By David Taylor
For 17 years, the North Channel community has remembered veterans with a special salute luncheon and business expo combined to bring awareness and resources to bear. Last Thursday, four of the most influential organizations worked together with area businesses to feed veterans and introduce them to the business community, making lifetime connections and contributions.
The North Channel Area Chamber of Commerce combined with the North Shore Rotary Club, Galena Park/Jacinto City Rotary Club, and the San Jacinto Pilot Club to honor area Veterans and First Responders for their service to the country.
Master of Ceremonies for the event was North Channel Area Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Elect and veteran Bill Palko who thanked his fellow vets for their service.
Palko, who is also a member of the North Shore Rotary, explained how the high school level Rotary-sponsored club Interact assists with the event.
“The Channelview High School Interact Club plays a significant role in the event as well,” he said, as Rotarians used the event to teach their motto, “service above self” to the students.
“They’re very important because they come on Wednesday to help Chamber staff set up the event, return on Thursday morning to help NS Rotarians stuff goodie bags, they assist during the event, and then stick around on Thursday afternoon to help break down,” he said of the volunteers.
“They are learning early how to serve,” he added.
The North Channel Salute provides a free meal to first responders and veterans including active-duty service personnel.
“That’s what it’s all about—to recognize them for their service to us and the country,” Palko said.
He also pointed out the booths are purchased by Chamber members who support the event. The event lasts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and this year was hosted at Armenta’s Mexican Restaurant in Channelview.
Each of the three clubs had to call their membership to order at the beginning and closed the ceremony at the end.
“We have to host this the week before Veteran’s Day because we know it’s a busy day for our veterans,” he said.
Palko also said the Rotary reach doesn’t stop at the salute.
“When I was club president in 2010, we started the goodie bags that year and have done it every year since,” he said.
“We pay for the lunch of 25 of the veterans, then give them a goodie bag full of razors, shaving cream, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, socks, and things like that,” he said. There are also handfuls of peanut crackers, snacks, candy, and other treats for the veterans.
Once the event is over, the Rotarians, along with Interact students, board a Pct. 2 bus and head down to the VA Hospital.
“We take about 75 goodie bags with us down there to give to veterans. The goodie bags have things they can use while they’re in the hospital,” he said.
In the past, they have worked out the trip to the VA with administrators and they have gone from room to room delivering the gift bags to the veterans personally.
“They don’t get a lot of visitors and it really means a lot to them when we show up,” Palko said.
However, that personal touch has been limited now since COVID.
“We hope that we will be able to do that again beginning next year,” he said.
Palko said it was important to make the connection with the veterans.
“They especially enjoy seeing the Interact students,” he said.