ST. BONAVENTURE, NY— Area veterans have joined forces to assist other veterans in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties in these uncertain times.

St. Bonaventure University’s Office of Veterans Services has teamed up with the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program on the Food4Vets program.

Frank Morales, a retired Army master sergeant, is director of the Office of Veterans Services at SBU.

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“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you’re doing the impossible,” Morales said, referring to one of the key teachings of St. Francis of Assisi that truly defines how the effort started and how it’s evolved in such a short time.

“This is proving to be a big win-win for both the veteran community and our local restaurants hosting us,” said Lt. Col. Sean Coulter, officer in charge of the Army ROTC program at St. Bonaventure.

“We're also helping veterans build new connections between themselves and increasing awareness within the area. These factors will continue to shape our community for the better as we start to transition to the next phases of 'New York on Pause' in the coming weeks.”

The team’s goal is to provide veterans “a little piece of normalcy” with a dish from a local restaurant. The program not only seeks to help veterans, but the local businesses that have aided local veteran initiatives over the year. 

Over the past five weeks, the team has reached out to 129 local veterans and provided more than 900 meals from five local restaurants: Fyre and Ice in Portville, Fusion on Main in Allegany, Baby D’s in Weston’s Mills, El Sombrero in Olean, and Moonwinks in Cuba.

“Baby D’s is proud to serve those who have served our country. It’s an honor to be part of the Food4Vets program dedicated to helping those individuals who have stood strong in the face of adversity,” said Ryan Lee, owner and head chef at Baby D’s. “We wouldn’t be able to stay operational without being a part of this initiative, and in return we are able to provide nearly 300 meals to the elderly and less fortunate.”  

Baby D’s has also been serving free breakfasts to all who stop by on Sundays since the pandemic started, thanks in large part to generosity of the local community. 

Details are posted daily to the Dwyer program’s Facebook page and handed out with each meal. However, the most effective way word has spread among the local veteran community has been by word of mouth.

Each week, the team supports new veterans, some of which have limited ability to leave their house, either due to distance from town, age and risk factor, family member medical conditions, or some combination of all of them.

Created in 2012 by New York State, the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer Support Program is designed to be a non-clinical, veterans support program to pair veterans with each other by offering social events and other peer-to-peer activities.

PFC Dwyer was an Army medic who enlisted just days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Dwyer returned home after serving honorably, but he was never the same.

Due to complications from PTSD, consumed by his own demons and battling with substance abuse and depression, Dwyer passed away in 2008. He was 31.

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