Volunteer work is getting harder for the Penny Whitman branch of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States to organize, as its membership continues to drop.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
As they do every month, members of the Penny Whitman branch of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States gathered last week. They drank their coffee, they at their bagels and they listened to guest speaker Sy Weinberg present on Jewish prisoners of World War II.
But unless their membership base grows, these meetings may become less and less frequent, moved to once every 60 days, instead of monthly.
There were only a handful in attendance Jan. 13, at the Aberdeen Clubhouse, 55 Allwood Green Blvd. Their numbers are dwindling as members grow older, but also, Commander Seymour Karnes says, because many Jewish veterans in the area simply don’t realize this group even exists.
Part social club and part volunteer organization, the group donates time and money in support of programs that benefit veterans of all religions. Last Thanksgiving, as one of their initiatives, members raised money to purchase gift cards for vets who couldn't afford dinner for themselves or their families.
They also recently donated funds to the USO, to help send care packages to deployed troops. But it's initiatives like those that are becoming increasingly difficult to organize as the group grows smaller.
“It’s very important,” said Stan Kates, the group’s quartermaster, in charge of collecting donations. “How can we make decisions about where to give money (with so few members)?”
The group raises most of it’s funds by selling flowers of remembrance once a year, outside local stores. The rest of their money comes from mailed-in donations .
Nearly all the veterans in the group moved to the area when they retired, and that’s who their target members are: veterans who have raised their families and retired, then began thinking about their time in the service.
The group has three World War II veterans, including Bill Tatel, of St. Augustine, who is 95 years old. When Tatel walked into the meeting Jan. 13, one member asked him how he was feeling.
Tatel joked, “Well, I’m here, aren't I?”
Donate or join
To join the Penny Whitman branch of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States or donate, call 446-0678. Donations can also be mailed to Stan Kates, 71 Frankford Ln, Palm Coast, FL, 32137.