RAACA of Erie County Gives to Local Charities.
Raaca of Erie County and other Motorcycle Groups helped out to raise awareness and donate items that are so desperately needed to SafeNet , Mercy Center and the Veterans Miracle Center
In September 2016, The Ft Lebouf High School held several fund raising events in support of VMCE.
A Special Thanks!
To UPS Store in Yorktown Plaza.
Thank You to Joe and Rachel Artise for the fundraiser they held at their UPS store in Yorktown Plaza that raised $700.00 for the center. We are very grateful for their donation. It helps us to continue to support our Veterans who gave so much.
VMCE IN THE NEWS
Gerry Weiss, Erie Times News, February 27, 2015
Original Article: http://www.goerie.com/new-erie-nonprofit-aims-to-help-veterans#
A new local nonprofit aiming to help area veterans will receive assistance today from the U.S. Coast Guard in Erie.
The Veterans Miracle Center-Erie is anticipated to be an agency where qualifying veterans and their families can receive free-of-charge daily life necessities, such as new clothing, & housewares.
The center, 1573 W. 39th St., plans to open in late March or early April, officials there said. The center is expecting to serve nearly 1,000 veterans annually.
About 15 members of Erie’s Coast Guard station will volunteer this morning at VMC-Erie, building and arranging shelving and display areas, and helping with various moving and cleaning tasks, said James Martin, a spokesman with the center.
The center also plans to provide veterans with personal care and hygiene products, house repair items, and new toys for their children and immediate family members.
“VMC-Erie is a destination for our veterans who are struggling to make ends meet, or are disabled and need assistance,” Martin said. “They can come here for hope, honor and help.”
The nonprofit is asking the Erie community and local organizations and companies to volunteer their time and to donate money to the startup agency.
Once the agency is up and running, VMC-Erie also will have representatives available from various veterans service organizations to assist in areas of need.
“The needs for veterans are overwhelming, and the time is now to do all we can to help alleviate the stress and pressure on them,” Martin said. “By providing this help, we believe we can lighten the load so many of them are carrying. We need to be there for them.”
The center will be available by appointment only to veterans who qualify through an agency approved by VMC-Erie to ensure that all proceeds benefit veterans in need.
The Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center is one of the approved sources, officials said.VMC-Erie will be operated at first through funding from volunteers, area residents and contributions from Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations. Almost all of the merchandise for the veterans is being donated by major corporations outside the Erie region, Martin said. VMC-Erie is modeled after a similar center in Albany, N.Y. For more information online, go to www.vmcerie.org. GERRY WEISS can be reached at 870-1884 or by e-mail. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNweiss.
Brian R. Sheridan, Erie Times News, May 31st, 2015
Original Article: http://www.goerie.com/homeless-vets-find-help#
John Kowalczyk, left, chats with Scott Yeaney, center, and outreach volunteer Jarrid Barringer, a VMCE volunteer who first met Scott in the shelters and told him about the VMCE. Photo by Brian R. Sheridan ERIE TIMES-NEWS
When Scott S. Yeaney Sr., 54, a U.S. Army veteran, heard about a place in Erie where homeless veterans could get new clothing, toiletries, tools and home goods, at no cost, he simply did not believe it. He had been living in homeless shelters and on the streets of Erie for the past three and a half months without much hope of returning to the life he once led.
“I’ve been promised stuff for the past three years, and nothing had helped. I thought they were spreading the truth out,” Yeaney says in a gravelly voice that reflects his hard times.
Yeaney once had a successful small business, two vehicles, a house he had paid off, and a wife and child. When his wife sustained a serious back injury at work, he let fear and depression overtake him after nursing her through eight major surgeries.
“When the doctor told me during the last surgery that she might not make it — I just gave up. I stopped answering the door, answering the phone, gradually I lost my house to a fire because I hadn’t paid the fire insurance,” he says.
His wife moved in with their son, and Yeaney joined the growing ranks of homeless vets.
In 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that on any given night there were 76,000 homeless veterans sleeping on American streets. That number has grown as more vets return from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with disabilities, substance abuse problems and mental illness. During one year, 500,000 vets could become homeless. The VA is simply overwhelmed by the size of the problem.
For John Kowalczyk, a retired local businessman, that number was appalling. He decided he could at least make a difference for the homeless veterans in his region. Kowalczyk put his business skills back to work and founded the Veterans Miracle Center Erie at 1573 W. 39th St. Yeaney was one of the first vets helped by the VMCE, which officially opens in June.
The VMCE offers a PX, which is military slang for an on-base retail store that sells provisions and equipment. Only this PX is free to all veterans who can establish a need.
“We want to know what they need — not what they want,” Kowalczyk explains. “We have a checklist and work with them on it for about an hour. Then, they go back to the PX with their list. When they see something they would like to have, but it’s not on their checklist, we write it down on their wish list. Every 30 days, they can come back and replace all of their hygiene products.”
Kowalczyk borrowed the PX idea from his friend, Rabbi Barry Feinman, a director of a faith-based international aid group who founded the first VMC in Albany, N.Y., in November. He convinced many major retailers to donate brand-new merchandise the retail stores could not sell, so in turn, the items would later be given to veterans. Kowalczyk figured he could do the same in Erie after hearing the stories of hardship from vets. Feinman agreed to help get the Erie-based VMC started, by providing items for only a small donation.
“I received $50-$60,000 worth of supplies for only $2,500,” Kowalczyk says. “And I can get 2 tons of clothing every two weeks, if needed.”
Next, he approached the Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center with the idea. The center’s homeless program supervisor, Michael R. Wehrer, welcomed another partner in repairing the lives of these damaged veterans.
“A steady supply of clothing and everyday personal/household items — everyday things you and I take for granted — can make a world of difference in the lives of struggling veterans,” Wehrer says. “That, paired with knowing that there is a community of support there to help them along their way, can provide a significant source of comfort and confidence for our veterans.”
Others joined Kowalczyk, and they formed a board of directors and received a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from Pennsylvania. The last piece of the puzzle came together when Kowalczyk found an empty building at 1573 W. 39th St. that could provide the perfect place for warehousing donations and also gave vets a place to shop.
Volunteers from Erie’s trade unions, contracting businesses, and civic and military organizations donated time and materials to repair the 1,500-square-foot building, which needed plenty of work from the electrical system down to the plumbing. The local response touched Kowalczyk’s heart.
“I can’t do this by myself. I put the money up as much as I could and arranged the contacts. Now it is a community effort. If we can work as a community, we can help these men and women,” he says. Kowalczyk is looking for donations for paying the building’s lease and utilities.
In addition to the PX, the center is providing “welcome kits” to once-homeless vets who have been placed in new apartments by Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center. These kits include toiletries, a pillow, bedding, cleaning supplies, pots and pans, and dishes.
More than just the physical items, the VMCE gave Yeaney hope and the ability to trust people again. He is back with his wife of 35 years, and they are moving into their own place. Yeaney also tells other vets he meets about the program.
“(When I was at the warming shelters) they gave me a food and a cot but not the essentials. This place helped me get ahead, and now my wife and I found a place, they are still helping us. I couldn’t get this help before,” he says.
The biggest irony of all in this story — Kowalczyk himself isn’t a veteran, having drawn a low number during the Vietnam War draft. He just saw a tragedy unfolding with many men and woman he felt should be honored for their service and sacrifice to our country. LEL
Christopher Millette, Erie Times News, February 28th, 2015
Original Article: http://www.goerie.com/coast-guard-members-help-vet-center-get-ready
U.S. Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Tim Perrigo, left, 34, of Olean, N.Y., reaches for a box being lifted by Coast Guard Fireman Joey Phelps, 21, center, of Logan, Ohio, as they assist Veterans Miracle Center-Erie employee Don Duberow, 64, right, of Fairview Township, during a volunteering project at the nonprofit in Erie on Feb. 27. About a dozen enlisted members of Coast Guard Station Erie participated to help the center prepare for its April 2015 opening. The nonprofit aims to serve Erie area veterans in need by distributing new household items to about 1,000 qualifying veterans per year. ANDY COLWELL/ERIE TIMES-NEWS
The Veterans Miracle Center-Erie had some extra help Friday: About a dozen enlisted members of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Erie station were on hand to help the nonprofit prepare for its opening.
The center, 1573 W. 39th St., aims to serve Erie-area veterans in need by distributing new household items. The organization hopes to serve about 1,000 qualifying veterans annually.
“VMC-Erie is a destination for our veterans who are struggling to make ends meet, or are disabled and need assistance,” James Martin, a spokesman with the center, has said. “They can come here for hope, honor and help.”
The center is expected to be open by early April, officials said.
For more information, go to www.vmcerie.org.
Sarah Stemen, Erie Times News, July 13th, 2015
Original Article: http://www.goerie.com/kowalczyk-assists-erie-veterans-in-need
John Kowalczyk is the director and founder of the Veterans Miracle Center in Erie. Kowalczyk and his staff register needy veterans and then make available to them all kinds of supplies including housewares, clothing, toiletries among many other items, some of which Kowalczyk is holding here. All the merchandise, which Kowalczyk and his staff acquired through purchase and donations, is free to qualified veterans. Kowalczyk, 68, of Waterford Township, was photographed July 10 at the Veterans Miracle Center. In the background is volunteer and retired U.S. Air Force veteran volunteer Don Buberow, 64, of Erie. CHRISTOPHER MILLETTE/ERIE TIMES-NEWS
ERIE, Pa. — John Kowalczyk stepped into a warehouse crammed with cardboard boxes, pointing out dinnerware in one box.
To some, the warehouse looks like organized chaos. To Kowalcyzk, it looks like success.
Kowalcyzk, 68, of Waterford Township, recently founded the Veterans Miracle Center Erie, 1573 W. 39th St., designed to provide basic life necessities to homeless, at-risk and low-income veterans and their families.
The program provides new clothing, hygiene products, housewares and more. There’s no other organization in Pennsylvania like it, he said.
Erie Times-News: Is there a need for a program like this in Erie?
John Kowalczyk: Yes. A lot of the vets we find are on the streets.
Erie has 22,000 veterans’ families. That’s not counting Crawford or Venango.
What we’re doing, no one else has done.
ETN: How did this come about?
JK: I had no intention of ever doing this.
A friend of mine has a place like this in Albany (N.Y.). I was visiting him about a year ago, and he was telling me about this veterans place that he was doing.
I thought it was a great idea, and we suggested it. It was clear everyone was very supportive of this.
It’s been a whirlwind.
The building we’re in now we’re leasing. Four of us put in money to start it, and we got our 501(c)(3) status in March.
We’ve now started talking to different organizations in the community to get donations.
ETN: You haven’t profited a dime off this. Why do it?
JK: Honor. If we can honor, and if I can do my part to honor, these men and women who have given their lives for freedom, that’s all I want.
It’s sad. A lot of these people have been seriously wounded and then their benefits cut back.
I wasn’t in the service, but my dad was.
If we can give these vets something new and free, it makes such a difference.
You wouldn’t believe when they come in; they weep.
ETN: How can Erie support this effort?
JK: We only take new donations. There are organizations that take used, but we don’t.
The general public can help a few ways.
We’ve got events — the American Heroes Golf Classic on Aug. 3 and a car rally that will be held here soon. You can donate online, either on our site or on our GoFundMe page.
Some host what’s called a Welcome Home to Hope housewarming party.
Someone hosts a party, and all the guests bring new items from a list we make that normally includes hygiene products, housewares and stuff like that, and then it’s all donated.
ETN: Though it’s only been around a few months, what are some of the long-term goals of the organization?
JK: We want to be helping at least four veterans a day and 800 a year.
We are continuing our outreach to get in front of organizations who realize how important this is to Erie.
We’ve been talking to politicians and organizations to get the word out.
We also need to expand. More and more people are coming from Crawford and Venango counties. We’re now looking at getting a place in Meadville.
— Sarah Stemen
GUSSA (Gannon University Support Staff Association) collected items for VMCE and local veterans in need. The drive, which ended on November 10th, included personal care, clothing, and homegoods items which will be given free of charge to local veterans through VMCE. A speical thank you to GUSSA and Eileen Jolls for their support, on behalf of VMCE and local veterans.
VMCE Celebrates official Grand Opening
VMCE News, Summer 2015
Here is the Chairman’s Award presentation last Saturday at the Veterans Miracle Center Erie grand opening. Left to right are Chuck Turner, operations manager, Ron Alfieri, treasurer, Toni and Barry Feinman, founders of Jezreel International and VMC Albany, John Kowalczyk, director and founder of VMCE, Debby Kowalczyk, Tracy Mihalak, secretary, and Don Duberow, who is a retired 1st Sgt. from the Air Force and one of the founding partners and volunteers (Photo credits: Tom Heinrich)