Donations have poured in for the Milwaukee VA Medical Center’s upcoming baby shower for expectant Veterans.

Knights of Columbus Council 3095 in West Allis presented a $10,000 check to the Milwaukee VA. The Wisconsin American Legion Auxiliary donated $5,500 worth of items along with a number of hand-made blankets and stuffed animals.

“This is amazing,” said Katie Wisniewski, manager of the Women Veteran Program at the Milwaukee VA.

The drive-thru event on Aug. 28 will provide a variety of baby needs – from diapers and strollers to wipes and baby-proofing kits – to female Veterans.

The Knights of Columbus donation comes from a windfall the council received after selling its banquet hall near 92nd Street and Greenfield Avenue, according to Grand Knight Rich Beres.

The money from the sale was invested, and now the Knights are distributing the funds to charities and other community groups.

“Helping Veterans is a priority”

Bonnie Jakubczyk, left, and Torrie Hutchison, Voluntary Services specialist, show off some of the 75-bumble bee stuffed animals crocheted by Bonnie and her mother.

“We’ve donated $110,000 this year to various organizations including Mother of Perpetual Help Church and Mary Queen of Saints School, both in West Allis, and five different food pantries, among others,” Beres said. “It’s one of the best feelings. Our group’s charitable foundation typically gives away $20,000 in a year.”

While the Knights of Columbus is a Catholic-affiliated organization, Beres said the group has its share of Veterans and helping Veterans is a priority.

It was through the group’s VA representative that it learned of the baby shower. When the event was mentioned at a meeting of regional councils, the West Allis council jumped at the chance to help.

“She cried for five minutes”

“The council is based on four tenets: charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism,” Wisniewski said. “If we can’t help the Vets, then we’re doing something wrong.”

Wisniewski said the money will go to good use, as demonstrated by a phone call she received recently.

It was from a female Veteran escaping an abusive relationship with no money and nowhere to turn with a child on the way.

“She was panicky, saying, ‘What am I going to do?’ I told her, ‘You’ve got to come to the baby shower. You will be gifted with so much amazing stuff,’ And she cried for five minutes,” Wisniewski said.

Auxiliary answers the call

The Wisconsin American Legion Auxiliary also showed up in a big way for the Veterans.

Bonnie Jakubczyk is the hospital representative from the auxiliary. She received about $5,500 collected from auxiliaries throughout the state to purchase items for the shower. Those items included diaper bags, gift sets for the mothers, bumble bee teethers, baby books and bibs.

Bonnie and her mother also crocheted 75 bumble bee stuffed animals. One will go in each bin of items the expectant mothers will receive.

“Bonnie has donated a lot of time and energy, sharing information around the state about the shower,” said Jessica Serdynski, chief of Voluntary Services. “Other American Legion auxiliaries have joined the effort either donating money or purchasing needed items as well as knitting blankets for the newborns. She also was on our planning committee for the baby shower. She has been instrumental in making this event possible for the Milwaukee VA.”

By David Walter is the public affairs officer for the Milwaukee VA.

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Published on Aug. 27, 2021

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