Mar 11, 2017 at 05:28 PM

A Look Back

By Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation

As the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation gears up for 2017, one cannot help but reflect back on when our efforts began.

2003 – Our Founding

When Pierre Claeyssens passed away in 2003, it became a year of building a Board of Directors and creating a mission statement to carry on the vision he held for years.  He thought the most important thing he could try to pass on was to honor, commemorate and support Veterans and Active Duty Military by giving back to those in the community.  His patriotism was central to his core values. PCVF began in those early years to continue to expand our commitment to his ideals.

Adding Community Events

The Annual Military Ball was the centerpiece of Pierre’s many ways to honor Veterans. The PCVF Board believed we could expand other events to include more people in the community.  When PCVF took over the Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies at the Santa Barbara Cemetery, it resulted in attendance numbers that went from a handful of people to more than 800 at each service.  

The Annual Veterans Day Parade, which had not taken place since 1975, started again because of PCVF and has become a tradition much anticipated by residents and tourists alike with multiple vehicles, marching groups, spectacular flyovers with WWII vintage airplanes, and a parachute jump in front of the Veterans Memorial Building by the Patriot Parachute Team (made up of former US Navy SEALS).

Direct Veteran and Active-Duty Support

By 2005, our work expanded to directly support the ROTC program at UCSB. Their numbers had dwindled and there was a great need for some discretionary funding to help grow the program.  PCVF financial support has been extremely successful in helping to propel the program to the top of all the ROTC programs in the country.  In 2012, a Pentagon attempt to quash ROTC programs nationally was quickly discarded after Chancellor Henry Yang applauded the UCSB Surfrider Battalion as an example of both military and academic superiority.

In 2011, Dr. Kirsten Olsen, a clinical psychologist at UCSB, approached PCVF with a concept for the UCSB Veterans Resource Team.  The goal was to identify and reach out to post-9/11 Veterans who were attending UCSB on the GI Bill and had many needs and issues upon transitioning to civilian life.  PCVF agreed to pay for the Director’s salary for the first year and equipment for use by the Veterans.  We are proud to say the VRT is in its fourth year, in a large, well-equipped, and much-utilized space serving more than 100 Veterans and their families.

Additionally, financial aid is given on an annual basis to the Family Readiness Groups at the local bases of Vandenberg, Port Hueneme and Pt. Mugu.  Always cognizant of Pierre’s philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out,” the amounts of money are small but enough to help families whose service member is being deployed or returning from deployment.

Community Partnerships

The creation of VETNET in 2013 in collaboration with Visiting Nurse and Hospice care was a godsend for many Veterans who were homeless or close to it.  This network involves 40 local organizations that work together to provide housing and other resources for local Veterans of all ages.  It brings together programs, individuals, foundations and government agencies who pool resources to help the neediest Veterans.

Another partnership – with the Channel City Club – has allowed the PCVF to put on a series of very educational lunches, open to the public.  They are intended to celebrate anniversaries of historically important military events and have included honoring Veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and one upcoming on April 12 for WWI.  This special event is: “Over There – WWI 100 years on.”  It will mark a new high in honoring those Veterans who served our country 100 years ago.  Pierre’s motto “Never Forgotten” resonates in these commemorations and is the driving force behind the commitment of all of the Board Members of the PCVF

In 2016, PCVF decided to resurrect the Annual Fourth of July Concert in the Sunken Garden after attendance in 2015 had fallen to less than 100 attendees.  Working with Westmont and the Santa Barbara Chorale Society, the event was packed with over 1,800 appreciative audience members.  PCVF will replicate the Concert this year and will also participate in the 4th of July Parade on State Street that day.

PCVF is proud to partner again with the Birnam Wood Golf Club for the 3rd Annual Veterans Day Golf Tournament which raised over $275,000 in 2016.  The money goes entirely to Veterans in the UCSB Veterans Resource Team to help them finish their schooling and transition back into the community with their hard-won degrees.

Making Patriotism Popular Again

PCVF is helping make patriotism popular again in Santa Barbara. We are a 501c3 non-profit that depends on support from you, the community, to continue to do the work necessary to support our Veterans and Active Duty Military.

To make a donation in support of these important initiatives of the Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation, call (805) 259-4394, mail a check to 1187 Coast Village Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93108, or donate online here.

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