Click the play button to find out about how Clear Path for Veterans gives back to the local veteran community through free lunches on “Canteen Wednesdays.”
Audio Transcript: Clear Path for Veterans
By Sam Rothman CHITTENANGO, N.Y. (NCC News) — Veterans Day is observed just once a year, but at Clear Path For Veterans in Madison County, veterans are celebrated every day. The non-profit organization has many different programs and events for veterans throughout the year, including painting classes, financial workshops and time with therapy dogs. However, a home-cooked meal every Wednesday consistently brings in over 150 veterans each week.
“It’s just another way to thank them for their service,” said Karen Krull Robart, who prepares all of the meals for the veterans as the culinary manager. “I love to cook, and that’s a way to show love to people, to feed them. So that’s what we do here. We feed them and we help them heal.”
Krull Robart said the healing doesn’t just come from the macaroni and cheese. She believes the lunch is a great opportunity for veterans to share stories and build friendships with people who had similar experiences overseas.
“Nobody understands a vet like another vet,” said Krull Robart. “Just the chance to sit and talk to somebody who understands what you’ve been through. That alone makes it all worthwhile.”
Cory Farragher-Gnadt, a peer manager at Clear Path, agrees. She served in the military for five years. When she came home, she missed the social interaction and camaraderie from her time in the military. Farragher-Gnadt said that’s exactly what Canteen Wednesdays provide.
“I think the coolest thing is that it kind of forces people to interact with each other and share their stories,” she said. “We have veterans from all different eras sitting with each other. There’s one table in the back where one World War II vet sits. I think it’s really fulfilling for someone to tell you about their service and sit back and listen for a minute.”
Farragher-Gnadt said she had a relatively easy transition home compared to some of her fellow veterans. That’s why she works at Clear Path to help others. Although Krull Robart didn’t personally serve in the military, she said she felt that same need to give back because of all of her friends and family members who risked their lives to protect her freedoms.
“I wanted to do something for my dad who was a Korean War vet,” she said. “He never talked about his service, but I realize now he was probably traumatized by it. This is my way of honoring his memory.”
When Canteen Wednesdays started six years ago, about 20 people came for the free lunch. Now, Krull Robart said nearly 200 people show up some weeks. Over time, some veterans have even made their way into the kitchen.
“We get vets that started coming to eat, and now come back to volunteer,” said Krull Robart. “One of my dishwashers is a Vietnam vet. He loves being back in the dish pit and helping out.”
Farragher-Gnadt believes veterans keep coming back each week because Clear Path is a safe space for them to relax and enjoy some comfort food.
“The biggest thing is that it’s not clinical,” she said. “I feel like veterans are used to going to the VA. Here, it’s pretty laid back. It’s just veterans interacting with other veterans and people who are passionate about helping veterans. I think it’s just more fun.”
Krull Robart feels the same way.
“This is their home,” she said.