As we look forward to all that 2023 has to offer, we wanted to pause and reflect on all that 2022 has brought to Operation Veteran and Caregiver Support. This is only our 3rd year in operation, and we could not have imagined all that would come to pass this year.
We began our Muster and Mingle in its existing format in January of 2022. That first event was attended by 12 veterans. Our last regular Muster & Mingle was in November, with other 60 veterans in attendance, along with their families. Our Muster & Mingle goal for 2022 was to serve at least 50 veterans at these events, and we met that goal in May, with continuous growth month after month. We partnered with several restaurants in the community to provide the meals for these events, with the final event in November being a carry-in dinner, at the request of our veterans.
We hosted a Breakfast with the Easter Bunny in conjunction with the VFW Post 4874 Auxiliary, hosting over 100 for a pancake breakfast and Easter Egg hunt. We immediately began planning for our 2023 breakfast, it was simply that fun of an event! June saw our inaugural Kids Fishing Derby at Garbry Big Woods. We hosted over 20 fishers under the age of 16, many of whom were fishing for the first time! Hot dog lunch afterwards while we announced the award winners made for the perfect day on the water!
In August we held our second annual Golf Scramble at Echo Hills Municipal Golf Course. We had a beautiful day for golf and were able to host several golfers who were new to the course. With a 25% increase in participating teams, we were able to make almost $3000, with 100% of that going directly back into our work with veterans. We are blessed to have a staff that is fully volunteers.
We changed the format for our third annual Back 2 School supply give away, moving to WACO Air Museum and adding a snow cone stand for the kids. We passed out school supplies to over 80 children touched by the military in the Miami Valley, being able to complete 95% of their needed supplies for the year, greatly reducing the stress parents face when it’s time to go back to school. We are looking forward to this event next year, and growing our partnership with WACO.
Our 2nd Annual Santa Sweet Shop grew by 400% this year. We could not have imagined the turnout that we had for this event, and we are so grateful to all of the volunteers who made that day possible, from the many talented bakers, to Santa and our DJ, and the volunteers who set up, maintained, and cleaned up at the Tipp Center.
2022 was also the ‘Year of the Resource Fair’ as we worked hard coordinating public and corporate resource fairs. We coordinated or participated in resource fairs and other activities to reach veterans and their families in 14 Ohio counties, 3 Indiana counties and had additional outreach in 7 states.
The biggest part of our 2022 was opening an office space. That has been a dream of ours (especially all of our volunteers who store items for OVCS in their garages!) ever since we realized exactly how great the need in our area was. Although our first space flooded, we moved a few doors down into a space that feels perfect for where we are right now. We are working to create an inviting space for veterans and their families to lounge, with a kitchenette, games, tv, and the company of other veterans. The unexpected move also allowed us to grow into another area if need that we had recently become aware of in the veteran and active duty community. We are so proud to be working on opening a food pantry for veterans, active duty, and reservists families.
Not all of 2022 was full of celebrating however, as it also saw the death of one of our founding board members, Tamara Westfall. While that does make our successes since September slightly bittersweet, we rejoice knowing how much she believed in our mission and believe that she may even have had a hand in the mysterious flood, knowing what a blessing the new space has been to our veterans already.
2023 will be a year of expansion, from growing Muster & Mingle to include spouse events, a second location with another meeting a month, a new location and format for our Kids Fishing Derby, and further growth of our Back 2 School Supply Giveaway. We are also planning a Ladies Social event for the first quarter of 2023, to encourage, invigorate, and motivate female veterans, veteran spouses or caregivers, and wives of active duty military members.
There are countless other events on the horizon for 2023, but we wanted to take a minute to reflect on the year we’ve had and thank everyone who has volunteered, participated, shared, or supported us in any way in 2022. We couldn’t have done any of this without your support, so thank you!! Please keep an eye to our Upcoming Events page to see what all we have in store!