By Colleen Callander CHITTENANGO, N.Y. (NCC News) — Nearly 200 people show up to Clear Path for Veterans every Wednesday. Among them are veterans, active duty service men and women and their families looking to enjoy a hot meal together at the Wednesday Canteen.
“It’s mostly a social event for the veterans,” Executive Chef Christopher Griffin said.
Griffin is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and leads the team of culinary volunteers who prepare the free lunch.
“Serving veterans is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I feel at home here; I like listening to their stories and I like being around other veterans.”
According to Griffin, the weekly event is modeled after the North Platte, Nebraska Canteen, which fed and provided a place of comfort to the soldiers headed across the country to fight in World War II. The nonprofit organization uses this canteen as an opportunity to engage the local veteran community. Clear Path for Veterans prides itself on hosting events that bring relaxation, wellness and camaraderie.
“The camaraderie is really good here, whereas in other organizations there’s too much politics,” Vietnam War veteran Jeff Stevenson said.
The resource center also offers the opportunity to host Memorial Canteens to honor a fallen friend or family member. Clear Path for Veterans will prepare the person’s favorite meal, feature photos, and provide pamphlets telling his or her life story.
The Wednesday Canteen is not the only event veterans and active military members come out for. The calendar on the website shows all of the organization’s programs, such as puppy training classes on Saturdays, a wood carving workshop on Wednesdays and holiday celebrations.
“We started a fine arts program and we have a lot of veterans drawing and painting,” Stevenson said.
Clear Path does not only work with and support veterans, but with active duty military members as well. The Wednesday Canteen on Oct. 25 showed this when a current member of the military ate his meal at the same table as a 97-year-old World War II veteran.