Student-led distribution of green bracelets on the Penn State Mont Alto campus has helped area veterans and their families access non-perishable food, milk, eggs and meat through the Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs.
The Student Government Association and Student Veterans Association partnered to distribute Thin Green Line bracelets, asking recipients to donate to the cause in return. The efforts raised nearly $600.
“Those who received the bracelets seemed appreciative that they had a way to show their support. I still see students to this day wearing their Thin Green Line bracelets from the week of Veterans Day,” said Zach Albright, president of Penn State Mont Alto’s Student Government Association.
With Veterans Day 2022 approaching, Albright talked to S. LeMar Best from the Student Veterans Association about incentivizing students, faculty and staff while asking for donations to a cause supporting veterans. The pair settled on the bracelets as an understated way to show continued support.
“He reached out, and I told him it’d be great if we did a fundraiser. I haven’t seen it done since I got to Mont Alto – two student groups getting together for a fundraiser,” Best said, saying the two groups had a good-natured competition to determine which one could distribute a greater number of bracelets.
The MilitaryShare Program is a drive-through food bank that distributes food to veterans, guard members, reservists and widows on a monthly basis, according to John McPaul, community outreach coordinator for the Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs.
McPaul said he has talked to Penn State Mont Alto personnel about food insecurity for veterans and students. In cooperation with the Central PA Food Bank, the MilitaryShare Program serves more than 500 veterans and their families each month, with extra food sent to the college campus for distribution.
“A widow came to us because she was in need due to the death of her husband,” McPaul said of MilitaryShare. “She has an adult-aged child with special needs and was unable to afford all of the food she needed for her son and herself. She was doing without in order to give him more. They now have enough food each month so that neither is hungry.”
Student groups arranged for bracelets to be distributed in the General Studies Building, the Mill Café, Wiestling Patio and other locations on the Penn State Mont Alto campus. Recipients were asked to make a donation of any amount.
“This cause is incredibly important because there are millions of veterans around the country who are not receiving the support they need,” Albright said, saying he feels the nation is not appropriately serving the people who served it.
Penn State Mont Alto has a “significant veteran student population on campus, and they are all deserving of support and respect for serving our nation,” he added.
Best, who served in the Marine Corps from 1996 to 2010, described the veterans’ center on campus as a place for veterans to study, get advice about courses and career choices, and collaborate with one another.
“I love people, and I love to promote inclusion,” he said.
Other initiatives at Penn State Mont Alto include a Thanksgiving food drive, helping families buy gifts during the holiday season, and conducting a student engagement survey so that those on campus can better understand the needs of the student body. Students also gathered themed gifts for a child with leukemia and completed 120 thank you cards during the annual Day of Service on campus.
McPaul said those interested in donating time or money to the MilitaryShare Program can call 717-263-4326.
“Our office is here to help in any way we can,” he said. “We offer help with veteran benefits and also provide outreach programs to help veterans.”
The Student Veterans Association and Student Government Association from Penn State Mont Alto recently collaborated to raise $592 to benefit the Franklin County Veterans Affairs MilitaryShare program through a Green Line Bracelet donation fundraiser. Partners from Penn State Mont Alto and the Franklin County Office of Veterans Affairs include, from left, Zach Albright, Student Government Association President; Stephen Grace, Franklin County Veterans Affairs; and S. LeMar Best, Student Veterans Association President. Credit: Penn State