BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - There's a new organization coming to Berkeley Heights, Friends of 6259 -- that's the number of the Berkeley Heights VFW Post - 6259.

Post Adjutant Steve Falk, a former Marine, explained VFW Post members want to create an organization that will help support the activities of the post, including, but not limited to: helping with fundraising; bringing aid and comfort to veterans confined to care at VA facilities, in particular the Lyons facility; helping with projects at and in the Post headquarters; fostering patriotism, and preserving and strengthening friendship asnd collegiality among the members and veteran community.

The idea for the Friends group grew from the "many people who approached us and said, 'What can we do to help' the Post," said Falk.  The Friends group will be "something we can do together as veterans and community members," he said.  

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For those who haven't been inside the Post in a while, according to Mayor Robert Woodruff, it has undergone a "drastic physical change," in the past year.  

Falk said, both the heating units have been replaced, as well as the air conditioning system and the roof. The upstairs meeting room has been painted and the kitchen is being spruced up.  Downstairs, the Canteen is in the midst of being redecorated.  At lunchtime members and their guests can drop in and use the pool table, play shuffle board, help themselves to something hot for lunch or some snacks while grabbing an adult beverage at the cash bar. On a recent visit, two men were playing a friendly game of pool. When Kathy Brandt, a guest of one of the vets came in, the men at the bar recommended she try the lasagna (which was almost gone) and the meatballs and sausages in gravy.   
 
During the Jan. 24 meeting of the Township Council, Mayor Robert Woodruff said VFW Post 6259 was preparing to form an organization that would be open to everyone in the area to support its efforts and urged residents to spread the word about this "worthwhile cause." Like many veterans' organizations, membership isn't as robust as it once was.  This new organization will help members fulfill the VFW's mission and support the Post, where veterans can come and continue the camaraderie they enjoyed while in the service. 

Falk said he hopes younger vets, including those who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, will join the Post. The members and the organization are a font of information on what services are available for veterans and where to go to get benefits. A Viet Nam vet, Falk said one thing "we became aware of is PTSD. We all have it," and there is help available for those who seek it. 

Falk said he mailed letters to officials, including the mayor, people who have supported the VFW in the past, some members of the Memorial Park Renewal Committee, the Memorial Day Parade Committee and others, inviting them to attend a meeting on March 1 about the new group. Each person who received the letter was asked to share it. "We welcome anyone who wants to learn about the Friends of 6259 or to help," said Falk.

The purpose of the meeting is to thank people for their past support and to ask them to consider joining the Friends of 6259. No invitation is necessary to attend, the meeting is open to the public. There will be a nominal fee charged to join the Friends of 6259, he said. For those who do join, along with helping the Post, members in good standing will be welcomed to the Post's public activities and have access to the Canteen.

The meeting will be held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, at Post 6259, 15 Locust Ave., Berkeley Heights.