As the daughter of a World War II veteran, Janette Moore had local troops on her mind, but it wasn’t until she met the widow of an Afghanistan soldier that she saw a need to serve veterans and their families.
In an effort to create a space for community members to meet other military families, the Bald Eagle Valley Community United Methodist Church will host Centre County’s first Salute to Our Veterans — a free event — from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the church, located on 111 Runville Road in Wingate.
“The event was planned to give our veterans and their families a space to learn about the various resources — both private and public — that are available to them,” Pastor Ron Baker said at last week’s board of commissioners meeting. “We have lots of events for families, so children can be in a bounce house, get face painting, play various games while the veterans can interact with other veterans. Perhaps survivors, Gold Star families could interact with other members that are dealing with various issues.”
Anticipating a crowd of 400 people, Moore said there will be enough food and dessert to feed everyone. In addition to a bounce house and face painting, the event will also feature a tethered hot air balloon. Local veterans affairs offices, church groups, motorcycle clubs and Boy Scout troops are planning to attend and help run booths, demonstrations and displays at the event.
“We had been praying as a church about what ministries God might be leading us to,” Baker said, adding that one day Moore knocked on his office door and said she wanted to serve local veterans.
After meeting a Gold Star family member at the Planet Fitness gym in State College, Moore said she thought the community event would be a good way to connect families who might have lost loved ones while they were serving in the military.
“I went back to (Baker) and said, ‘I think God was talking to us this morning at Planet Fitness because that isn’t a coincidence, right?’ ” Moore said.
Hoping that the first Salute to Our Veterans will be successful, Moore said she wants it to lead to future events like monthly military family meetings at the church.
“We really want to open our facility up to our community,” Moore said.