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Sue LeBar | Democrat

At the phone command center, sitting, from the left: Claire Delany of Tri Valley Lions, Lions District Governor Stuart Wizwer, Miss Teen Thunder Country Anna Rose Mongiello, and Sullivan County Sheriff Mike Schiff. Standing, from the left: Kevin Dowdell of the Villa Roma, “Bear” of Rolling Thunder and organizer Ray McCarthy.

A lifeline for Iraq War veterans – and their families

By Sue LeBar
CALLICOON — September 7, 2010 — On August 28 and 29 the Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center played host to the second annual fundraiser telethon for the Committee for the Families of Iraq Veterans with a great showing of volunteers as well as pledges being made by the communities both far and near.
The Villa Roma night club was turned into a phone command center in which volunteers took numerous pledge calls during the day. These funds will go to the men and women returning home from war who might need a little help with the transition, as well as their families struggling with bills and other adversities.
Ray McCarthy of Monticello founded the committee last year after reading about the problems facing the family of an Orange County soldier killed in Iraq.
“The day did start out a little slow with the phones, but it surely has picked up since then,” McCarthy said. “We are so thankful for the volunteers, the performers, media and everyone involved here this weekend. We are hoping to raise $100,000, but any funds we raise we are truly thankful for.
“Our men and woman serving in the war give so much of themselves to insure our freedom, and this is just a small token of how we can help them and thank them for doing what they do,” McCarthy added. “The funds raised during this telethon will help them with bills, food, and expenses because when they come back it is just like starting over and if they can have this little bit of help, then all this is worth its weight in gold.”
“Bear” – no other name given – a Vietnam vet, was also on hand to help man the phones and stated, “We are so thankful to all the people calling in this weekend and sending in funds. The service men and woman who receive these funds are so thankful, it is nice to be able to help them.
He added, “I am here to help today because when I came back from the war in Vietnam there was no help for us, there was nothing, and I want to do my part to ensure that our service personnel come home, have what they need and don’t have to worry about things because there is help out there. We will surely be there for our soldiers coming back today and in the future as well as the past.”
Villa Roma Director of Marketing and Public Relations Kevin Dowdell noted that the hotel owner, Marty Passante, was a Marine and “it is with great honor and pride that we take part in such a wonderful event.
“We all need to have a strong commitment to our soldiers and let them know we care and we appreciate everything they give up for us as well as what their families give up everyday,” Dowdell added.
The Committee for the Families of Iraq Veterans radiothon included two days of local and distance musical talents, a motorcycle “Freedom Ride” by the Rolling Thunder from ShopRite in Monticello to the Villa Roma, giveaways and great fun to everyone who participated.

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