VFW Post 8577 celebrates 66 years, gives $32,000 to community organizations
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Olan Forest Smith VFW Post #8577 of Copperas Cove celebrated its 66th anniversary and distributed more than $32,000 to local organizations Tuesday evening.
Tuesday, April 27, marked the post’s 66th birthday. The post is named after Olan Forest Smith, who entered the U.S. Army at age 28 on Jan. 13, 1944 and was killed 10 months later. Smith was a private serving with Company G, 110th Infantry Regiment, First Army in the Hurtgen Forest when he was seriously wounded. Smith was one of six sons and four daughters of Julius L. and Roberta “Robbie” Smith, who lived on a ranch in Copperas Cove. In January 1948, his body was transferred from Belgium and buried in the Copperas Cove Cemetery.
The VFW Post #8577 was founded in 1955.
Senior Vice Commander Renne Rivera said the post has come a long way since its founding and has gone through a lot of changes. It is currently undergoing some renovations to its kitchen, she added.
“We are out here,” Rivera said. “We are serving our community. We are helping our veterans; we’re helping their families.”
The VFW invited the community and different organizations that the VFW has supported to attend the celebration, providing a chance to share what the VFW is all about.
“A lot of people have this stigmatism of the VFW that it’s just a whole bunch of drunks at the bar, and the VFW is so much more than that,” said Dana Watson, the VFW Bingo Chairman. “They give away so much money. We do scholarships. There’s so much that we do that people don’t know about, and I think if people knew about it, we wouldn’t have the problem that we have nationally now of attracting younger veterans. I think if they knew what we do, rather than the stigmatism, they would come in.”
Starting at 6 p.m., the VFW held a ceremony to distribute funds to various organizations who had submitted requests.
The VFW Post #8577 approved the distribution of approximately $32,000 during a meeting earlier this month. According to members of the VFW, they had more funds available to give away but had not received enough requests. They plan to distribute more funds next month.
“Every now and then we get ourselves in a bind, because we don’t get enough letters requesting money, so this money sits there,” Watson said. “According to the state, we have to give it away, and so then we have to go out into the community and basically beg people to write us requesting a donation, and then so we can donate to them. Then we get into those months where we have to give away a lot of money, and this is one of those times.”
Watson added that this was a good problem to have, even if they had to make sure to give away the funds during certain quarters of the fiscal year.
“To me, that’s a testament of our customers being loyal and coming to us and playing bingo,” Watson said. “It’s a testament to our workers working hard to meet their needs, and it’s a testament to our community because they know, and that’s why we try to give the checks away down there, where the money goes, and I think that helps them keep coming back because they know the money stays local, and I think that makes them feel good about it.”
The post gave $1,700 to New Sunset Community Church for their food bank program, $500 to the Copperas Cove Senior Center for programs and activities, $500 to Copperas Cove High School Project Graduation, $3,000 to the Department of Texas, District 14, for the State Convention hospitality room and $10,000 to the Lytle Memorial VFW Post #12041, for building a meeting facility.
They also gave $1,500 to ALTRUSA of Copperas Cove for community service and literacy programs, $3,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Bell County for veterans’ service programs, $2,000 to the Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation Department for youth activities and $1,000 to the Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association, Genevieve Chapter #94 for their Women’s Veterans Day Celebration.
The VFW also pledged up to $10,000 for the 3rd Cavalry Association’s college scholarship program.
The VFW Post #8577 offers bingo every Saturday and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and every Thursday at 7 p.m., plus the last two Tuesdays of each month at 7 p.m. The VFW also offers karaoke on the first two Tuesdays of every month, from 7 p.m. to midnight, as well as on Fridays and Saturdays.