Lafayette Veterans Memorial Center Seeks Funding Donations

(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
(L-R) Bill Cooper, Leonard Snyder and Warren Jensen are honored for their service in World War II at a D-Day Ceremony in 2014.

    The Lafayette Veterans Memorial Center, catering to Lafayette, Orinda and Moraga, is a popular venue in the area to host a wide variety of events, from weddings and bar mitzvahs to club meetings and prominent speakers. Now, with the center closed due to COVID-19, management faces severe monetary difficulties.
    Center Board Member and Orinda resident, Terry Murphy, explained, “We had been doing nicely. With rental usage fees, we were able to make improvements in the building and donate money to worthwhile causes while still maintaining a good cushion in the bank. Though no money is coming in now, we still have normal expenses which run $3,500 to $4,000 a month.”
    Because the Veteran’s building offers valuable services to the community when it can function, the group has established a GoFundMe campaign. “It’s our hope residents from our Lamorinda population, and beyond, will step up to keep us solvent until we can open again.  Because we are a 501(c)(3) entity under the tax code, all contributions are tax deductible,” Murphy said.
    Murphy served in the Army-Infantry, drafted in June 1967 and deployed to Vietnam just before the Tet Offensive. He provided some history about the building and its predecessor, built at First Street and Mt. Diablo Boulevard. The present Veterans Center was completed 12 years ago at 3780 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, when the land of the old Veterans Hall was deemed the best place for Lafayette’s new Library and Learning Center. “Since then,” Murphy noted, “it has served as a ‘quasi community center.’ We are also a cooling/charging center in case of an extended blackout, a ‘safe place’ for kids in case of an emergency at Temple Isaiah and a voting location and election drop off site for Lafayette.”
    The building is home to American Legion Post 517 and Veterans of Foreign War, Post 8063.  Board Member Mike Gilson, who served in the Air Force from 1966 to 1970 in South East Asia, is especially proud of the Memorial which is in front of the building. It honors all of the men and women in Contra Costa County who have served and died for their country since 9/11. Murphy said, “These service people, who served because they chose to rather than because they had to, deserve our admiration. We also have donated to the Student Veteran Center at Diablo Valley College and contributed to veterans who lost their homes in California’s devastating fires. Another wonderful program we help is Project Healing Waters, which takes veterans fly fishing.”
    County Supervisor Candace Andersen said, “Our Lafayette Veterans do an outstanding job raising money to maintain their beautiful building, which is such a great resource for our community, and to support fellow veterans. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, they have not been able to rent out their facility while most of the fixed costs of this building have remained. Their GoFundMe campaign is a great way to support them and show appreciation for all they do for our veterans.”
    The GoFundMe website highlights other services the two Veteran Posts provide to aid local veterans in need. Money often fills gaps not covered by the Veterans Affairs Department. Examples include helping with rent, providing appliances and even used automobiles, plus providing transportation for those who cannot drive. Lamorinda veterans also provide guidance to others with the process of securing earned benefits such as educational loans or medical care.  
    “We pay our own expenses as individuals and volunteer our time to help with building operations,” Murphy added.  “But this pandemic and loss of rental revenue is causing a crisis in our ability to keep it afloat.  Our board hopes loyal Lamorinda citizens will choose to help us meet our significant monthly obligations until we once again can earn what is needed each month to provide this space for our communities to use and enjoy.”
    Murphy continued, “A Veterans Memorial Building has served Central Contra Costa County since 1925 to keep veterans in our memory and honor our American war dead. The Veterans Building provides an emotional and historical sanctuary for former, current and future Comrades in Arms as well as a social venue for occasions of ceremony and camaraderie.”
    To donate online, go to GoFundMe-Help Our Vets and click on the Fundraiser by Wm. A. Charles, or mail a check to Lafayette War Veterans, P.O. Box 501, Lafayette, CA 94549.

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