Beyond Veterans Day: Students gave back to local veterans during holiday season

attendees at holiday dinner

The Young Republicans at Penn State Scranton spearheaded a special holiday dinner for area veterans to make the holidays more joyous for them and their families. The event was held on campus in The View Cafe and attended by about 200 veterans and their guests.

Credit: Penn State

DUNMORE, Pa. -- Penn State Scranton’s Young Republicans Club did its part to make the holidays a more joyous time for area veterans.

In December, the group hosted its first Veterans Holiday Dinner in the campus’ View Café.

With help from other campus students and several staff members, the Young Republicans provided a free meal to about 200 local veterans, according to Natalie Ward, club president.

The menu included ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, vegetables and “lots and lots of pie,” Ward said. In addition, there was music, TVs showing the Army-Navy football game, a "Missing Man" table, and special seating and parking arrangements to ensure accessibility for all attendees.

A number of students pitched in at the dinner, while the Young Republicans also received assistance from Deputy Police Chief Lisa DeLaurentis, campus Police Officer Steve Demko, Director of Business Services Gene Grogan, Coordinator of Community Relations Amy Gruzesky, and Administrative Support Assistant Michele Nicoteri.

Meanwhile, in the weeks leading up to the event, the office manager from the Scranton Veterans Center created posters to get the word out to clients, Ward said.

“I believe the event was a massive success and it is definitely something the Young Republicans will host annually,” Ward said. “The planning took months. It involved lots of calls and lots of research. But it was so worth it, because it was so enjoyable and such a humbling experience.”

Ward said the initial idea for the dinner came about last summer, when she contacted Veterans Center representative Les Smith and inquired how the Young Republicans could assist the local veteran population.

“He said that over the past couple years, they couldn't fund a dinner, nor did they have the space,” she said. “That's where the inspiration came from. I wanted to give our heroes the best experience possible.”

To fund the dinner, the Young Republicans received a donation from the campus Student Government Association (SGA).

“Without them, the dinner wouldn't have been as successful as it was,” said Ward, noting the Young Republicans also made a recent $300 donation to the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center.

Dan York, SGA treasurer, was among the student volunteers at the dinner. Without question, the funding was money well spent, he said.

“It was seamless. I was very happy with how well the dinner went,” York said. “And Natalie did a great job of planning the event. And, what was nice about the dinner was that it benefited the entire community.”

Though only in their second semester of existence, the Young Republicans are already proving to be a highly engaged campus presence.

This spring, the group plans to hold a chili cook-off between municipal and state police that will also include a flea market featuring crafts made by local veterans. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Pennsylvania State Police's Camp Cadet summer program for kids.

“We are also planning on hosting a pasta dinner as well as many events for the students on campus,” Ward said. “We are so excited for this semester.”