May 29, everyone can participate in the 5K Run, Walk, Woof & Roll run, which starts at 7:30 a.m. Toma describes it as a race for everyone. “You can run it, walk it, bring your pooch, or baby stroller.

Runners can sign-up on-line at by searching 5K Run, Walk, Woof & Roll.

Last week, AVAC mailed out sponsorship opportunities to hundreds of local businesses. A major focus of Vets Week is getting people out, talking and camaraderie, but another large focus is fundraising.

AVAC’s fundraising efforts serves local veterans in need, AVAC’s scholarship fund and local veteran housing.

Labor organizations like IBEW Local 461 and Pipefitters Local 597 Training Center are helping out, but AVAC member and Local 597 Business Representative Scott Roscoe said more help is appreciated. “We’re hoping the labor community embraces and supports our efforts,” Roscoe added.

Members of the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council

Members of the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council gear up for Aurora’s Vets Week, running May 21 through May 30. Events include a classic car show, 5K run, barbecue dinner and parade. Photo courtesy of the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council

Interested unions can contact Roscoe at 331- 302-5002.

The committee is working on finalizing the details of Vets Week, which includes the viewing of Aurora’s Walter Truemper’s Medal of Honor, an Air Force officer killed in WWII.

Toma stressed the need for volunteers throughout the week and especially for the 5K run. Interested persons can contact Toma via 630-899-9021 or email or email the Aurora’s Veterans Advisory Council at:

A salute to Aurora’s fallen heroes

Aurora’s new Veterans Monument.

Aurora Adlerman-At-Large Bob O’Connor said with the city celebrating veterans month, it is entirely appropriate people gathered Nov. 5 to start the work in regards to Aurora’s new Veterans Monument. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

To view the video of this announcement, visit the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube Channel

AURORA — In its continued efforts to honor and advocate for veterans of the city, Aurora and the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council Nov. 5 publicly unveiled a new veterans monument that will honor Aurora’s own who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the nations conflicts from Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The monument will be showcased in the Sunken Garden at Phillips Park in Aurora.

Aurora Adlerman-At-Large Bob O’Connor told the crowed gathered at the Sunken Garden that Aurora has a very proud history — and much of that history is the service given by servicemen and servicewomen.

“We are trying to complete an unconnected circle in regards to a monument for persons who gave their lives,” O’Connor explained.

“How meaningful it will be for families to be here, seeing the flowers and the trees — new life,” he added.

Veterans Monument

An artist rendering of the city’s newest Veterans Monument is shown at the entrance to Phillips Park Sunken Garden. It will be placed between the WWI and WWII monuments. Artist rendering courtesy of Cordogan Clark & Associates, INC.

The announcement coincided with announcement a fundraising campaign has been launched to raise an estimated $40,000 to $50,000 for the project.

Cordogan Clark & Associates of Aurora created the design for the white and black granite monument, which will feature the seal of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Prior to the announcement, members of the 106th Calvary Regiment of the Illinois Army National Guard posted colors.

To make a donation, please visit Community Foundation and search: Aurora Veterans Advisory Council

Area veterans treated to sweet music, dinner

Dinner held for vets by Aurora Veterans Advisory Council
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Chuck and Kathy Granholm enjoy the sweet sounds of the Aurora Lamplighters Barbershop Chorus during a dinner held by the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at

AURORA — With more than 26,000 veterans in the Aurora area alone, it’s no wonder the city is known as veteran-friendly.

With that massive veteran population in mind, the various area military organizations decided to come together July 3 at a meet and greet dinner to streamline their operations and make sure they are working side by side efficiently.

The dinner was sponsored by the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council (VAC), Fifth Third Bank, and Dolan and Murphy, and hosted by the Knights of Columbus No. 14825 at St. Rita of Cascia parish in Aurora. The Aurora Lamplighters Barbershop Chorus provided entertainment after the Knights presented the colors.

“This is a great way to get veterans together in the Aurora area and for everyone to understand the missions of the different organizations,” said Mike Eckburg, post commander at Aurora American Legion Post #84. “The amount of veterans in the area, that’s a big outreach that we’ve got to get. We’re focusing on the younger generation and all the vets returning now. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Dinner held for vets by Aurora Veterans Advisory Council
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Members of the Knights of Columbus No. 14825 honor aurora-area veterans with a dinner.

Joe Toma, chairman of the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council said the organization is ready and willing to help veterans, they just need to know the Council is there.

“We serve as a conduit for the city to all veterans. We reach out to the individual, the family, whoever needs the help,” he said. “We have 15 people on the Council to help, anything we can do to help a veteran. We are trying to get involved with the other groups in Aurora, and hopefully in the future we’ll be showing people what we do on a larger scale.”

The VAC, which was formed in 1998, was expanded in 2012 to have 15 members. It consists of eight members in good standing of an active veteran’s organization in the Aurora community, five members who are non-affiliated veterans who have been honorably discharged from the military, and two seats filled by immediate family members of a living or deceased veteran. The Advisory Council is composed of Aurora residents from all branches of the military.

Toma read the mission statement of the VAC: “We are advocates for all veterans of all generations and all conflicts. We shall ensure our citizens, our city and our nation remember the sacrifices of those gone and those who remain. We shall work on their behalf to enlighten the city of veteran situations and likewise inform the citizens about the city’s efforts for veterans.”