On Wednesday, December 21st, 2022, the
Rochester Elks presented a $2000 check to the Vouchers for Veterans
Organization. The donation was made possible through an Elks National
Foundation Gratitude Grant, awarded to the Rochester Lodge #1393. Gratitude
Grants awarded to Elks Lodges must be used to support local charitable
activities. For a Lodge to receive this Grant, it must meet or exceed the
National President’s per capita goal for Elks National Foundation donations.
Representing the Elks were Matthew Sanborn, Exalted
Ruler and Norman Gervais, Past Exalted Ruler, Lodge Secretary and Elks National
Foundation Chairman. Representing the Vouchers for Veterans Organization were
the following volunteers: Alan Brock, Ann French, Christine Hounsell, Dolores
Booth, Dolly Burnell and Jeanne Grover, President.
The premise and original
concept of the VFV program was simple - provide fresh food to Strafford County
Veterans in the month of September at the Rochester Farmers Market. The
response was so tremendous to the initial offerings that it quickly expanded. Vouchers
for Veterans incorporated and became a 501©3 organization in 2018. In 2022,
they now provide Maine and New Hampshire Veterans with fresh, locally sourced
food 23 weeks out of the year. Not only do Veterans attend the farmers markets
to obtain fresh food, many of them attend to socialize with their comrades to
have healing, cathartic conversations. In addition, a Military Affairs/Veterans
Services Representative is on site to help Veterans with their questions about
eligibility of benefits.
This group also purchases
gift cards from a local supermarket chain and gives them to vets in need when
there are no farmers markets available. In 2022, they ran a “Hand Up” program
and provided $20,000 dollars worth of safety approved heaters, propane tanks,
bus passes, gift cards and warm coats to struggling, homeless Veterans.
Recently, the organization helped a Rochester Veteran who had been burned out
of his home. They found him immediate shelter, opened an account at a local
credit union for donations and helped this individual find another permanent
home. The voucher program has been accessed 3,000 times in 2022.
Picture Caption, l to r, Matthew
Sanborn, Exalted Ruler, Rochester Elks; Vouchers for Veterans volunteers: Alan
Brock, Ann French (front), Christine Hounsell (back), Dolores Booth, Dolly
Burnell, Jeanne Grover, President, Norm Gervais, Past Exalted Ruler, Lodge
Secretary and ENF Chair, Rochester Elks.