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Connellsville American Legion Riders bring holiday cheer to veterans

| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
American Legion Riders of Post 301 in Connellsville (from left) vice president Gary Nicholson, member Dave Miner and secretary/treasurer Karen Kime pose in Greensburg with items to be donated to veterans in the VA Healthcare System in Pittsburgh.

The American Legion Riders from Post 301 in Connellsville cheered up more than 100 veterans at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System last week by thanking them for their service.

Post 301 raised $8,000 through its Christmas in June program and it donated $800 worth of coffee and creamer, $3,000 worth of toiletries from Family Dollar and $1,000 worth of clothing from Gabriel Brothers, plus pens, notebooks, flags and much more.

The American Legion Riders packed up a truckload of goodies from Family Dollar at its Greensburg store at 400 E. Pittsburgh St. one week ago. They delivered the items to the veterans last Saturday as a way to thank them for their service.

“My mission is to get the message out there that the patients need help,” said Karen Kime of Post 301. Her father, the late Ernest Rodeheaver, was a World War II veteran, serving with the Army in the European Theater.

Donations came from American Legion posts across the state, she said.

Maria Gibb, a volunteer service specialist at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, said she was grateful for the time and care given to each patient.

“They went room by room and visited each veteran personally. ... They didn't rush,” she said. “You could tell it came from their hearts.”

Gibb said the visits are appreciated by veterans because many do not have any family members. The fact that someone takes the time to listen and cares about their service makes a world of difference to the veterans.

“The donations are so needed,” Gibbs said. “Real shampoo and deodorant are a real luxury. Many don't have any clothing. These are things you don't think of when you go into a private hospital.”

The members of Post 301 are not the only ones who reach out to the veterans to celebrate Christmas.

Sixty-five students in the sixth grade at Norvelt Elementary School gave up a grab-bag exchange and sold candy canes to raise money to fill stockings with toiletries for veterans at Weatherwood Manor in Greensburg.

Brandy Newill, a sixth-grade teacher at Norvelt, said the students thoroughly enjoyed every moment of giving, which was nice to see.

“It's important to give back to people who have done so much for us,” Newill said. “They deserve so much in return as a thank-you for all they've done.”

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.