By Daniel Meyer

Observed annually on Nov. 11, Veterans Day is the single day of remembrance that recognizes the official signing of the armistice, which ended World War I. Military veterans are publicly honored for their service to their country on Veterans Day in a wide variety of ways, including parades, religious services and other community-wide ceremonies that honor the men and women who have served their nation in some capacity.

Though World War I ended in 1918, Congress recognized the end of the battle in 1926 by declaring that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. Nov. 11 was later approved as a legal holiday in 1938, and was first known as Armistice Day to honor all veterans who served during World War I. Following the mobilization of service members to represent the United States in World War II, in 1954 the name of the holiday was officially changed to Veterans Day.

One local non-for-profit organization that assists veterans from across Western New York recently reiterated their mission of improving the lives of those who proudly served their nation. WNY Heroes is making a difference in the lives of local military veterans, including service members from Cattaraugus County. The organization’s dedicated volunteers recently held the seventh annual Red, White & Blue Gala, an annual fundraiser that recognized veterans who have served and the families left behind.

Founded in 2007, WNY Heroes provides veterans with access to day-to-day living needs, financial assistance and other resources to help them maintain their dignity. In addition, assistance is provided to the widows and children of deceased veterans so that the legacy of the deceased veteran is not forgotten and emotional relief from stress about unpaid bills can be avoided.

WNY Heroes is overseen by an advisory board made up of business leaders, representatives of various philanthropic and civic foundations and other stakeholders from the community.

The Red, White & Blue Gala allowed the organization and attendees to recognize those who served and the families left behind because of the service provided by their loved one. Led by Chris Kreiger, president and chief executive officer of WNY Heroes, the organization is now looking ahead to continue to help families in need in a variety of different ways. Whether it’s providing financial assistance to pay rent, keeping their utilities turned on or making sure the refrigerator is stocked, Krieger and an extremely dedicated group of volunteers remain focused on doing what they can to assist those in need.

“Veterans should not return home and end up becoming homeless or jobless,” said Kreiger, a U.S. Army veteran himself, who served overseas. “Veterans should be given first choice for job hiring, something I know our community is working on to make that happen. What some people don’t understand is that it is very hard for most veterans to ask for help.”

Kreiger encourages residents of Ellicottville and the surrounding communities to consider making a general donation to WNY Heroes.

“Helping a veteran sustain his or her dignity is what we strive for,” said Krieger. We have gained support in the community because we promise all of our donors that all funds raised will remain local. What we do stays right here in Western New York. With the continued support of the community we will continue to grow and expand our current programs to help the proud men and women who served our country and preserved our way of life.”

For more information about WNY Heroes, including how to make a donation to the organization, visit www.wnyheroes.org or call (716) 630-5020.

Treat a Veteran to Dinner Nov. 9

There may be no better way to thank a military veteran for their service than by treating them to dinner. With that in mind, a special event will take place next week in Allegany, giving Ellicottville area residents the opportunity to take a scenic drive to the Rotary Club of Olean’s Veterans Day Pasta Dinner. The event will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Allegany Legion, located at 4350 Route 17 in Allegany.

Veterans will eat free, as your favorite pasta will be topped with handmade tomato sauce, fresh garlic and herbs, alfredo cheese sauce and handmade meatballs. Salad, bread and dessert will also be on the menu, with tickets being sold at the door for non-veterans at a cost of $8 for adults, $7 for guests either under age 12 or over age 65, or $16 for a family.

Proceeds will benefit the community through community service projects and other charitable endeavors sponsored by the Olean Rotary Club.