Five years ago, David Brinkmoeller, commander of the VFW Post 1498 in Clifton Park, was at the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany for volunteer work and he saw something that stuck with him: a veteran walk in to the center off the street without a coat.
Brinkmoeller was shocked. He had seen other veterans in the center while he had been working in voluntary services who were in need of warm clothes, and veterans who were homeless and discharged without any clothes to leave in.
He found out a short time later that the hospital did not provide veterans with clothing if they needed it, whether they were brought in to the hospital via ambulance, or walked in off of the street.
“They're not given any clothing to go home in. That’s when I became aware of the desperate need of clothing that exists in the VA hospital,” Brinkmoeller said.
He then decided that he needed to take action and, with the VFW Post 1498 behind him, he was equipped to.
Brinkmoeller ultimately was able to reach out to New Jersey based clothing Haband and come to a deal: the VFW post would raise money and purchase clothes from the company, and the company would deliver that clothing to the hospital in large quantities.
The clothing purchased for veterans includes winter coats, heavy shirts, pants, socks, flannel shirts, fleeces and more.
In the past five years, the post has donated $71,000 to the hospital in clothing, with drop-offs consisting of over 700 items each. The post raises money for the clothing through a variety of fundraisers held throughout the year.
In October 2018, the post made its fourth donation of clothing, this time totaling about $25,000 worth of clothes, approximately 648 items. And Brinkmoeller has no intention of stopping the project now.
While the group also works with other local retailers including Tractor Supply, Haband is the largest contributor of clothing.
"It's kind of a proud moment for all of us at the VA and VFW, when we go up there and know that we're helping not only homeless veterans, but veterans who are in need of clothing. I think it's really a great project that we're working on. We know these veterans are taken care of," Brinkmoeller said.
The far-reaching nature of the project has gained attention from national veterans organizations, as well as local municipalities.
On Feb. 18, the Clifton Park Town Board unanimously passed a resolution honoring the post for its efforts, and giving Brinkmoeller time during the meeting to talk about the clothing campaign.
Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett commended Brinkmoeller and the many other posts, and ladies' auxiliary posts who were in attendance at the meeting for continuing to help both homeless and other veterans, a cause everyone should be seeking to become involved with, Barrett said.
"I want to commend, on behalf of the Town of Clifton Park, you and everybody that's involved in this incredible project," he said.
Haband and the Stratton VA Medical Center did not return requests for comment on the VFW effort.