Fort Mill area poker run Nov. 17 to help veterans groups

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comNovember 11, 2012 

— Nothing says local women’s clubs like hogs, poker and exhaust fumes.

On Saturday the first Ride for Patriotism Poker Run and Fundraiser brings together local members of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs with Loyal Order of the Moose, Rolling Thunder and county American Legion and VFW posts.

They’ll be raising money for two veteran charities, Sew Much Comfort and Canines for Veterans.

“‘Patriotism’ is a word that’s hardly used anymore in some places,” said organizer Donna Lentell. “But we still have soldiers out there and many of them are coming home with some special needs.”

Lentell is involved with several groups sponsoring the event. As a first-year effort, she isn’t sure whether to expect 50 or 150 riders. But she figured that post-election and so close to Veterans Day would stir interest.

“I thought that would be a good time to bring it to the forefront,” she said.

The ride begins and ends at the Fort Mill Moose Lodge. Stops are the VFWs and American Legion buildings in Fort Mill and Rock Hill. All riders will be out by 1 p.m. and return by 5 p.m., with a spaghetti dinner waiting. Dinner for non-riders is $6.

Cost is $15 per rider or $25 per couple. The event includes a bake sale, karaoke, door prizes and raffles. Any vehicle is welcome.

Barry Burke, state director with Rolling Thunder, said there are 126 members in the local chapter of his veteran awareness group, and about 400 statewide. He met Lentell after flying American flags from bridges in York County on Sept. 11 and agreed to help out.

“We’re all for veterans,” Burke said. “We’re primarily working for Missing in Action and Prisoners of War, but we’re all for veterans.”

One of the beneficiary groups provides custom clothing for veterans missing limbs. the other trains and provides service dogs to veterans. Burke said not all returning veterans – Vietnam, for instance – have been welcomed home “with open arms” due to unpopular fighting overseas. He’s glad to see groups honoring returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan now “the way everybody should’ve been” in the first place.

Shirlee Alfors, head of Woman’s Club of Fort Mill, said there’s a statewide emphasis this year on the two groups being helped by the ride. She admits that poker runs aren’t the norm for her group and others like it.

“We were looking for a way to get our name out to a lot of people that might not be aware of us,” she said.

There are six General Federation of Women’s Clubs groups just out of York County, founded from 1898 to 2010. The Fort Mill group has been meeting since 1951. By getting word out about themselves while also helping groups that provide needed services, the poker run should meet two goals in one, Alfors said.

“That’s our purpose, is to make a difference in this community,” she said.

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