HELPING HAND: Golf outing gives major boost to center for veterans

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Sandy Bower (second from left), the founder of the Vets Returning Home program, was honored at the outing with a special plaque presented by Wendy Clem of the Elizabeth Bienaime Chapter of the DAR. Also pictured is retired Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Fred Mester (left) and Mike Schloff, a past president of the OCBA. Those interested in learning more about the nonprofit program can visit www.vetsreturninghome.org.
(Photo by Tom Kirvan)

By Tom Kirvan
Legal News

A charity golf outing is always a good way to spend the first day of the work week, especially when the proceeds from the event support an ongoing program designed to help returning veterans “get their lives back on track.”

Of even greater note this year, the 6th Annual Oakland County Bar Association Veterans Committee Golf Outing at the Links at Crystal Lake in Pontiac on September 13 raised a record amount of money to benefit the Vets Returning Home shelter and training center in Roseville.

“We are still tabulating all the donations and sponsorship funds, but we are in line to raise more than $15,000 to aid the Vets Returning Home program,” said Mike Schloff, chair of the golf outing. “The support we received from donors and all the golfers who turned out was tremendous, and will go a long way in helping area vets who need assistance.

“We had 66 sponsors for the outing, which was double what we had from the last time we held the outing,” said Schloff, a Vietnam vet during his years of service as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. “It was gratifying to see such generosity and to know that the money will be put to such good use.”

The Vets Returning Home center is a 11,000-square-foot facility that houses more than 40 male and female vets at a time, providing more than 800 onsite meals per week. It also operates an adjoining resource center for those seeking job counseling, legal aid, medical and dental help, and guidance in combatting substance abuse issues.

The center was the brainchild of Sandy McNabb Bower, the former owner of Empire Payments, a credit-card processing company. According to her bio, Bower led a difficult life during her formative years.

“Homeless in Detroit at the age of 14 and a single mother by 15, she knew the hardships of existing day-to-day while trying to get ahead,” according to the bio provided by Wendy Clem, of the Eastpointe chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. “By October of 2013, Sandy was retired from her well-established career yet felt she could do more to support a philanthropic cause. Her early life experiences had given her an appreciation for the plights of the homeless and further research revealed that veterans returning from service have definitive needs. Sandy knew she could not only help them, but also had the drive to do so.”

To such a degree that Bower “used her retirement savings to purchase the former Red Cross building in Roseville,” eventually turning it into the nonprofit center now known as Vets Returning Home.

“I knew I could help there,” Bower said. “They arrive home from serving and are entitled to benefits, but all too often fall through the cracks and give up. So many are broken, and the next thing that happens is they are in a crisis situation.”

For her efforts, Bower was honored by the DAR Chapter in Eastpointe at an event on September 11, which coincided with her birthday. That award ceremony was given a second showing on Monday at the OCBA Vets Committee outing, where Clem presented Bower with the DAR Medal of Honor.

“Keeping the lights on and potatoes in the pot has never been more challenging than when maneuvering through a pandemic, but Sandy continues daily to stabilize financial support for VRH,” said Clem. “And with that, she nurtures hope to ensure veterans a future.”

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There were golf winners galore at the Sept. 13 outing in Pontiac

While the Vets Returning Home program was the chief winner at the annual OCBA Vets Outing, a host of golfers also took their turns in the spotlight on Monday.

The winning foursome at the outing was the team from Kustom Truck & Trailer, a group that included Mike Aotulski, Bob Lindeman, Bruce O’Connor, and James Carver. The winners shot a sparkling 15-under 55 in the 18-hole scramble event.

Two teams tied for runner-up honors by posting 13-under-par scores of 57. Placing second was the team of Mark Werder, Alan Gershel, Steve Fladger, and Allie Tyler, a former standout player at Grand Valley State University who is a physical therapist with Team Rehab. Also earning second place honors was the foursome of Jim Zellen, Rich Bacon, James Zellen, and Dave Breuckman.

Third place honors went to the team of Joe Papelian, John Slevin, Dave Trevorrow, and Tom Kirvan, a foursome that carded an 11-under 59.

Winner of the longest drive contest for women was Allie Tyler, while Brian Teodecki socked the longest drive for men.

Barb Amman captured first place honors in the closest to the pin contest for women, while Tom Kirvan was the winner of the closest to the pin prize for men.

As an important footnote to the outing, event chair Mike Schloff, was part of a three-player team that included Maria Cranmer and his law partner Mike Condit. The team shot a 6-under 64, a score that received added luster on the back nine, according to Schloff.

“That’s when Mike (Condit) received a call that he had become a grandfather again,” said Schloff. “That brightened his day.”

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