The southwest corner of the Austintown Senior Center was cleared out on Aug. 16, 2011 to make room for the Veterans' Corner.
The idea for Veterans' Corner came from Ron Borngesser, a member of American Legion Post 301 in Austintown. He envisioned a place for all veterans to go and get help, whether it involved how to get benefits or just to talk.
"I took my idea to Post 301 members and many got involved," Borngesser said. "Then I approached the Senior Center and they welcomed it with wide open arms."
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Austintown American Legion Memorial Post 301 members Homer Marsh, First Vice Commander Sam Swoger, Commander Gary Kommel and Robert Smith attended a special celebration on Aug. 14 to commemorate the first anniversary of Veterans' Corner at the Austintown Senior Center.
Since it opened one year ago last Thursday, more than 50 veterans' families have been helped in one way or another. Some got help filing for benefits, some got help through assistance for food or paying utilities, other were helped by simply having a place to go and someone to talk to.
"We've been there and understand," Borngesser said. "We can lend a sympathetic ear and understanding over what a veteran goes through."
He said some families of deceased veterans have been helped as well. When a veteran passes away, most families aren't aware of benefits they may be entitled to, or may not know where to start to apply for those benefits. At the Veterans' Corner, those families can be helped.
Some veterans may have unusual circumstances, and they can be helped as well. Post 301 Commander Gary Kommel said in the past year they have helped in some odd situations.
"We had one fellow come in who had experienced a home burglary," Kommel said. "He had a safe stolen that contained his discharged papers. We were able to get him the proper paperwork to get replacement documents."
He said any veteran or family member with a problem can come in and get help. The Veterans' Corner meets from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday at the Senior Center. All veterans are welcome, even those who consider themselves well off.
"Veterans should get registered with the V.A. system," Kommel said. "Even if they are making a lot of money right now, they never know when circumstances may change."
Post 301 members also have a food collection box at the Senior Center. They collect nonperishable food for the V.A. Clinic on Belmont Avenue. Kommel said the clinic operates a food bank for veterans and their families.