TOWNSEND -- The Veteran Hospice Homestead in Fitchburg will soon by sporting a new television stand, courtesy of the Townsend VFW. The VFW recently presented a check to the homestead for $405 to pay for the requested item.

Post Junior Vice Commander John Whittemore found out about the need for a television stand. The homestead currently has a flat screen television, but the way it is currently positioned can make it difficult for some veterans who are wheelchair-bound to watch. The homestead wanted a stand that would lift the television at least two feet off of the floor, and the VFW was happy to oblige.

"It was a little bit more money than they had," said Post Commander Russell Jobe. "It doesn't cost a lot, but they don't have a lot, either."

The VFW just recently adopted the homestead, said Jobe. It is the practice of VFW posts across the country to adopt organizations and agencies that aide veterans. This is the first agency that has been formally adopted by the Townsend VFW.

Jobe found out about the Veteran Hospice Homestead through online research. The hospice was founded in 1993 by Leslie Lightfoot, a veteran of Vietnam.

"When she came back, she saw a need," said development director Jennifer Ogonowski. "She started the hospice for veterans who were dying and had no place to go. It just blossomed for there."

The organization now has six locations, including the hospice in Fitchburg. The hospice serves as a comfortable residence for homeless veterans who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.


The other facilities include the Hero Homestead in Leominster, the Armistice Homestead in Leominster, Northeast Veteran Training and Rehabilitation Center in Gardner, Victory Farm in New Hampshire and Hacienda de Veteranos in Puerto Rico. The facilities provide a wide range of services for veterans, from elderly and disabled living to injury rehabilitation and recovery to transitional living for homeless veterans.

"Most of our guys and girls are homeless so that's when they come to us," said Ogonowski.

The programs are geared towards veterans suffering from emotional or psychological symptoms as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, said Ogonowski.

They also partner with Mount Wachusett Community College to provide education and tuition to veterans and their spouses.

"The organization is just outstanding in helping veterans," said Jobe.

The funds for the television stand were raised on Jan. 18 through the post's monthly meat bingo. The proceeds from each event go towards a charitable organization, such as the homestead or the Townsend Ecumenical Organization.

The VFW purchases a variety of meats, from steaks to whole turkeys and hams to hot dogs, for the bingo game. Attendees can pay $1 for a set of three playing cards; they can purchase as many cards as they want.

Cards are pulled from the deck and posted on a board a foot and a half tall so that everyone can see. Once a player has all three of his or her cards matched to the cards pulled on the board, they win the round and get to take home the prized meat.

"It's always a lot more than a dollar," said Jobe.

The VFW also hosts meat raffles and a 50/50 raffle. The last raffle of the evening is "winner take all." Cards are $5 each. The last winner of "winner take all" won $200, said Jobe.

"It's a good time to come in and just sit around. If you have $10 or $15, you can walk out with a good barbecue," said Jobe.

The meat bingo isn't the only way that the Townsend VFW gives back to the community, said Jobe. Each holiday season for more than 20 years, the VFW has organized the Santa Claus program, where residents of town can donate presents and the day before Christmas, volunteers dressed as Santa Claus go around to hand deliver them. This past year, the VFW donated more than 800 gifts.

This upcoming Sunday, the VFW is hosting its annual ice-skating party. Pending cold enough weather, the VFW is inviting local residents of Townsend and the surrounding communities to come out to the pond in front of the post, and to bring their ice skates.

"We don't even care if they have ice skates; they can get right out there on their feet," said Jobe. "People can bring their kids down, go out and have a ball."

The event has been taking place for over two decades.

"It's something we do to get the community together and bring them back, let them know we're still here," said Jobe.