Harold Sayles column: Charitable gaming helps Virginia veterans give back
Having given our all for our country to protect the freedoms Americans hold dear, veterans in Virginia understand the importance of giving back to communities here at home. That’s certainly the case for members of the Virginia Veterans of Foreign Wars. We have a long history of helping veterans, their families and Virginians who need a helping hand.
Throughout the year, 129 VFW posts with more than 32,600 members across Virginia sponsor programs and support efforts to make life better for those who served in our nation’s armed forces. We do this impactful work through a variety of efforts.
One of the Virginia VFW’s most important roles is providing direct assistance to the many veterans who need help navigating the sometimes complex maze of government rules and regulations to access essential services our country promised them. For many veterans, their service put them in dangerous situations; they now are disabled or partially disabled, and need critical services to treat their injuries and improve their quality of life.
Mindful of this need, the Virginia VFW pays for three service officers across the state — Petersburg, Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach — whose primary responsibility is to help veterans navigate government programs, and overcome obstacles in order to receive what our nation owes them.
The funds the VFW uses to pay for these service officers who help our brave veterans are raised through Virginia’s legal and regulated charitable gaming system. Many VFW posts conduct state-approved charitable gaming. Without it, the VFW’s ability to help veterans would be jeopardized and severely curtailed. It is important that our state’s leaders know that.
The Virginia General Assembly authorized charitable gaming decades ago. It is the oldest form of legal gaming in the commonwealth and is regulated by state government. Many other organizations use legal charitable gaming to raise funds that help their members and communities. These include fraternal service organizations, volunteer fire departments, youth sports leagues, booster clubs and church-affiliated groups.
In addition to the service officers whom we pay for with support from charitable gaming, Virginia’s VFW also funds efforts to help many veterans get through difficult times. For example, we assist them with paying overdue utility bills or affording medications they depend on.
The VFW’s charitable activities go well beyond helping the veteran and military community. During the holidays, we also host children for toy drives at our posts and provide food baskets to families in need.
At the beginning of this year, the Virginia VFW held its annual essay competitions for middle- and high-school students. We proudly awarded scholarships to the top-performing students. Each year, we also recognize exceptional educators in Virginia through our National Citizenship Education Teacher of the Year award for outstanding commitment to the teaching of Americanism and patriotism to students.
As the General Assembly convenes in Richmond, it is critical for state lawmakers and Gov. Glenn Youngkin to understand the importance of protecting the commonwealth’s long-established legal charitable gaming framework that does so much to support Virginians.
As gambling proliferates across the state, our elected leaders should protect this proven model of providing private support. State-authorized charitable gaming has a long history of delivering clear benefits to our communities: veteran’s groups, service organizations, volunteer fire departments, youth sports leagues and many other organizations.
Harold Sayles, Ph.D., of Richmond is the chaplain of the Virginia Veterans of Foreign Wars and the national chaplain of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. This piece reflects his personal views. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org