VFW always fundraising for community, veterans

J. Patrick Eaken

Representatives from the Greater Birmingham VFW Post 4906 found out this summer there are community members who did not know what the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization was all about.

Volunteer Tanya Koester, a member of the VFW Post 4906 Auxiliary, found that shocking, and wants to educate people.

Of course, the public welcomes VFW members when their color guard marches in the Memorial Day parade along Consaul Street, to Veterans Day ceremonies, or maybe a high school football game or other community event.

Where do you begin with an organization that has provided so much more to the East Toledo community and beyond? The fundraising activities the Birmingham post provided has benefited area schools, students, veterans, local and national non-profits and more.

The Birmingham post has provided even more to veterans in terms of assistance, friendship, raising funds to help homeless veterans and for outreach programs.

“We’re a community-based VFW. We try to help our community,” said Commander Jesse Sulaica, a U.S. Army tank driver who served from 1967-69.

“It’s a place for veterans to come to. Over the holidays, if they don’t have a place to go, we’re open seven days a week. We want our veterans to have a place to go for holidays or what have you. They are always welcome here,” Sulaica continued.

“Our vision is mainly to help veterans first, but help the community, too. Many of them are on the front line, too, and we appreciate what they do.”

The Birmingham VFW has 125 veterans contributing as members and close to 300 auxiliary members. Fundraising and social activities occur throughout the calendar year. At their banquet hall on 2161 Consaul Street, The Press sat down with Sulaica and others, including Vietnam-era Air Force veteran Jim Patrilla (post trustee), Korean War-era Army veteran (Auxiliary junior vice president) Gene LaHote and Auxiliary President Tom Miller.

Last spring and summer, the Birmingham VFW continued its traditional Memorial Day poppy sales, setting up at the Oregon Farmer’s Market on Navarre Avenue and the Toledo Farmer’s Market on Erie Street. They also sell stars cut out from retired American flags and homemade dishwashing scrubbies, raising money for Northwest Ohio veterans.

“We also took the star out of the American flag after we burn the flags, cut it out, put our sticker on the back, and we put that out for donations with the poppies, and that went very well. There are a lot of patriotic people out there if you present it to them,” LaHote said.

“My 91-year-old friend, and her husband is a veteran from Dunberger (American Legion) Post, and she makes scrubbies, so my wife donated a bunch of scrubbies for a donation. That was a charity for us and that went over real well,” LaHote continued.

Last week, the Birmingham VFW held its Trunk or Treat, handing out candy to children who could not walk through the community because of the coronavirus pandemic. VFW members say the drive-through event was a huge success. 

There is a reason why the veterans and auxiliary members care about this community.

“Most of us are from this area, and many of us grew up in Birmingham here so we come back to our neighborhood. We do what we can here,” Sulaica said.

This Friday, Nov. 13 at 4 p.m. the Birmingham post will hold its Lake Erie Perch dinner, carried over because it was canceled during Lent because of the pandemic. For $12, a perch or shrimp dinner is available, including cole slaw and French fries with limited seating (take-out available) until sold out.

In recent years, the VFW and auxiliary have held a fundraising golf outing at Eagle’s Landing Golf Course on Bayshore Road, raising money for multiple causes.

Where does this money go? It helps with St. Louis Helping Hands to feed and clothe area residents. It goes to college scholarships for area high school students, high school athletics programs, to help with Birmingham’s Hungarian Festival and the Birmingham Hall of Fame, for example.

However, the post also helps with national campaigns that support veterans, like the Cardboard 2 Headboard campaign and Hooves. Cardboard 2 Headboard has raised money to house over 4,000 homeless veterans and the Hooves program encourages veterans to work on building a relationship with horses, reading cues and working together to accomplish tasks.

Keeping the VFW going is canteen manager Pat Wagner, who has served in that role for 27 years. She first started getting involved when her late father Richard Hanudel was a member.

Officers with the Birmingham VFW also include Senior Vice Commander and Adjutant Jorge Duran, Junior Vice Commander Richard Zutavern, Quarter Master Dan Kosztak, Chaplain Nate Gartee, Judge Advocate Ed Toth, Service Officer Lloyd Bond, Surgeon Rick Holland, trustees Andy Aranyosi and Ed Toth. The veterans meet the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m.

Auxiliary officers also include Senior Vice President Holly Cerveny, Secretary Vicki Burnworth, Treasurer David Kovacs, Guard Mike Belegrin, Conductor Andy Horvath and trustees John Galla, Dan Kovacs and Toni Pirolli. The auxiliary meets the second Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m.


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