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If an army moves on its stomach, could a planeload of military veterans get off the ground with platters of Paul Wood’s famous pancakes?
These aren’t just your average flapjacks topped with a pat of butter and a slather of syrup.
Rather, these cast-iron skillet specialties are sour-cream topped tributes, patriotic salutes flipped to coax generosity for veterans, in particular those on a waiting list to take part in Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, a program dedicated to flying area veterans on all-expenses-paid trips to visit memorials in Washington.
With hundreds of older veterans dying each day, time is an enemy as Honor Flight battles for funds to take as many veterans as quickly as possible to the nation's capital.
Short on financial fuel, Honor Flight trips are being grounded. Unless donations uptick in the coming months, Honor Flight Northwest Ohio could only make two flights, rather than four, in 2014. About 80 veterans and a corresponding number of “guardians” to help them are on each flight. The guardians pay their own way, using no Honor Flight funds.
To help the all-volunteer program financially, Mr. Wood and other members of the Church of St. Andrew United Methodist’s men’s group will tie on aprons. Armed with spatulas, they will make food during the 4th annual Honor Flight breakfast fund-raiser at the church, 3620 Heatherdowns Blvd., in Toledo. To call it a pancake breakfast would be an understatement.
All proceeds — every penny — will be donated to Honor Flight, a particularly timely tribute during this week of activities related to Veterans Day.
Honor Flight volunteers will staff a booth during the event held from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday. There’s no charge for veterans to eat; for others, it’s a free-will donation.
Church members cater to the crowd, switching up the menu as food trends and diets change, Mr. Wood said. Not a meat-eater? Casseroles for vegetarians are available. Need a gluten-free breakfast? That’s available too as are low-carb buffet items.
Mr. Wood, who has the event’s grocery list and prep timetable down to a science, notes that sometimes people shy away from pancake breakfasts, figuring there wouldn’t be much for them to eat other than, well, pancakes.
Lordy, not so at this church event that features French toast, scrambled eggs, casseroles, biscuits and sausage gravy, patty and link sausage, creamed chip beef on toast points, and a variety of beverages and toppings for pancakes — chocolate chip, blueberry, and the crowd favorite: Mr. Wood’s almost world-famous crispy potato pancakes.
“They are the best potato pancakes on the planet,” said Jim Tichy, giving an unabashed plug for the event. He’s a firm believer in Honor Flight’s mission. A former Honor Flight board member who is spokesman for the organization, Mr. Tichy is a regular at St. Andrew’s breakfasts that benefit Honor Flight. His wife, Peg Tichy, is guardian coordinator for Honor Flight.
As he talks about the need for additional donations for Honor Flight — it costs $72,000 per flight — he remarks that in recent years, donations have dwindled. “We are a victim of our own success. We got off the ground, and then people seem to have forgotten about us,” he said.
Most certainly, Honor Flight still has a strong fan base, including those who go to the airport to applaud and cheer for the veterans when they leave and when they return. After a whirlwind day in Washington, chaperones sometimes droop with fatigue, but the veterans? They are pumped up with pride, invigorated by the special recognition of their military service, Mr. Tichy said. “It’s as though they went and found the Fountain of Youth.”
Mr. Wood, whose wife Suzy and their son Paul, Jr., help out at the Honor Flight breakfasts, said he hopes the Saturday event generates donations to send four or five veterans on the Honor Flight trip. That would amount to $1,500 to $2,000.
“We in the church feel Honor Flight is a very worthwhile organization. We have veterans who attend our church, and some have gone on Honor Flight. This benefit honors veterans, and we can’t think of a more honorable, worthy way to honor our veterans,” he said.
Since it formed in April, 2008, Honor Flight Northwest Ohio has taken 32 flights of 1,666 male and female veterans on board. Donations have paid for the $400 per veteran expense.
Earlier this year, Honor Flight Northwest Ohio curtailed applications because of a lack of funding. With donations trailing off, it wasn’t fair to continue to take applications and give those veterans false hope that they would get to go on the trip any time soon, Mr. Tichy said.
World War II veterans still can apply and always are “first in line” for the trips, he added. About 300 veterans are on a waiting list. Veterans from other wars, such as Vietnam and Korea, have been guests on the Honor Flights.
Honor Flight has no paid administrative staff and lacks a fund-raising arm. Instead, it relies on the kindness of strangers as well as friends of the program for financial support, such as through members of churches, businesses, and organizations.
During the last flight of 2013 in October, 55 World War II veterans and 15 veterans of the Korean War were on board.
Mr. Wood encourages area residents to take part in the Saturday event, not only for breakfast, but for an opportunity ... an opportunity to show support for veterans, America’s true heroes who know, first hand, that freedom indeed isn’t free.
Contact Janet Romaker at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6006.