Pilot Club of Belen offers week-long celebration for veterans at museum

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If you think about it, we are all veterans!

If you look up the definition of the word "veteran" you will find: 1. A veteran (from Latin vetus, meaning "old") is a person who has had long service or experience in a particular occupation or field; "A veteran of …"; 2. A veteran is a person who has or is still serving in the armed forces.

For the Pilot Club of Belen, they are veterans of community service — 67 years of community service. We raise funds throughout the year so that we can give it back to our community. Because of our club's name, some get the wrong impression of what we do. Our club is not about flying airplanes, it is about "piloting" through all kinds of life's challenges — good or bad — to help as many people as we can.

Since 1947, our "club veterans" have been dedicated to making a difference. We have members that have served for more than 20, 30, 40 and even 50 years with their service and dedication. Our local club has multiple generations serving. Our current club president, Hollyanna Hooks, is the granddaughter of one of our club founders, Elsie Lee Wilson.

The Pilot Club of Belen is part of Pilot International, a service organization chartered more than 92 years ago. The club is dedicated to providing humanitarian efforts through charitable, education and research programs in communities throughout the world. Our local club will be celebrating our 67th year on Monday, Feb. 24, as a chartered member of Pilot International.

The Pilot Club of Belen is changing on both the local, national and international level. We are developing new programs for our Anchor (youth) Clubs, new programs for our children to help promote brain safety and new programs relating to caring for others. Membership fees to our Pilot organization are exempt for all military members.

On the local level, the Pilot Club of Belen has supported long-term projects, such as the Mother Seery College Scholarship award, which has been ongoing for the past 66 years. For the past 10 years, the local club has been helping the Blue Star Mothers of Valencia County, the N.M. Staters program for high schoolers, the Belen Area Food Pantry as well as help for school children.

For the week of Feb, 16-22, the Pilot Club of Belen will be celebrating all military veterans at the Belen Harvey House Museum. We will start the week with our BrainMinders Puppet Show on Sunday, Feb. 16, and end the week on Sunday, Feb. 22, with a reception to honor all military veterans and the program "Paws and Stripes."

Three years ago, the local club chose to establish a special fund to help disabled veterans suffering either from Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or both through the Paws and Stripes organization. Paws and Stripes is a New Mexico non-profit corporation that provides service dogs and training for disabled veterans.

For information about "Paws and Stripes," visit www.pawsandstripes.org.

There will also be a silent auction and raffle to aid both the efforts of this club and the museum during the reception. Refreshments will be served following a check presentation to the Paws and Stripes organization. All veterans, family members and the general public are invited for the entire week.