LVMAC News — Thrivent Foundation Wishes to Work with LVMAC

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Newspaper Logo 70%Messrs. Rick Baldwin, Community Engagement Coordinator, Tom Knauer and Michael Colson, the regional point of contact, of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans addressed the Council at its 26 September business meeting.  Although there is no chapter specific to the Lehigh Valley, there are about 107,287 members in 53 chapters throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Consequently, it might play a huge role to the benefit of veterans in our valley.  This is what their talk centered around.

Thrivent is a faith-based, membership organization which traditionally has “helped its members be wise with their money and live generously.”  As a fraternal benefit society, it “… supports communities … and individuals in need through volunteer activities and giving programs.”

As example, it is the largest corporate sponsor of Habitat for Humanity nationally. Its support to others is derived through its membership nominating a person or organization for consideration. In other words, members choose where their charitable activities and dollars go.

Thrivent is also well known for its free financial workshops (proper financial management is a common problem for our younger service members and veterans). It does not foist its financial wares at these workshops.  Altruism is at work.

Mr. Baldwin then went into details on their operations in Pennsylvania. It helps communities (and congregations) through two primary endeavors: chapter activities and the Thrivent Choice Program. For 2011, having dedicated over 645, 512 volunteer hours in Pennsylvania in 2,534 events alone, its chapters raised over $2,300,000. These chapter activities were reinforced by the Choice Program, which is a charitable grant program operated through the Thrivent Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. It distributed over $2,145,000 to Pennsylvania’s Lutheran congregations and organizations to support their efforts in 2011.

This was in addition to the supporting of several national-level charities, such as Habitat for Humanity above. Others include the Salvation Army and food banks. In Pennsylvania alone, about $420,000 was received in this manner.

Now with its budding ecumenical approach to charitable support, it wishes to extend its charitable and educational programs to other 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes those involved with the veterans community.

The consequence of all these activities has been has been about $5,750,000 in financial outreach in Pennsylvania – no small sum and a credit to the organization.

Mr. Baldwin also stated he has recently involved his organization in setting up a “Salute Our Veterans” event on November 10 at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Not only will this event provide entertainment, recognize veterans, and provide an opportunity for touring the center’s heritage trails and seeing its exhibits, but it will also include the assembling of care packages for our active duty troops.

The Council will be seeking their active involvement in assisting veterans in the Lehigh Valley.  The first steps will probably involve homelessness support and Habitat activities which involve veterans in some manner (the Lehigh Valley chapter is a member organization). [Editor’s Note: LVMAC does not foster business endeavors.  It fosters benevolent support activities on the behalf of military service members, veterans and their families.]

For more information on Thrivent’s activities, click here.


As a result of one of our previous awardees enlisting into the Marine Corps instead of going to college, the Scholarship Committee recommended (and it was approved by the Veterans Affairs Committee) that his $1,000 be added to the scholarship award of a veteran, since veterans are the priority of the program. All the funds for this year ($9,000) have been distributed.  We’ll start again sometime next January.


With the loss of Len deRoche to the ministry, we are seeking a new program manager for our personal care/nursing home visitation program. If interested in helping to find organizations to visit and coordinating them, please contact the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.


Phil Hublitz reports the next event will be held on 7 October at Saks Pond, between here and Quakertown.  Gary Blockus of the Morning Call reported on it yesterday. Therefore, we are receiving good publicity.  [Editor’s Note:  Weather forced the event to be rescheduled to 13 October.]


The Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living will be talking about their Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) in October.  SSVF is a relatively new VA grant program intended to reduce homelessness through prevention measures. We are still trying to get Wilkes-Barre VAMC involved with the Regional Homeless Advisory Board of NE Pennsylvania as a partner – a committee with whom they should want to be involved as it affects homeless veterans in its network.

Since the demand for veterans assistance is going up, not down, the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee wants to get together with Pat DiLuzio of Victory House and see if LVMAC can get an alliance of funding organizations and service providers to work together more formally to the advantage of our veterans.


LVMAC recently concluded another workshop on 20 September at Westfield Hospital.  The key items were a project management system has been put in place and work on the Resource Manual is beginning.  It is now looking at scheduling the next CEO conference for February to report progress. This time we would hope to see the Director of the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center attend. Already under Eric Johnson’s guidance, the program is having its effects in problem solving systemic issues.


We are about to secure a permission to produce a second edition of our family PTSD booklet from its author.  The updating of the resources section has begun and the printer has been asked to give a bid.  The review is expected to be completed in October.  Recently Dick Moore distributed about 100 copies recently to the Navy-Marine Reserve Center at their request and Dottie Niklos reports that Northampton County judiciary and legislators have requested the product.


Robin Carmody has met with the head of Operation Military Kid in Pennsylvania during one of their Ready-Set-Go (RSG) training sessions in the Scranton area. She is trying to find out what it would take to bring the RSG program to the Lehigh Valley, after all these years.  This is a Department of Agriculture sponsored program – not a National Guard program – as some commonly believe.


Diana Heckman of Treatment Trends, a member organization, approached us about holding a Veterans Day event at the former Veterans Sanctuary facility, since most of it lies dormant and is available space for other uses.  We’re now looking at a 10 November concert to be given by Jason Moon of Warriors Song to celebrate the service of veterans and to make the community better aware of some of the complications upon return.  Yesterday, we spoke to Bill Carmody and his people at First Generation, another member organization and probably the biggest multi-media marketing and advertising agency in the Lehigh Valley, about helping and they have offered their services.  The goal is to fill the facility to capacity — 400 people from the community.  Allentown has let Veterans Days events flag – Halloween seemingly has higher importance.  We want to see if an effort such as this can possibly bring the meaning of Veterans Day back to Allentown.


Through our LVMAC Public Relations Chair, Dottie Niklos, and the Blue Star Mothers of the Lehigh Valley, one of our original member organizations, we have decided to support the building of a smart home to ensure the independent living of Sgt. Adam Keys, when he is able.  The building of smart homes for our most severely disabled veterans of the current war is a program of the Building for America’s Bravest alliance (a coalition where the Tunnel to Towers Foundation works with the Gary Sinese Foundation). Beyond marketing and advertising support (to include the recent State Theatre fundraiser by Gary Sinese) and the offer to connect the alliance to the local construction community, LVMAC has already donated $1,000.

While Adam Keys is not yet in a position to select a building site in the Lehigh Valley, the efforts of the alliance have already raised in excess of $25,000 within a few short months.


Treatment Trends is pursuing state and federal funding to restart its Veterans Sanctuary on a more limited scale than originally we in LVMAC had envisioned. It has spoken with various legislators and administration officials in pursuit of this goal. It has been an uphill climb.


The State’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is slightly reorganizing its Office of Veterans Affairs to put more emphasis into outreach initiatives.

Meanwhile the Pennsylvania Department of the American Legion again failed to pass a resolution for a State Department of Veterans Affairs this summer. It is the only known, state-level American Legion organization known to oppose the creation of one, when the opportunity presented itself.  The VFW, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and the Vietnam Veterans of America have all come out formally in support of such a cabinet-level agency which would make advocacy and support of veterans its raison d’ etre.

SB 1531, which would create the Pennsylvania Veterans Trust Fund and mechanism for contributing to it, is still in the Senate. Should pass by next week. Then the House must review it.  There are flaws in it, but it is a needed bill, since the Assembly is loath to ensure veterans programs and services are properly funded out of appropriations.

HB 2191, currently in the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, is bad legislation which can affect veterans, especially the elderly and returning veterans.  “House Bill 2191 will undo Pennsylvania’s strong consumer protection laws which curb high-cost lending, opening the door to payday loans that will carry annual interest rates as high as 369 percent,” wrote the Keystone Research Center in a recent press release. Why some of our own local State Representatives have supported it needs questioning.  Active Duty soldiers are protected by federal law which sets the limit at a 36% usury rate.  MOAA and its local Chapter, a member organization, have joined a coalition to oppose it.  Please support them by contacting your State Senator.

West Virginia lawmakers are launching a comprehensive survey next Monday to learn more about the state’s legions of military veterans and their needs before the next legislative session. Why can’t we do something like that?   Oh! We’re in Pennsylvania?  < >


In November, the Mr. Robert McKenrick, Director of the Veterans Benefits Regional Office in Philadelphia, will be talking to us at a council meeting

Walgreens and TRICARE Update:  Despite what you might have heard to the contrary lately, Walgreens left the TRICARE retail network when its contract with Express Scripts expired at the end of last year. The underlying reason for not getting them back into the program administer by DoD? Their cost is the answer, according to the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). Other pharmacies have offered new network discounts that have yielded bigger savings for Express Scripts Inc. and TRICARE. This week, ESI announced that while it will partner with Walgreens on some of its other programs, Walgreens won’t be readmitted to the TRICARE pharmacy network.

Caregivers of wounded veterans mistakenly received letters recently warning that automatic spending cuts set for January could stop their monthly stipends, creating more concern about the problems that sequestration might bring. Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman Josh Taylor said department officials have contacted all of the caregivers who received the notifications, clarifying that their stipends are not in danger and apologizing for the confusion. So why was it sent out?  No explanation was given.


 As of 26 September 2012