Nutley Veterans of Foreign Wars have experienced a kind of renaissance over the past few years, experiencing unprecedented expansion and growth under the post’s first-ever female leader, Commander Maria Hamlin. As Veterans Day approaches, we bring you this story in Q&A format with Hamlin. Hamlin’s post recently went from being near closure to being selected as an All-State and All-America post.
Kevin Canessa: What does it mean to be an All-State and All-American? Is it a difficult process?
Maria Hamlin: To be selected for All-State and All-American, a post must meet or exceed program requirements set by VFW. The process is not straightforward as there are many factors involved in meeting each program’s requirements. This includes memberships, community service efforts, work and partnerships with other organizations and, of course, community scholarships and programs such as the Patriots Pen, Voice of Democracy and the Smart Maher Teachers Award Program.
KC: What new things has this post been doing in the last few years?
MH: Added Americanist ceremonies such as POW Commendation Day and Flag Day — including flag retirement ceremonies.
We ran a trunk-or-treat program. When I was a detective, I started that program at the Natore Police Department, and it was important to bring it to VFW.
It also collects food and clothing during veterans’ drives in November and December and distributes them to veterans statewide at VA hospitals and facilities. We also host toy drives for children in need and veterans’ children.
We also partnered with the Garden State Girls Motorcycle Riding Club for a Touch a Trike event. This event will allow our community to sit on trike-style bikes, play carnival games, eat, and spend time with two amazing organizations.
We’ve (also) added new events to our posts and communities like Paint and Sip and Food Truck Events.
We have been working to improve our building and grounds with the help of key partners such as Home Depot, who have built amazing outdoor patios for veterans during COVID. GAF Roofing and PB Roofing replaced the roof as part of a community donation program. We were also able to replace all the ceiling tiles thanks to a generous donation from James Alonso State Farm.
Our memorial was rebuilt thanks to Cifelli and Son and the Nutley Rotary Project led by Dorothy Huey and John Monaco.
KC: I should know this, but are you a Commander? How did you get into VFW? Tell us about your services (military, Nutley PD, etc.)
MH: I am a Commander and in 2021 I was elected the first female Commander. Since the term of office is one year, he was re-elected in April. I have been a member for some time and previously held the position of Lieutenant. After retirement, I was able to dedicate all my time to turning this post around. As a result of their efforts, they earned both All-State and All-America honors this year.
KC: What should people who may not know about foreign war veterans know about VFW?
MH: VFW is a non-profit veterans service organization made up of qualified veterans and military service members of the active duty, Royal Guard and reservists. Our purpose is to serve veterans and communities.
KC: What about Nutley?‘Does your post stand out? Sing your praises here.
MH: We were recently told that our post was in danger of being closed just a few years ago for not meeting the requirements set by state and national offices. People didn’t even know we had VFW in town.
Our goal for the past year has been to be more active in our communities, ensure that our programs are successful, and help as many veterans and their families as possible. Recognized at VFW level. Our community members know that we are here, that we exist, that we are ready and willing to help both our community and all veterans in need. I’m here.
We are not a bar/watering hole. We are here to do real work for veterans and communities!
Editor’s Note: Hamlin was also chosen to be the Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day Parade and his daughter sang the beautiful national anthem.
KC: Is there anything else I should know about Nutley VFW?
MH: Everything we’ve done over the past year would not have been possible without the love, help, and support of our community and the many businesses large and small that have helped us. Most of our veterans have been in service for quite some time and are unable to do what they used to do in our posts. We have a responsibility to truly accept our obligations and responsibilities to continue to operate across the country.
We still have challenges ahead of us. We must continue to recruit members to our organization so that we can continue to support all veterans.
Also, there is a parking lot that is very old and neglected, so you need to be careful. As a non-profit organization, it was prohibitively expensive to properly repave the lot. I am looking into some grants. However, if that doesn’t work, you may need to enlist the help of community supporters.
We are currently conducting a traditional brick fundraiser to raise funds for parking areas and other projects that need to be accomplished in our buildings and premises.
If you are interested in helping, please visit bit.ly/nutleyvfw.
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. Editor and Broadcaster for The Observer, where he has worked regularly since 2006.He is responsible for the editorial content of newspapers and websites, the production of electronic newspapers, and writes articles several times a week (Editorial Weekly), where he broadcasts live. facebook live, including weekly recaps of the news — and much more behind the scenes. From 2006 to his 2008, he introduced his first ever blog, including podcasts, audio and video, to the newspaper. A native of Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004 and in Port St. He Lucy. He stayed in Florida for four years until February 2016, and that year he returned to West Hudson in March, returning to the Observers full-time. click here Send an email to Kevin.