Teens, veterans council plan Nov. 11 events

WESTFIELD-Teens in the Keystone program at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield will be recognizing veterans and active military on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, with a free “breakfast-to-go.”

The Veterans Breakfast event is planned from 9 – 10:30 a.m. and persons are asked to drive up to the front of the Boys and Girls Club at 28 West Silver St. to receive the free offering. 

“The free breakfast includes a doughnut or bagel and coffee, all graciously donated by Manny Sardinha, owner of several Dunkin’ franchises in Westfield,” said Ashley Miehm, who serves as adviser to the Keystone program. Miehm is also program and teen director at the club.

Veterans and active military are welcome to drive up to the entrance of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield on Nov. 11 to receive a free “breakfast-to-go.” (ASHLEY MIEHM PHOTO)

Miehm added the breakfast will also include eggs, French toast, sausage and orange juice.

”Christine Osella, our secretary and bookkeeper, and Jan Parks have been so amazing and have helped cook the food for several years,” said Miehm.

Miehm explained that Ashlie Brown, who served as teen director and Keystone adviser in 2005, started the event.

“We continue the tradition every year and will celebrate our 15th Veterans Breakfast this year,” said Miehm.

The Keystone program is a chartered leadership and service club for teens ages 14-18 through Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Keystone members elect officers, choose their own activities, and plan and implement community service projects, according to Miehm.

“The planning and implementation of the breakfast is done by all the Keystone members,” said Miehm. “Once we elect officers for the 2020-2021 school year, they are responsible for running the meetings, taking notes, keeping track of fundraisers, and planning special events and community service projects.”

Jenalyse Ayala, who served as Keystone president last year and was the 2019-2020 Youth of the Year, encourages veterans and active military to turn out for the event.

“As a Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield Keystone member, I believe it is very important for us to hold this event every year to give back to our community and to thank the soldiers that have sacrificed so much for our country,” said Ayala.

While the annual Veterans Day Parade will not take place this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Westfield Veterans Council will conduct a ceremony at Parker Memorial Park on West Silver Street at 11 a.m., according to Julie Barnes, director of veterans’ services for Westfield.

The Westfield Veterans Council has a representative from American Legion Whip City Memorial Post 454, American Legion Post 124, Vietnam Veterans Chapter 219, Marine Corps League Detachment 141, all in Westfield, and VFW 872 in Southwick and VFW 6645 in Russell.

Barnes, who typically would be coordinating logistics for the parade with the Westfield Veterans Council, will be working with Peter Cowles, City of Westfield media systems specialist, to stream the ceremony on local Channel 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“First and foremost, it is important to follow the safety guidelines set in place by Gov. Baker,” said Barnes. “Right now, no more than 100 people should be gathering in one place. Secondly, maybe these trying times will teach us to celebrate people, not only on a ‘day’ but recognize them year-round.”

Barnes also encourages city residents to fly one’s American flag all the time.

“Thank a veteran for their service if you see they have a veteran license plate or wearing military insignia on their hat,” said Barnes. “If you have a veteran in your family, don’t wait until Nov. 11 to reach out to them. Give them a call and ask them their story. Invest in the lives of others every day!”

Barnes said that veterans comprise 5% of the city’s population which is 1,986 from census 2020 figures. She encourages veterans to visit the city’s website to view the services that are provided, including a veteran food pantry.

“There are still some items available in our office,” said Barnes, noting veterans and widows can contact James Jordan, veteran service officer, at (413) 642-9314 for details.

“Food is also available weekly through the Empowerment Center in Agawam,” said Barnes, adding calls for more information can be made to (413) 478-7748.

Barnes noted that the Westfield Veteran ID card program is on hold since the Westfield Senior Center is closed.

“Those who received an ID card prior to the pandemic can still use them at businesses on the list that are open,” said Barnes, noting the businesses can be found on the Veterans Services link from the city’s website.

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