It started out small, as many wonderful things often do. In November of 2011, a group of employees at the Central Bucks Family YMCA wished to recognize the Y's military members for Veterans Day. With assistance from the Village Improvement Association of Doylestown (VIA), their wish became reality in the form of a reception in the lobby of the main building.
The positive response from veterans inspired the YMCA to expand the event into a luncheon the following year. They also extended the invitation to include military members in the community. Word of the event spread with help from the Doylestown VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), the VIA, the Travis Manion Foundation and the Doylestown chapter of the DAV (Disabled American Veterans). To accommodate the additional attendees, the lunch was moved to the larger Central Bucks Family YMCA Teen Center. Speakers were brought in, more volunteers assisted, and more food was served!
In 2014, the YMCA's TOGETHERHOOD program, a member-led community service committee, took charge of the event. Under their caring direction, relationships with the local sponsors and participants of the event grew and so did the number of attendees. By 2015, the lunch was moved from the Teen Center to one half of the Central Bucks Family YMCA gymnasium. Last year, with over 125 attendees, the entire gym was opened for the event.
YMCA Director of Member Engagement Karen Birmingham hopes for even more attendees this year. She notes that, for the first time, they are inviting veterans from the Lower Bucks YMCA as well. Since the gym can accommodate up to 250 people, there is plenty of room for all who wish to attend. Although everyone who wants to come is asked to register, no vets are ever turned away. Somehow space for one more chair can always be found.
With decorations provided by the VIA, the large gym is transformed into a welcoming and patriotic space. The walkway leading to the YMCA entrance is lined with flags supplied by the Travis Manion Foundation. Volunteers are present to greet the veterans and direct them to the event.
According to Ms. Birmingham, the members of the YMCA Togetherhood program listened carefully to the feedback of the veterans over the years and have changed the format of the event to respect their wishes. Their main request was a simple one - to have the time and space to socialize with their fellow veterans. To this end, there are no grand speeches or lengthy presentations, just a short introduction and a little entertainment prior to the lunch itself.
Zane Moore, President & CEO of the Central Bucks Family YMCA, will start things off with a brief welcome to the attendees. YMCA member Skip Schanbacker, as he has every year, will play the National Anthem on his trumpet. Each branch of the military in attendance will then be recognized.
For the third year, the Central Bucks West High School choir, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Ohrt, will sing a medley of patriotic songs. Lastly, George H. Lindsey Jr, Commander of the Doylestown chapter of the DAV, will give the invocation. The students from the choir will stay for a short time to interact with the vets before returning to school. As Ms. Birmingham notes, the beautiful voices of the choir and the engagement of the youth with the vets afterwards is always a moving part of the event.
Once the introduction and entertainment are over, lunch will be served. This year, the YMCA is pleased to have Mission BBQ catering the event. Mission BBQ is a company dedicated to honoring our country's heroes & to making delicious all-American food. As they state on their web site, they are "Proudly serving those who serve".
In addition to the main meal, coffee will be available courtesy of the Doylestown Starbucks. They have generously donated coffee to this event every year.
A variety of desserts, made by YMCA member volunteers, will also be offered.
As the luncheon has grown over the years, the YMCA has never lost focus on the main reason for the event - to humbly show their appreciation and gratitude to our veterans and active military members. The YMCA considers it an honor to host this event and to provide our vets with a space where they will be received with warmth and respect. They also encourage people to find out more about the initiatives the YMCA offers to veterans.
This Veterans Day let us all take a moment to thank those who have so selflessly given of themselves for our wonderful country. After all, a small ‘Thank You' might mean something much larger to the recipient of those heartfelt words. The Central Bucks Family YMCA, its staff, the Togetherhood volunteers & members of the VIA are happy to offer their thanks to veterans in this special way.
Date: Tuesday, November 14th
Time: 12pm - 2pm
Location: Central Bucks Family YMCA, 2500 Lower State Road, Doylestown, PA
To RSVP, contact Karen Birmingham at 215-348-8131, x1186