On Saturday, Oct. 8, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Charlie K’s BBQ in Ocean View will be hosting a benefit for Friends of the Fallen, a non-profit, community-based organization that provides services and assistance to families who have lost a loved one in military service.
“Their only purpose – their mission – is to assist the mortuary affairs and offer assistance to the fallen soldiers families when they come in for the dignified transfer,” explained Friends of the Fallen volunteer Tina Veves. (“Dignified transfer” is the name used for the transfer of remains of military service members killed overseas from military aircraft to transfer vehicles at the Air Force base.)
“Fisher Houses are built throughout the country, next to VA hospitals throughout the country,” she noted. “Their purpose was to be like a Ronald McDonald House. In the case of Dover, this is a very unique Fisher House, where the bereaved families stay when they come in to witness the dignified transfer.”
Charlie K’s owner Dave Rogers heard about the organization through Veves and immediately knew he wanted to contribute.
“Every year, my kids, my employees on Sundays, we donate Sunday’s tips to one charity,” explained Rogers. “This year they said, ‘Let’s do armed services.’ Then, one Sunday, Tina Veves came up to the window and saw that our money was going to the armed services.”
After speaking with Veves, Rogers and his employees decided to donate their summer Sunday tips directly to Friends of the Fallen.
“We didn’t know what we were going to do with the money specifically,” he said of the original idea of donating it to benefit those in the armed services. “I know where the money is going,” he explained of the beneficiary they chose. “With Friends of the Fallen, we know what it’s going to be used for, and I have a local representative that’s very enthusiastic about that cause. So I told her that I was going to do that.”
Rogers said he was so moved by the organization’s work that he decided to also hold a fundraiser, from which 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated.
“Dave is doing a wonderful thing. He is dedicating all of his proceeds to Friends of the Fallen, and we’re just so moved by that,” said Veves.
“It just hit me, ‘Why don’t we have some kind of a benefit?’” he recalled thinking. “It sucks to have to have something like the Friends of the Fallen and the Fisher House. But, hey, if you’re going to have it, you might as well make it the best we can.”
The first annual benefit hosted by Charlie K’s is also being held in conjunction with Smokin D’z Real Pit BBQ in Lewes.
“We’re going to offer the platters at a reduced price, and all of the proceeds will go to the Friends of the Fallen, along with what tips we saved up on Sundays through the summer,” said Rogers.
At the event, chicken, pork and brisket platters will be available for purchase, for $5, $6, and $7, respectively. Each platter will include two sides of the buyer’s choice: baked beans, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw or macaroni salad.
“We’re really excited about it. It’s something to put back into the community,” said Rogers. “My kids are volunteering. Everybody who’s helping is volunteering. I mentioned having the benefit, and they all jumped up and down and said, ‘Yeah, that would be great!’”
Rogers, who has around 10 employees during the summer months, said that some of his staff is in the local Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and will take part in presenting the colors at the barbecue stand on Saturday morning.
“I am so grateful to [Rogers], because even his employees are coming in and donating their time,” added Veves of the event.
Veves and other Friends of the Fallen volunteers and board members will be in attendance at the benefit to answer any questions people may have about the organization.
Veves herself, a Blue Star mother whose son is a captain serving on active duty in the United States Army, said she first became aware of Friends of the Fallen when she was looking for a community service project as the social chair at Millville By the Sea.
“I have a lot of deep feeling for the military and wanting to support the veterans and our active service members,” she said. “Dover is right in our back yard and, as sad as it is, it is the armed forces mortuary. That’s where all the fallen soldiers of every branch go through first before they go to Arlington cemetery.”
Once she learned about the organization, she knew she had to become involved. She volunteers in the Friends of the Fallen center, as well as at the Fisher House in Dover.
“We provide help to the families by taking care of the children or taking them into the children’s room at the center, coloring with them or building blocks or rocking the babies,” she explained. “Our job is not what the chaplain does or the grief counselors do. Ours is to take care of their physical needs… They may seem like little things, but it’s huge to a grieving family.”
Up to four families can stay in the Fisher House at one time while they go through the process of the dignified transfer of their fallen loved ones. All monies raised and given to the organization help keep the house and center stocked with food and supplies for the visiting families.
“One of their latest objectives, one of the major projects, is to build a play yard, because there are so many children and so many of the fallen heroes are young, and so children do come up,” she added.
“It’s great work being done to help these families. They’ve made the ultimate sacrifice. They should be honored. They should be taken care of when they’re going through the most difficult time of their life. I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
Veves said that Friends of the Fallen is not yet well known in the community, but she said she knows that once people, like Rogers, hear about it, they’ll step up and contribute.
“It’s amazing. They want to do anything and everything they can to help. I think every family is touched by the military, whether it was their father or grandfather who had served, a brother or a cousin… There’s a lot of military and loyalty to military and patriotism.”
Veves added that she hopes the support for the organization will grow in the Sussex County community and that it will be well supported for as long as it’s a needed service.
“It really is something that I hope the southern part of Delaware will support and embrace,” she said. “If you didn’t know before, now you do know, through the Friends of the Fallen, about mortuary affairs in Dover. Every soldier who is killed in action goes through Dover before they go to their final resting place. And I think that touches everyone.”
“I’m going to stick with this,” added Rogers. “This is the first one this year. Next year we’ll do another one. It’s a shame we have to have it, but maybe we can make some more people aware of it.”
Charlie K’s BBQ is located at 95 Atlantic Avenue in Ocean View. For more information, call (302) 539-2BBQ. To learn more about Friends of the Fallen, visit www.friendsofthefallenvolunteers.org.