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AMVETS Post Commander Fred Johnson talked with fellow employee Ashley Sewell as residents gathered for their evening meal at Naomi House on Oct. 15.
AMVETS Post Commander Fred Johnson talked with fellow employee Ashley Sewell as residents gathered for their evening meal at Naomi House on Oct. 15.

Veterans form AMVETS post at The Sarah Community

Unique post serves residents, staff and neighborhood

The meeting room is a little nicer than your average veterans’ hall, with drop-down rounded lights and a patterned carpet. It’s more ritz than barracks.

In front, AMVETS Post Commander Fred Johnson moved next to a cart and a U.S. flag. Johnson stood at attention with his hand over his heart, leading the Pledge of Allegiance before the AMVETS meeting on Sept. 26, the third-ever meeting for the post.

The cart of AMVETS materials was necessary and the hall was more glamorous because the meeting was in the comfortable surroundings of the multipurpose room in a retirement community. Two months earlier, July 31, at The Sarah Community in Bridgeton, AMVETS officials inducted Post 122, the first in the nation in a retirement community.

AMVETS Post Commander Fred Johnson talked with resident Mary Hick during the evening meal at Naomi House on Oct. 15.
AMVETS, which is also known as American Veterans, is a congressionally chartered veterans service organization open to representing the interests of veterans and their families. The Sarah Community lists 20 veterans among its residents.

Johnson, a chef at The Sarah Community, is leading several initiatives, initially tied to other programs at the community. One is to support the Fun Committee’s food drive for people who are homeless and hungry. The committee of residents, employees and staff seeks to “put a smile on residents’ faces,” said Patricia Finch, president of the committee, who discussed the drive and other efforts it sponsors, including a Halloween costume party.

Johnson, an Army Veteran, served in military intelligence and other areas for nine years. He served on bases in California, Georgia and elsewhere. His family background includes his grandfather who served in the U.S. Army in World War II, he said, and another relative, entertainer Josephine Baker, a St. Louisan who lived in France during that war, serving as a spy for the Allies. Her family referred to her as “Aut Toppe,” Johnson said.

He enjoys leading the post, which includes a group of co-workers and residents, he said. “Our community is a diverse, faith-based community,” he said.

Some of the workers are immigrants, and he helps to educate them on the American system of government and culture.

Gregory Grant, a U.S. Air Force veteran who also works at The Sarah Community, serves the post as first vice in charge. He said the initial focus included organizing the new post and publicizing it. Growing pains include scheduling meetings at the right time — the September meeting inadvertently occurred at the same time as bingo games at the residence, which attracted many of the veterans who chose that over the meeting. “Once we get everything started it’s going to be a breeze,” Grant said.

Meetings are held on the last Wednesday of the month, and they are open to the community. “It’s not just for our residents,” said Latisha Young of The Sarah Community. “If you are a veteran who lives within our area or are a family member you can join our AMVETS. We also are starting a women’s auxiliary.”

Marie Gillen, a resident in assisted living for five years who previously attended St. Bartholomew and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, is interested in the auxiliary. Her husband served in the U.S. Navy in World War II, including on the USS Missouri and the USS Trenton. She said there are many others at the Sarah Community with ties to the military, including a woman whose daughter, a helicopter pilot, who was killed in action. Gillen talked about how much she enjoys The Sarah Community, especially the many events that are held there.

The Sarah Community, a nonprofit faith-based retirement community, offers retirement living for active seniors, along with assisted living and skilled nursing, each with a focus on wellness of body, mind and spirit. It was founded in 1997 by The Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, Society of the Sacred Heart, School Sisters of Notre Dame, and the Sisters of Loretto. Its residents include women religious and lay people.

Founded in 1944, AMVETS has more than 250,000 members nationwide. It enhances the quality of life for all veterans, their families and survivors. Membership in AMVETS is open to anyone who honorably served or is currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves.

AMVETS makes a long-term economic impact by providing assistance, jobs and services to veterans and their communities.

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