Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Betty Vanderwielen
Pathfinder 

Veterans and Families of Seeley Lake

The Non-Profit Niche

 

Pathfinder file photo

Veterans & Families of Seeley Lake holds ceremonies on Memorial Day and Veterans Day at the Memorial Gardens on the north end of Seeley Lake. These local veterans were honored November 2016. The wooden Veterans Memorial plaques have been replaced by a covered kiosk with metal plates.

The Seeley-Swan and Blackfoot Valleys are home to many non-profits. All these non-profits play a vital role in our communities and most are run by volunteers. Over the next several months we will feature these various groups in an effort to highlight who they are, what they do and how to get involved. To nominate your favorite non-profit for the feature please email pathfinder@seeleylake.com or call 406-677-2022.

SEELEY LAKE – "We are just a group helping other families and veterans in the area," wrote Veterans and Families of Seeley Lake (VFSL) President Barbara Knopp. Simple words to describe the numerous services VFSL provides to active and veteran military members and to the wider community of Seeley Lake.

VFSL is the scion of the former Seeley Lake Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7992 and the Ladies Auxiliary associated with Post 7992. In accordance with the eligibility standards of the VFW, membership in the Post was only open to military personnel who had served "in a war, campaign or expedition on foreign soil or in hostile waters." In 2008, the Ladies Auxiliary was formed as an adjunct to the Post. Membership in the Auxiliary was open to "female relatives of those who served overseas in a location of foreign conflict."

Twenty-one years later, dwindling membership forced the Post to surrender its charter, consequently compelling the Auxiliary to disband also. Members of the Auxiliary and remaining members of the VFW, however, were unwilling to abandon the Veterans Memorial Garden which honored Seeley Lake's deceased military members. Their sense of patriotism rebelled at the possibility of not having annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies. Their commitment to service could not conceive of abandoning the food assistance program they had been supporting for years.

Their solution was to reconstitute themselves as a non-profit organization. They chose the name Veterans and Families of Seeley Lake and opened membership to anyone related in any degree to a current or former member of the United States military, regardless of whether that person served overseas or in combat or not. Knopp reported that the change tripled their membership.

Separating themselves from any national affiliation and broadening their eligibility base allowed the organization much greater flexibility to choose who and how they wished to serve in the Seeley Lake Community.

After signing a contract with Missoula County, VFSL assumed responsibility for the management and maintenance of the Veterans Memorial Garden. They added an Iwo Jima silhouette at the site and replaced the wooden plaque memorial boards with a covered kiosk containing an engraved metal plate for each deceased former resident of Seeley Lake who served in the armed forces. VFSL will continue to make improvements to the site with a view to giving it a more park-like appearance. They will also continue to organize Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies at the Memorial Garden and to put flags on veteran graves at the Seeley Lake Cemetery.

Other activities VFSL chose to resume include assembling and sending care packages to U. S. military overseas, cleaning up the roadside between mile markers two and four on Highway 83 and providing backpacks for Seeley Lake Elementary School students. They will also continue their annual support to the Seeley-Swan Community Food Bank by packaging bags of groceries at Cory's Valley Market. Sold for $10, the purchased food then is contributed to the Food Bank. VFSL also makes financial contributions to veteran and local community causes.

Activities interrupted by COVID restrictions, but which the group plans to resume, are the annual Veteran's Appreciation Dinner for veterans and their families and entry of a veterans float for the annual Fourth of July parade in Seeley Lake.

VFSL is always open to new members. Membership dues are $10 per person, $25 per family. The group holds monthly meetings every third Thursday at 2 p.m. in the basement of the Faith Chapel Church. Donations are always appreciated at any time. If you wish your donation applied to a specific activity, i.e., backpacks, Veterans Memorial Garden improvements, etc., please so indicate. To donate items for care packages, please contact Glen Stocking.

VFSL Current Board of Directors

President Barbara Knopp, bgauto@blackfoot.net

Vice President Gary Pelletier, garypelletier@blackfoot.net 

Secretary Glen Stocking, kayak455@gmail.com

Treasurer Jon Kimble, jkimble@wellhead.com

Contact Info

Phone: 406-677-2543

Facebook: "Veteran's & Families of Seeley Lake"

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1418, Seeley Lake, MT 59868-1418

 

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