American Legion Riders Cruise Nights help veterans

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Fri., Sep. 13, 2013
Rick Sullivan of Manchester shows off his recently acquired 2002 35th Anniversary Camaro SS Limited Edition, of which only 2,000 have been made. Photos by Annie Gentile.
Rick Sullivan of Manchester shows off his recently acquired 2002 35th Anniversary Camaro SS Limited Edition, of which only 2,000 have been made. Photos by Annie Gentile.

Winter is just around the corner, and the American Legion Riders want to be sure to have a little money tucked away to help veterans in need with their fuel bills. A chapter organization within Manchester’s American Legion Post 102, the Riders holds several small fundraisers a year to help veterans with basic needs like food, clothing, and fuel expenses. This year with the help of Riders commander Fred Palmer and friends, the group has added a series of cruise nights to their fundraising efforts - their most recent cruise night held Tuesday, Sept.10.

“I used to do these cruise nights for the Moose Club in Marlborough where I used to live,” said Palmer, who was also manning a sound system that played golden oldies. “When I moved to Manchester last year, I decided to pick it up here. This is our first year and, Lord willing, I’ll be here and be able to do it again next year,” he said.

There is no charge for anyone wishing to show off their cars and motorcycles at the cruise nights. Rather, fundraising comes from the sale of food and a 50/50 raffle. With the help of Service Officer Gary Gazdzicki, the Riders are matched with a veteran or family of a veteran in need.

Gazdzicki is in the know, because as service officer, he helps with the administration of the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Fund, a Connecticut State agency established in 1919 that assists needy wartime veterans and their families.

“I get contacts through the [Manchester] Social Services Department,” said Gazdzicki. “The SSMF is monitored and regulated by state law and it is available to any wartime veteran, and you don’t have to be a member of the American Legion or any veterans’ organization to get help.  There’s an application process on the SSMF website and basically, you have to prove need. I do all the paperwork,” he said.  “I don’t solicit membership in the American Legion when I talk to veterans,” he added. “That’s not what I’m there for.”

At the Sept. 10 event, Bill Pomeroy of Manchester cruised in with his Cadillac Sedan Deville, which he picked up a few years ago at a good price. While he serves as Post chaplain for both the Legion and the Riders, he said you won’t find him on a motorcycle. “If it ain’t got four wheels and some doors, I’m not on it,” he quipped.

Karl Then of Columbia, and formerly of Manchester, took the opportunity to show off his 1971 convertible Super Beetle. “I’ve had this for 24 years. I bought it for my son, Jimmy, when he turned 16, and I just never let it go,” he said. With four classic cars to his name, Then said he doesn’t drive the Beetle as often as he should, although he does take great pride in its continued great appearance.

Rick Sullivan of Manchester had a newer classic on display, a mint-condition 2002 35th anniversary Camaro SS Limited Edition, which he picked up only five months earlier. “I always wanted a muscle car,” said Sullivan. Since purchasing it, he has had the car detailed and added his own touch, a specialty license plate SS-FAST.  “It really moves, so I have to be careful. I always had fast cars when I was younger, but as you get older, you figure you have to calm down a little.”

Post 102 Commander Fred Dellaripa said the American Legion, like other veterans organizations, is tight on cash, but they do what they can to help veterans and their families.  “Young people don’t want to belong to organizations, but we have a lot of war time veterans coming home and in need. I don’t need to tell you that the wait time for a VA claim can be a year or longer, so veterans’ organizations like ours fill an important need as somewhere for them to turn to,” he said.

To learn more about American Legion Post 102 and its various activities, visit the website

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